Agencies & Publishers in a digital world: Work together & get back to basics

Posted by Guest On July 24, 2017

Programmatic is an inevitable enabler of media delivery, and last week, the IAB moderated three separate sessions at the Programmatic Forum. The event was a good fit with our mission to simplify and inspire and ties into what we do as an industry body.

My day was focussed on the agency-publisher relationship.I got to moderate three sessions, each with agencies, publishers and advertisers. It was a like a set of qual research groups. We all agreed to Chatham House Rules, so I can report only on the information but won’t be disclosing the sources. However, I will say there were some key advertisers from the travel, alcohol and financial services, and many big agencies and players from key publishers, both legacy and digital pure-play.

Firstly, I set up each session by explaining that our world has changed.When I was a brand manager at Unilever or even marketing director at Shazam, life was straightforward.It was a linear relationship between client, agency (both creative and media) and the media owner.These days we read articles about publishers setting up their own agency, or hear Megan Brownlow propose a new agency model (remember the human head and robot body), tech companies going direct to client or clients bringing programmatic in-house.Whichever model you prefer, the facts are that there is no single model anymore.The lines are now blurred between client, agency, tech company and media owner.

​Transparency – specifically between client, agency and publisher 

The biggest theme was around transparency. Now this is a term I hear too often and one that it is vague. On diving deeper, one clear message is that clients want more access to publishers especially the key “premium” ones. Agencies still have a role here if they are trusted by the client and take the trouble to be the expert when it comes to the client’s business and business model. I heard clients demand a really transparent connection with the big media owners that their money goes to. That said, they acknowledge that they need their agency to coordinate the work with media owners. Some of this goes back to quality planning. Getting the right people into the room from the three groups from the get go will help join the planning dots.

Digital education

Another big theme was around language and digital education. Many of the advertisers I spoke to are on journeys to make sure their companies get a better understanding of digital. I asked about the actions taken and they included training, job swaps and reverse mentoring, to mention a few. Another digital lead took the trouble to spend time with his leadership one-on-one on digital and programmatic. My quote of the day was hearing about the CEO who explained DMP to the CFO. How many CEOs do you know who can do that?

There is still work to do on the digital side of things to simplify jargon and terminology. The IAB have several glossaries in development for exactly this purpose. There clearly is an opportunity for good programmatic training for senior- and middle-management groups. The ideal session would include agencies, clients and media owners in the same session.

End to End Process: From brief to delivery with data

This is the “back to basics” part.As our world goes deeper into digital, we have new breeds of executives and new capabilities are borne out of digital.At the same time, I think we may have lost sight of the marketing basics such as quality of brief.You know business objectives, target audiences, outcomes required, key metrics and the like. The quality of translation between client, agency and publisher needs to be better. Especially in the digital world, we need to get back to marketing basics.It might be programmatic but great briefs where all parties are given time to provide analysis and quality plans will benefit everyone. We need to help this value chain with a process reset.

The value and opportunity of audience data

In the digital world, data is the new oil especially when it comes to audiences. There’s still a feeling that selling can be driven by relationship above and beyond the data. Everyone around my tables were either in the data or getting into the data. Clients in naturally data-driven categories like finance, online travel and insurance are coming to the party with audience data. They also are the most likely to be considering or running in-house programmatic. With the introduction of DMPs and DSPs, all the players have audience data.It feels like we are still trying to join the data dots across the media/marketing triad. There’s an opportunity for more data driven collaboration. The audience-data experts need to help us join the dots. A key part of the success around data is around success KPIs. Data for the sake of it is vanity, but data that helps drive marketing outcomes is key. Making sure the data KPIs are aligned between client, agency and media owner.

In summary, we need to see more collaboration, more alignment between clients, agencies and publishers.  We need common language and a better digital understanding from both those getting into digital and those steeped in the topic.  We need to go back to basics: Better understanding of clients, consumers and marketing objectives. We need to be getting the briefs right, getting into the data and focusing on marketing outcomes. In a nutshell:  Better marketing comms in a digital world.