Advertisers are demanding more transparency in their media buys, insisting on tighter contracts with partners, improving their programmatic expertise and reducing their use of ad tech vendors.

More than four in 10 (45 percent) multinational advertisers believe they have established more transparent programmatic relationships with their agencies and ad tech partners, according to a World Federation of Advertisers survey of 28 advertisers spending in excess of $50 billion globally, which will be released on Feb. 9.

That said, brands still spend too much money chasing reach rather than evaluating the effectiveness of campaigns, said Richard Bradford, group strategy director at the WPP-owned Wavemaker, at a Mediatel event on Feb. 8.

“[Clients] are realizing they’ve measured stuff that doesn’t matter,” said Bradford. “Measurement is as much a part of the problem as it is the solution.”

Here’s how advertisers can exert more control over their budgets.

Trust and verify agencies
It’s now common for advertisers to have disclosed contracts, according to the WFA report. Forty-one percent of those advertisers surveyed said increasing transparency with programmatic partners is a major priority in 2018.

However, transparent contracts don’t eliminate all trust issues. There’s a blurred line between agencies that only earn money from their clients and don’t get any markups from group deals and those that do, said Jenny Biggam, CEO and co-founder of media agency The7stars. “There are still agencies saying [to clients], ‘We’re going to give you visibility because you asked for it, but don’t worry about what’s going on with the other clients,'” she said. “[Advertisers] still aren’t sure [what’s happening to their budgets] unless you employ big teams of internal media experts to effectively do the media agency’s job.”

Getting transparency on data and not just the inventory
Data transparency and arbitrage is moving up the agenda as advertisers start to realize how much margin agencies and ad tech vendors are making from their budgets. As media budgets shift from chasing reach to evaluating campaigns, advertisers are noticing their measurement hasn’t been good enough to reveal how much inaccurate data they have been buying from brokers. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of brands have made uncovering data arbitrage and the markups made on their data a priority in 2018, up from 14 percent in 2017, per WFA.

Adidas has already run tests with one of its agencies to determine the reliability of the third-party data it has been buying, said two sources with knowledge of the plans. The sportswear brand is essentially comparing its own data with the third-party data it has been buying to fill out its audience segment pools.

On the subject of data, let’s talk GDPR
Unfortunately for marketers, ensuring that their own businesses comply with the General Data Protection Regulation isn’t enough. They’ll also have to vet all the ad tech and martech vendors they work with. Dominic Chambers, global head of digital marketing at Jaguar Land Rover, explained: “There’s a big chain of players involved in our outbound marketing, and we need to make sure that everyone has their act together and has the proper permissions in place.”

Emphasize context over reach
Audience planning is becoming an increasingly crucial part of media strategies as advertisers start to replace third-party cookie data on their plans with their own customer data and contextual data. With that focus on audience planning comes a greater focus on context, something advertisers have forgotten, as evidenced by last year’s brand-safety scandals, said Denise Turner, insight director at Newsworks, the marketing body for national newspapers. As the focus on context grows, Turner believes the media pendulum will swing back to proven media or advertisers working directly with media owners.  

Focus on outcomes, not just price
Cost-driven advertisers will always exist, but measuring outcomes is becoming more important. Online food-delivery service Just Eat has switched the way it breaks down its advertising spend to show a commercial return. The brand now tracks brand buzz and consumer responses to evaluate the short- and long-term benefits of its investments, said Ross Duncan, media planning manager at Just Eat.

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