The recent high profile debate about media transparency has encouraged advertisers to take a more active role in the stewardship of their media programs. However, while achieving media transparency is important, it is only one component in a broader approach to media stewardship which maximizes media performance.

Here, Ebiquity’s Managing Principal, Media Management, Laetitia Zinetti, outlines the steps advertisers should take to ensure the best possible control of their media investments; in combination they will provide a better return on that investment and lead to strong, sustainable client/agency partnerships based on mutual trust and respect.

Ensure impartial strategy and planning excellence

There has never been a better or harder time to achieve highly effective media strategy. There are virtually unlimited options in combinations of paid, owned, and earned media, where the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts with the right approach.

Research and data exist in abundance, and customer journeys can be tracked as never before to provide a basis for planning. Sophisticated optimization tools are starting to harness the vast amount of data continuously produced, and accurate cross-media attribution looms as a real possibility as the tracking technology improves.

However, success in media strategy and planning can only truly be achieved through an impartial pursuit of effective brand connections. It requires an objective approach to integrated channel choice, with independent research and data rigorously employed.

Advertisers should develop direct relationships with media agencies’ and media owners’ tech partners, sales houses, and adtech providers to ensure that they are familiar with the full range of media options available to them and the depth of research and data routinely used by media owners to measure both audience and advertising effect. They should also favor those media proprietors who are taking action to address the issue of ad blocking.

Advertisers should ensure their media strategy and planning produces the best possible cross-media consumer impact through the most accurate research and data, including the prior history of ROI by medium. They should ensure that all strategy and planning is conducted independently of media trading considerations and incentives to avoid conflicts of interest.

Get internal resources right

With multiple channel and content options, and often multiple agency partners, advertisers need to juggle many balls. Successful integration is hard to achieve, so having the right internal configuration to facilitate seamless multichannel brand communications is vital. Internal resources should be deployed in the most conducive way to reflect the need for consistent integration between paid, owned, and earned channels.

Advertisers should consider insourcing certain key functions where they are business critical, such as search. Advertisers should exercise ownership and control over data and technology, and this requires relevant in-house expertise.

For many advertisers, the various aspects of media governance are allocated between marketing and procurement. Given the complexity and breadth of needs in media, advertisers would benefit from appointing a Chief Media Officer (or equivalent) to work with other stakeholders to ensure the best possible media stewardship. This role provides consistency across multiple brands and business units and a concerted approach to media, with in-built efficiencies.

Advertisers should configure their organization and working processes to provide the best possible multichannel execution of their media investments, and incorporate specialist expertise in media to manage the complex needs of multiple brands and stakeholder groups.

Get external resources right

Traditionally, most media functions were performed by the advertiser’s media agency. While this will often be the case in order to maintain integration, advertisers now have much more choice in specialist support services, such as specialist programmatic agencies.

Given the breadth of services and skills required to cover all of a client’s many needs, selecting and managing the right agency partners requires a forensic approach to the advertiser’s needs and a thorough search and selection process. Once the right set of partners has been assembled, a rigorous and continuous assessment process should be put in place to ensure a consistently high level of performance.

Central to this are compensation structures that reward superior performance based on clear KPIs, ideally linked directly to client performance. The amount that the advertiser pays its agency partners should be directly related to the agency’s scope of work and based on full transparency. This requires a robust approach to fee setting and a finely tuned rewards program that incentivizes the external parties for meeting the right business KPIs.

Advertisers should select and manage external partners through a thorough, custom-built process and with a transparent compensation structure that rewards and incentivizes the agency partners’ contribution to business success. Agency service and performance should be continuously assessed as part of the reward process.

Control the right data and technology

With data playing such a crucial role in today’s media landscape, it is vital that advertisers ensure ownership and control of – as well as access to – the data that fuels their marketing activity. This is especially the case for first party data.

Having the right data, correctly analyzed and reported, is essential. Advertisers need a data management strategy to provide the right information, accurately captured and analyzed, for optimization and investment decisions. They should take control of the data capture, warehousing, analytics, and reporting functions, working directly with the relevant external partners.

Advertisers should also be actively involved with the online advertising process, with oversight of each step of the trading cycle. This includes having full visibility of the trading mechanisms flowing through the Agency Trading Desk (if employed), Demand Side Platforms, Ad Exchanges, Ad Networks, and Supply Side Platforms, including data and financial transactions. Advertisers should have direct access to the optimization and business intelligence tools being deployed on their behalf.

In online advertising, advertisers should employ independent ad verification partners to measure and improve viewability and invalid traffic (e.g., ad fraud), with systematic reporting of the ‘scores’ produced by publisher, device, and ad unit. This data should be available to all parties, and targets should be set for improvement. Advertisers should set threshold criteria for viewability and invalid traffic based on effective criteria, as well as enforcing media trading policies based on those criteria.

Advertisers should adopt a data management strategy that affords them ownership, control, and visibility of the data they need to make the best investment decisions, and over the necessary technology. They should understand or control the technology needed to optimize their online advertising and meticulously analyze online performance.

Always be learning and developing

The world of media never stands still. While there has been massive change, nothing can be taken for granted, so advertisers should ensure that they continuously test and learn. This can take a number of forms, from having a testing process for media through to an education program for people at all levels of the organization.

Advertisers will find it hard to take and maintain control of their media programs unless they immerse themselves in the media world, on issues as diverse as digital implementation, the fine print of agency contracts, and which media technologies to use. So a program of knowledge gathering and sharing is essential within different disciplines and at all levels of the organization.

Advertisers should devote sufficient resources to ensure that they stay updated on all aspects of media so that they have a strong enough grasp of all aspects to exercise the necessary level of media stewardship.

Paid media is a very significant investment for many businesses, and it warrants a structured program which maximizes results. The program set out here is multifaceted, but it is not exhaustive. A thorough program for media stewardship can be a full-time job, but one which will unquestionably pay back in terms of the time, effort, and cost involved.

In Q3 2016, Ebiquity launched a Strategic Media Consultancy practice specifically to advise advertisers on the steps they need to take for more successful media management. This covers data and ad tech, organization and operations, training and development, selection and management, contracts and rewards, measurement and evaluation, and planning and strategy. 

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