As the global media industry gets ready for its annual jamboree in Cannes, there’s a more business-like breeze blowing down La Croisette this year. One major media agency group has pulled out altogether, choosing to invest this year’s Cannes budget in AI. And delegations from agencies and advertisers are reportedly leaner and more focused on results than ever before.
I take these as entirely positive signs of an industry growing up. The media and marketing community is now committed to an irreversible process of professionalisation. This was kickstarted by advertisers’ drive for increased transparency in the wake of the 2016 ANA recommendations and reports. Media benchmarking, financial auditing, formal requests for proposals, well-run pitch processes, template contracts guaranteeing full transparency, equitable remuneration schemes – all these and more are here to stay. They are the hallmarks and characteristics of the industry today, one in which marketers are increasingly looking to drive accountability for their investments.
We know from the work we do – on behalf of the world’s biggest brands and in partnership with the big media agency groups – that this process of professionalisation marks the crucial next stage in the development of marketing. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that professional standards and controls, checks and balances are put in place, adhered to, and amended, as necessary. With an ecosystem as complex and fast-moving as digital marketing, regular reviews and updates are vital to ensure that current practice reflects best practice.
Professionalisation matters for advertisers. It matters for media agencies and providers of ad tech and martech. And it matters for consultants – independent businesses including Ebiquity and FirmDecisions – who work to ensure that advertisers get the services they pay for and that agencies are fairly remunerated for these services.
For this to happen as it should, we believe that consultants must give advice that is totally independent and impartial, free from any kind of vested self-interest. That requires them to be independently owned and have no skin in the game at any stage of the media trading ecosystem.
Consultants giving advice about programmatic – for instance on whether or not a brand should bring trading in-house – shouldn’t also offer programmatic services. Nor should they run awards schemes or sell advertising in their own publications, offline or online. Put simply, consultants’ only source of income should be independent and impartial advice.
Our engagements with advertisers and agencies are increasingly driven by the professionalisation agenda, and our advice is credible and sought out because of our experience and independence. I’m looking forward to more or the same at Cannes.
Alan Rutherford is global chairman of Media at Ebiquity and FirmDecisions