There’s been a lot of focus and scrutiny on the unclear, murky nature of today’s media buying practices – and for good reason. The most recent independent study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) revealed some startling, non-disclosed agency practices.
Allegedly, “various media companies offer rebates to media-buying firms in exchange for greater amount of ad dollars,” which could mean that “the potential allocation of billions of dollars in advertising may be influenced by a desire for a sort of kickback, rather than being done in the interests of big-spending clients,” as reported by Variety. What this means is clients are being either overcharged or underserved when it comes to media buying in order for the big agencies to make money off the top. As agencies are buying the advertising inventory, they are either marking up the prices or receiving either rebates from the media owners for spending a certain amount of money.
This has to stop. As marketers, it is our responsibility to maintain transparency and honesty when it comes to our clients.
The Importance of Transparency
There are now blurred lines between agencies that are only making money from clients and those that get markups from group deals. If practicing media buying correctly, however, you should have no qualms with making sure transparency about your practices is woven directly into the fabric of your business. Especially with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in play, all aspects of media buying should be held up to this standard.
With advertisers demanding better contracts with agencies, tightening up their programs, and establishing better relationships with ad tech vendors, transparency in marketing is no longer a question. It’s the norm.
As media specialists, it’s our responsibility to place our clients in the best position to succeed and be flexible when our industry shifts. Clients have every right to know where exactly their money is going and it’s our duty to provide them with accurate predictions, information, and expectations.
Our media buying experts over at Hawke Media pride themselves on maintaining open and honest communication with clients. Their clients have full optics into everything they do, from weekly verbal and written reporting to total access to ad accounts, which clients can view down to the keyword, campaign, etc. level to see where their money is being spent.
Here are some specific ways our media buyers maintain transparency with clients that you can immediately incorporate into your media buying practices:
- Provide clients with a real-time reporting dashboard so clients have 24/7 optics to objectives and regularly share any additional data with clients.
Providing clients with a 24/7 dashboard that reports in real time is vital to maintaining consistent transparency through the entirety of the client-agency relationship. Having this dashboard allows clients to visualize how much is being spent, where it’s being spent, what’s performing, and where budget can be reallocated in order to achieve desired outcomes or get the most return on each dollar spent. Dashboards can be set up in such a way that reporting dynamically populates and updates from linked accounts. Clients can dive in as they please and see performance in real time. This ensures both client and agency are on the same page, with the same insight into budgets, metrics, performance, and results.
- Give clients full account ownership.
Hawke never hides or keeps client ad accounts. Clients maintain ownership and have unrestricted access to accounts if they wish to personally view account performance, from an overview of campaigns down to the keyword level. If clients disengage with Hawke, they have full ownership of their accounts and don’t need to worry about not having full access to their campaigns, insights, and reports.
These accounts are paid for by the client and part of their brand identity. The accounts are rightfully theirs. Giving clients full account ownership is a no-brainer and should be one of the first things done to demonstrate a marketer’s honesty and transparency.
- Create a partnership.
When a client signs with us, their designated Hawke team communicates strategy, ad copy, audiences, and keywords with the client prior to launching and during the optimization phase. These talks are collaborative and client feedback is not only heard, but implemented. It’s a true partnership.
This is done to ensure both the marketing team and the client are on the same page and that expectations are clear. It creates mutual trust and understanding to make sure that there aren’t too many revisions, making the process more efficient. There is a consistent dialogue around what is being executed and communicated to prospective customers.
- Be an extension of your client.
In the most simple terms, be an extension of your client. Think how the client would think. Act how the client would act.
Marketers need to act in their clients’ best interests and understand client objectives, brand, and business model. That way, both parties are all aligned on overall goals, what needs to be done and why, and how it should be executed.
A Marketer’s Code
With so many huge advertising companies coming under increased scrutiny for their less-than-honest media-buying practices, it’s crucial that marketers maintain their morals. At this point, it is up to us as individuals and as agencies to ensure complete transparency when it comes to handling clients.