Independence in media is necessary – but not sufficient
Christian Polman, Group Chief Strategy Officer
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
The issue of independence in the media market has reared its head once more this month. The latest news is that some agency holding companies are looking to stop sharing sensitive media performance and pricing data with consultancy businesses that are also involved in media trading. This follows several major acquisitions and the steady march into media execution services by several of the big consultancies, including Deloitte and Accenture. What it highlights, yet again, is how important it is for brands and their partners to manage conflicts of interest, particularly when it comes to media governance, measurement, and advisory work.
Brands paying for advice about how they should or shouldn’t be investing their scarce resources to deliver optimal ROI need to be confident that this advice is free from vested interests. This is true for media transformation or media management consultancy. It’s true in the area of media performance management, media governance, and media steering. It’s true for ad tech and martech, as well as outsourcing vs in-housing advisory. And it’s true across advanced analytics, including econometrics, effectiveness, and attribution work. We should know, because these are all areas where our consultants provide independent and impartial guidance and consultancy advice.
At Ebiquity, there’s one key strategic decision we’ve made consciously and consistently throughout our 20-plus year history, and it’s a decision that’s helped to define our role in the ecosystem. That decision is that we must be totally independent from the media supply chain. Independence in thought and in deed is so important to Ebiquity as a business – and is so central to our business strategy – that earlier this year we produced both a Statement of Independence and a Code of Conduct. Together, they set out our standards for advising brands, including how we work with brands’ key partners. We believe these are the standards to which brands should hold all of their advisors accountable.
The digital transformation of marketing promised so much – so much data to drive accountability at every step of the transactional chain. But much of what it has delivered so far has been non-transparent, highly complex, and messy. Non-working media costs have skyrocketed, short-termism is rampant, and marketing effectiveness has decreased at an alarming rate. In our award-winning analytics work, we often find it very hard to determine any meaningful ROI from digital media investment beyond paid search and digital video. And the doyens of media effectiveness, Binet and Field, have shown that the number of very large effects generated by marketing investment have fallen every year since 2012. We believe the industry can do better.
If brands are to regain trust in their external media and marketing partners, they need to be confident that the advice, guidance, and measurement they receive is genuinely independent and free from vested interests. But while independence from the media supply chain empowers us to call out good and bad practice, independence alone is not enough.
The increasingly complex media ecosystem demands knowledge and expertise, which is why we continually look to hire a broad bench of top-notch talent from across the spectrum of disciplines in media and marketing.
It demands constant innovation, which is why over the last few years we have developed new market leading digital tools, including EbiquityConnectTM and EbiquitySelectTM. These tools power better and more secure media data capturing and enable us to compare media agency buying capabilities more quickly and accurately.
And it demands continuous evolution to keep up with and stay a step ahead of developments in the media ecosystem. Media auditing services that haven’t evolved are quickly becoming irrelevant. At Ebiquity we moved beyond media auditing some years ago to what we call media performance benchmarking. This is a more holistic and fundamentally new approach which balances price with a much wider range of quality metrics. We complement this with an advisory service that incorporates best practices and market-leading insights.
As the pioneers of media performance measurement and management, we are on a continual journey of product development and innovation. Our new digital benchmarking tool, EbiquitySyncTM, marks the beginning of a new era in media benchmarking. Built from the ground up for the digital media age, it is the most robust and authoritative digital value measurement tool available worldwide.
While we acknowledge that we still have progress to make on our journey to becoming the world’s leading independent marketing consultancy, we know that independence and impartiality will continue to underpin everything we do.