Marketers continue to call for both performance and transparency. They’re rightfully demanding to know how their dollars are spent, and they want specific information about the quality of media they buy. I’m hearing this frequently from customers and partners, and it’s a healthy thing for our industry.
This was on full display at Cannes Lions, too. From new industry alliances to a study confirming that consumers distrust brands who advertise next to “fake news,” issues of transparency dominated conversations both public and private. But what were the most pressing transparency-related topics? What were marketers concerned with the most while in the French Riviera? Here’s what I saw.
Measurement across all ecosystems
Advertisers are using multiple platforms to buy media and run campaigns, which can present a challenge for transparency-focused marketers. How can I make sure I’m getting value across disparate platforms? And how can vendors and advertisers solve for this?
Measurement was once a central closed-door question during Cannes. This year, though, it was front and center. Everyone from Taco Bell to WPP outlined persistent attribution challenges. Per Mark Read, CEO of WPP, “The challenge comes down to measurement and efficiency. Can we see the results of what we’re investing? And there I think it is more problematic. That requires more access around targeting messages and more about measuring the effectiveness.”
The growth of independent third-party verification can help address the problem. Companies like DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science will become a more integral part of the ad-tech stack. The FANG companies, for example, have all moved toward independent audits in the last year, though Amazon has been less aggressive and Facebook and YouTube have set limits. As use of third-party measurement companies grows, we could finally start to see standardized metrics across platforms, offering buyers greater clarity and confidence.
Programmatic vendors must also do their part through more insight and analysis sharing. As more programmatic dollars are spent across devices and formats, buyers need sophisticated omnichannel intelligence at the auction level. Empowering them with these insights will shine a brighter light on how and where to best allocate budgets.
Maintaining a cross-device identity
Creating a cross-device ID for a consumer is the marketer’s Holy Grail. Ninety-five percent of U.S. adults have a smartphone, and more than half also own a tablet. As users switch among mobile screens and new platforms and channels emerge, marketers must reach them and apply metrics across programmatic, TV, OTT, audio, digital OOH and more. This year, CES and Mobile World Congress showcased even more screens and devices for media consumption, a gift and a curse for marketers.
P&G’s Marc Pritchard spoke at length about the need to build a cross-device ID during his Cannes session. “We’re finding that we’re reaching more people, and we’re trying to reduce the number of times we reach the same person over and over again. Excess frequency is the biggest waste, and in every aspect of our media, we’re finding waste to allow us to be able to invest back in creating reach.”
There are notable barriers that could challenge the formation of a unified behavioral identity for marketers, one of which is the decline of cookies. By embracing Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0, Apple and Firefox will stop allowing cookies to be fired in-browser, limiting how many understand online behavior. Google also recently announced that they will modify how cookies work in Chrome, though they are not blocking them outright. Given that everything from targeting to reporting and bidding is still cookie-based, the industry will need to find alternate data streams to maintain a holistic cross-device identity. Qualified first-party data will increase in value and advertisers will continue to seek out those partnerships.
Clarity on fees and charges
Performance isn’t the only area where marketers need greater clarity. In the era of transparency, opaque media-buying contracts are unacceptable. Brands are forcing the issue by calling for new forms of independent cost auditing. They want to understand what the costs are and who is being paid.
This was a hot button for most marketers at Cannes. Dentsu Aegis chairman and chief executive Tim Andree was candid about the impact, noting that brands were unlikely to spend as they had in the past. This opacity in the way that some platforms have operated is causing buyers to reevaluate where they spend and with whom they partner. Top marketers have already cut budgets considerably.
The best vendors should already have policies on both the demand- and supply-side, as well as transparency around fees. Third-party publisher agreements, for example, must be protected against hidden costs. And on the buy-side, vendors should provide log file data showing how money is being spent on the platform, as well as the points at which payments are distributed through to the publisher. Reputable vendors should already offer that visibility on their own, but that’s not necessarily enough anymore. Advertisers want third-party verification in every part of their campaign. Vendors and publishers must keep that in mind and enable integrations with these new technologies.
Looking ahead, it’s clear that the demand for transparency is only going to get louder. Cannes was all about transparency, whether it be about measurement, cross-device or fees. Brands are rightfully raising the bar.