Asking The Right Questions
In its initial report, the ANA found that agencies and brands have conflicting perceptions of their relationships. While brands believe agencies are there to act in their best interests at all times, agencies often believe their role is limited to the terms of a contract.
To set these expectations straight, the ANA and Ebiquity suggest creating a code of conduct that transcends specific contractual terms and creates a bedrock of trust beyond campaigns. That requires constant oversight.
Ikea’s media team, for example, holds an annual discussion with its agency around its brand values and what each side can expect from the planning process.
“A big part of managing these relationships lies in frequently overseeing the media agency’s work and knowing the right questions to ask at all times,” Kemet said. “Don’t just take what is given to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be done the way the agency expects it to be done.”
Agency and holding company vendor investments is nontransparent and puts the client’s media spend at risk, the ANA found. As a solution, it recommends that brands take over these relationships – whether that’s by owning the contract or operating media buys in-house.
While both options would offer brands more transparency around programmatic and digital buys, managing complex technology and vendor relationships requires resources they may not have.
Rosetta Stone currently manages some of its buying in-house with Google’s DoubleClick products but is considering outsourcing that work.
For Ikea, a lean organization, outsourcing technology is a must.That requires Kemet to closely monitor agency-vendor relationships.
“We have to rely on our media agency to do a lot of the heavy lifting for us, which is really why we have to be in lockstep with them,” she said.
Even under her watchful eye, Kemet has fielded vendor pitches that are in her agency’s best interest, not Ikea’s.
“I’ve had conversations where I’ve felt like ‘Why are you recommending this vendor so hard?’ [or] ‘Why would we put this amount of money against a vendor we’ve never tested?’” she said.
“We can have a dialogue, and we might go with it. But there are other times when I say, ‘Absolutely not – I’m not going to spend $1 million with a vendor we’ve never worked with that I’m not seeing the true value of.’ That’s a regular conversation we have.”
Fortunately for Ikea and Rosetta Stone, their specialized media departments know– and have the bandwidth – to assess these points on a daily basis. But organizations that lump media in with marketing obligations likely miss some of these critical details.
“Even to really understand that contract and legal language is crucial,” Romig said.“That really goes over [marketing’s] head a lot of the time, and they can get themselves in trouble.”
While neither Ikea nor Rosetta Stone have formal media training programs, they look for talent with a wide set of expertise – including marketing, media, technology and even legal.
Kemet looks for an integrated understanding of marketing and media as well as retail. Ikea has had success hiring and training this talent from within.
“You need people at your agency to be super specialized, but if you’re going to have an integrated marketing plan and not a siloed media plan, you have to understand all of the areas that fall under paid, owned and earned,” she said.
While Romig looks for talent with the right mix of media and tech expertise, she’s also adamant about staying on top of media trends.
“It’s about educating yourself on a day-to-day basis and constantly monitoring the space,” she said. “Half of my time is spent reading articles, talking to other brand ambassadors and leaders and figuring out what is changing.”
Kemet has been fortunate in that Ikea places a huge emphasis on media and dedicated resources to building out a robust department.
“When you’re talking about the largest part of your marketing budget, I just don’t understand how a company would not make the investment,” she said.
But not all brands will be so lucky. At Rosetta Stone, for example, Romig often faces barriers to getting additional staffing and resources.
“That’s constantly what we’re fighting for and asking of the higher-ups: more hands,” she said.
It takes a village to move a mountain, and for most brands, the ANA has issued a tall order that will require serious investments, restructuring and corporate evolution. But it’s a necessary one.
“Just because were spending the money doesn’t mean we can hope they’re doing the right thing,” Romig said. “Unfortunately, we can’t have that luxury of assumption.”