Like rats following the pied piper into the East River of New York City, Rob Norman's GroupM believes it knows best when it comes to its clients' future - and the future is closed.
Are the lawyers in charge over there or what?
This is it, people - the end of the agency model as we all know it.
In a story in yesterday's MediaPost, Joe Mandese reveals that GroupM is revising its Terms and Conditions (T's and C's) used with online web publishers for all media buys so they include the following statement:
"Notwithstanding the foregoing or any other provision herein to the contrary, it is expressly agreed that all data generated or collected by Media Company in performing under this Agreement shall be deemed 'Confidential Information' of Agency/Advertiser."
We would assume that this sort of agreement will apply to exchanges and networks, too. This raises many, far reaching questions and not the least of which is how can a publisher sell placements in the future without being able to talk about the past (with anonymous data).
- How is an exchange going to function without transparency on publisher placements?
- Will yield optimization companies no longer be able to look at publisher campaign CPMs and inventory available through its services because certain campaigns may be associated with GroupM?
- Will Comscore no longer be able to report advertising exchange and network traffic because they are running GroupM campaigns?
- Will Compete.com no longer be able to report web traffic data that might be affected by a GroupM campaign?
Later in the article, John Montgomery, COO of GroupM Interaction, equivocates and says:
"The real issue around that is the old terms and conditions didn't really accommodate the data question properly, and our clients as you might imagine, have so much data generated from advertising these days, that they wanted to make sure their insights about their advertising is kept confidential. And that the data is used by the publisher only in aggregate, not at a granular level."
Aggregate and not granular? That's not what your T's and C's say, John. And what does "aggregate" and "granular" mean, anyway. Who knows?
Let's be clear. If Mandese's T's and C's quotation in the article is true, then this appears to be a wide-open loophole for GroupM to own ANY data associated with ad campaigns. It is conceivable a publisher won't be able to say, for example, that we had an advertiser run a campaign in the health and medicine section of our website and it was very successful driving X amount of users at a CTR of X. Or even how many people visited the site in the month of January.
And, the publisher would not be able to create a transparent history of data that can be used by future potential advertisers who are trying to extract an understanding of value of publisher placements if agencies like GroupM and its offspring are not allowing data to flow freely.
Something will give, and it will be GroupM as the agency monolith whithers under its archaic, data ownership mandate.
Openness and transparency are central elements of the exchange model. There is no openness in GroupM's model if they are not going to share and offer transparency just like publishers.
One other note: technology, and the data it produces, is the advertiser's best friend (but maybe not the tunnel-visioned agency). Technology enables the Web to provide advertisers an understanding about consumers - individual consumers - and comes closer than any other advertising medium to the goal of one-to-one marketing .
If the sharing of information is shut off, the advertiser will never get close to responding to the needs of the individual consumer and, moreover, never have a true understanding of ROI for its ad campaigns.