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Major MNCs go beyond auditing as advisor role evolves: Study

Major multinationals are using an expanding array of services from independent media advisors to support them with their media management challenges, says a report from the World Federation of Advertisers.

The study found that many are going well beyond classic price auditing, which involves comparing the price they pay with an anonymous ‘pool’ based on group of advertisers.

Based on a survey of 56 advertisers, representing companies spending more than $90bn in annual marketing spend, as well as input from all media agency groups and most advisor companies, it found that nine out of 10 advertiser respondents used media auditing and price benchmarking services.

However, many were adamant that the current measurement approach needed to change. There was strong agreement from clients (73 per cent agree), agencies (92 per cent) and advisors (87 per cent) that ‘the industry needs to move away from outmoded media price judgments to focus on value-based assessments’.

Additionally, nearly all clients (96 per cent) agree that ‘digital media requires a different assessment methodology to offline media’, and agencies and advisors feel the same way. However, while advisors think they have made great progress – two-thirds of advisors agree that ‘digital evaluations offered by media advisors have advanced considerably in recent years’ – clients are more sceptical, with just 23 per cent agreeing.

Eighty-one per cent of advertiser respondents use auditing services routinely or permanently and 68 per cent agree that auditing has been instrumental in reducing prices and extracting greater value from media’. Seventy percent agree that ‘auditing is an indispensable means of establishing an objective view of media value’. Ebiquity is the most used advisor in this space, used by 58 per cent of respondents, with Accenture Media Management used by 38 per cent.

Seventy-five per cent of respondents now use independent advisors for contract compliance auditing and verification. FirmDecisions (part of Ebiquity) and Ebiquity are used by 53 per cent of respondents. Accenture are used by 19 per cent.

“There appears to be some frustration with the rigidity of the pool-based approach. Attempts to create new forms of value-based assessment for digital are clearly not as successful and more work needs to be done to give advertisers reassurance that they are paying the right prices in a biddable media landscape,” said Matt Green, Global Lead, Media & Digital, at the World Federation of Advertisers.

However, advertisers did identify new areas for growth in the advisory sector, with digital at the forefront. Programmatic evaluations were the main priority, identified by 86 per cent of respondents as being ‘more important’, media analytics and consultancy-level services will also be more in demand, with technology selection and implementation being ‘more important’ for at least 60 per cent of client respondents.

In a reflection of the need of many multinationals to ‘transform’ their marketing departments, other areas where advisors have been playing a key role include internal organisational design for media, plus external agency ecosystem design. However, given the high pace of pitches over the past few years, these are not areas where clients see increased need in the future. Sixty percent of clients forecast ‘no change’ to the use of these services from advisors.

Nearly 70 per cent of advertisers have used sought support for agency management and help ensuring that agency solutions satisfy the requirements of many stakeholders spread globally. ID Comms is the most used advisor in this space, used by 23 per cent of respondents with Ebiquity on 21 per cent and Accenture 15 per cent.

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents have used independent advisors for media consulting, but this remains a new area: 14 per cent use their agencies/other suppliers for similar services, 20 per cent do this themselves and 7 per cent don’t do this at all. The largest share (61 per cent) do this ‘occasionally/sporadically’. And just 18 per cent do this ‘routinely’. ID Comms is the most used advisor in this space at 17 per cent of respondents with Ebiquity on 11 per cent and Accenture on eight per cent.

“Media management is a complex art and many multinational marketers use advisors to help them navigate a constantly changing ecosystem. The role that advisors play has become wider and more sophisticated as marketers seek to maximise the value of their media activity and align their external partners with their business goals,” said Mr Green.