Opinion

When it comes to digital media, you’re probably being ripped off

In light of the transparency revelations regarding Dentsu Japan, there's never been a better time to ask yourself: am I getting what I pay for with my media agency? Luke Brown discusses the key questions you need to ask.

If you’re concerned that you’re being ripped off in digital media. You probably are.

luke-brownThe latest scandal, courtesy of Dentsu Japan, where they admitted “inappropriate operations” with its performance marketing subsidiary DA Search and Link for their major client Toyota, is not the first and won’t be the last with many more to come.

We recently picked up an international piece of business and found we were eight times more efficient than the incumbent digital multi-national media agency. That was eight times the business outcomes, not a cheaper CPM or more clicks.

The mark-ups multinational media agencies are making on digital are prodigious and it’s not just in the media costs, it’s also in data add-ons.

Sure, some of the data layers accessible in digital media buying can significantly improve performance, but others serve to disguise increased digital media mark ups. This practice is leading to data overkill on some clients, increasing digital media costs but not the performance.Money notes

Everyone in the industry knows it’s going on, it’s more than an open secret. So can this latest scandal be our tipping point?

The best way to solve the situation is data transparency. Data transparency between clients and agencies can unlock exponential results. And it will mitigate the duplicity of the shady rebate practice rife in media buying right now.

But it cuts both ways. Not only do agencies need to be more transparent, so do clients.

Some clients won’t release their first party data, which seriously impacts on an agency’s ability to deliver results.  Which given the context of agency bad behaviour, in some cases may be prudent business practice.

It’s one of the reasons we’ve chosen to give our clients access to our buying tools and dashboards. Clients can see what happens in real-time and in-platform whenever they want to. There’s nowhere to hide in terms of our fees and our performance.

Not only does this approach build trust, there’s often a wealth of incredible information to be found within these systems.

This is particularly true of search where there is a significant intelligence dividend in doing search well beyond just numbers of clicks; if you know what you’re doing.ANA

But we also get real-time feeds of our client’s leads, sales and know their actual profit margin by product to name a few. Being privy to this information enables us to focus on delivering business outcomes rather than proxy, and often meaningless, media metrics.  It allows a media expert to add value rather than subtract it.

So, how to know if you’re being ripped off?

Start by asking your media agency one simple question: Can I access your buying tools?

You should get a ‘yes’, and then you can compare real costs versus what you’re paying.

And then, schedule a time to review your contract and ensure your agreement isn’t actually enabling non-transparent practices.

Still not convinced? Take a couple of hours out to read the ANA report. Like I said, the Japan scandal is not the first, and won’t be the last. It’s in your interests to know what’s going on across the entire industry.

There’s plenty of ‘good’ operators out there. And there’s plenty who have been taking advantage. It’s time for shonky behaviour to be broomed out and clean up our industry and our collective reputations.

This is a call to Australia’s advertisers to regain some control of the situation and start asking questions of their media partners and find out how equitable your partnership really is.

Luke Brown is CEO of data-driven media, CX and advertising agency Affinity

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