Independent Media Measurement is Critical

Recent misconduct relating to media performance measurement reminds us why the industry needs independent attribution providers.

As more media has moved to digital, or become more measurable, it’s introduced an added layer of transparency in the brand-agency relationship. Over the past couple of years, there have been a growing number of red-faced agencies and technology vendors owning up to overbilling, false measurements and mistakes in reporting. 

In Australia, this issue came to a head in late 2014 when the GroupM-owned Mediacom was discovered to have been charging for bonus ‘value bank’ advertising and was in breach of its contract with Foxtel and KFC. The scandal resulted in a dozen staff leaving the agency, the loss of two huge clients (Foxtel and IAG) and sparked a broad internal audit estimated to have cost $10M. MediaCom has worked hard to repair their reputation, which looks to have paid off with their winning of Uber’s media business in Australia.

It soon became apparent this wasn’t an isolated incident as they weren’t the only agency that ended up being caught out in over-charging. In September 2016, Japan agency Dentsu Inc. had to pay back JPY230 million to clients after an internal investigation revealed it overcharged 111 clients in 633 "suspicious transactions" dating all the way back to 2012. 

Technology vendors are also having issues when it comes to transparent and impartial reporting. In 2016 Facebook had to admit they have been exaggerating ad video views for two years by overestimating average viewing times. By throwing out views of less than three seconds, Facebook was artificially inflating their performance numbers.  Since that time a number of additional faulty metrics have also been fixed by Facebook including ad data and live video reactions

Twitter have also been caught out and had to report a bug in their app inflating video ad metrics by as much as 35%. We should note that this issue was a smaller one as it only impacted users from November to December 2016. 

And not to be left out of the mix, ad tech firm Criteo and their rival Steelhouse have both been called into question in 2016. Both companies are leaders in the retargeting space and both have been busily accusing each other of ad fraud. To the best of our knowledge, no concrete evidence has surfaced to substantiate these claims, but the scandal has cast a shadow on the ad-tech industry. 

The flow-on effect of these announcements has been increased discussion around transparency and accountability, prompting the Association of National Advertisers to release a set of media transparency guidelines. The guidelines outline what marketers should consider to diminish or eliminate non-transparent and non-disclosed agency activities and to ensure that their media management processes are optimised.

These scandals demonstrate there is a genuine need for brands to consider independent media measurement. Trusting agencies and vendors to report accurately on their own performance (and unfortunately even bill fairly) invites poor or misleading results and possible overcharging.

Marketing attribution, or media attribution, is one solution that provides greater transparency for brands on their media performance, particularly when the attribution platform is not owned by the media agency or run in-house. An independent attribution solution provider will have no vested interest in any publisher or ad server. Instead, every media touchpoint in the customer journey will be counted and given fair and accurate credit for their contribution to the sale.

Using independent, third-party marketing insights is the best way for brands to make informed decisions (in partnership with agencies and ad vendors) on the best marketing strategies to improve return on investment.