So the ANA just dropped the other shoe. But it looks like it's falling right on the toes of the marketers themselves.
Last month in this space I posted "End of Days," about the scathing 58-page report the ANA commissioned and released on the bad behavior and lack of transparency across ad agencies. Now comes the second phase of the report, with a title that had to be written by a committee: "Media Transparency: Prescriptions, Principles, and Processes for Advertisers." Since the name of the report sounds like such a snooze, let me sum it all up quickly:
#caveatemptor - let the buyer beware.
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The inescapable conclusion here is that it's up to the marketers themselves to police what they're paying for and what they're getting. As AdExchanger put it so succinctly, "While advertisers believe their agencies are obliged to act in their best interests, agencies largely see their duties within the scope of a contract." In other words, you can forget all that "partner" bullshit: the agency is running a business and does not infer a fiduciary responsibility to the customer.
The inclusion and emphasis on "fiduciary" is mine, and it's an intentional bridge to the currently-broken relationship between consumers and financial advisers. In case you missed it, national treasure John Oliver served up a breathtaking analysis of the hidden fees that are loaded into the typical investor relationship on HBO's "Last Week Tonight." Most consumers wrongly infer that their financial analyst (or financial adviser or financial consultant or wealth manager or...there are a bunch of these) has a fiduciary duty to act in the investors best interests. But when you read the fine print, only a very select and legally explicit subset of these advisers do. It's up to the consumer to ask hard questions, never assume anything, and ultimately take responsibility for what they are buying.
And so it is with marketers. Who is going to help those marketers buy, inspect and verify the true and valuable audiences in which they're investing their shareholders money...now that's another story. Will it be the same agencies and buying groups they savaged just four weeks ago? Or is there an opportunity for publishers, technology and service companies to step into the void? The answer may characterize what the buying of media looks like for at least the next decade.