It was mid 2016 when I decided to hang in my boots at an advertising agency and decided to start my own company. After a lot of internal debate, I finally decided to start What Clicks with my friends/colleagues from the past. What Clicks is a digital media audit company, giving solutions or guidance to client using technology solution.
In early 2017, Marc Pritchard made the now famous & explosive speech at IAB. Without getting into much details, the bottom line of the speech was clear “we have lot trust in our agency partner”. This was weaved into multiple layers of transparency issues, ad fraud, arbitrage, etc.
A little later, I also read a very interesting article that came in DIGIDAY titled “It’s all a massive arbitrage system” This was a wake up call to both brands & agencies on what’s wrong in today’s procurement way of working. The brands today are expecting agency partners to work on wafer thin margins, and yet deploy good talent for their business. For the sake of winning business, every agency tends to agree to be commoditized, though they know how, where and when to make up for this.
This was followed by Keith Weed of Unilever who joined the bandwagon calling for better, cleaner and quality inventory over cheap media options that are being sold today. This was a response to the YT debacle in Europe & USA where brand safety was ignored completely by Google and they ended up losing $750 million advertising dollars when leading media agencies.
Every time I read these articles, my heart swelled with pride. Not that I have made a dent into the whole system, but I decided to take a leap of faith & decided to help brands identify these discrepancies which are otherwise unaccounted and create a cleaner funnel. More on this in a bit though.
On the other end of the spectrum, a new set of predators were slowly making their moves into media. In 2016, Accenture turned out to be the fast growing digital agency in the world. The growth was inorganic indeed (buying agencies), but nevertheless the fastest. The big professional services and IT consulting firms, in recent years, had begun buying shops(agencies) to build out their marketing-focused operations and gain a larger slice of the client pie. This is true across the board for brands like Accenture, IBM, KPMG, McKinsey, PwC & Bain Company.
So what could be the primary reason for Businesses working with these services, rather than Media & Communication specialists? It has to do with TRUST if you ask me. While this isn’t spoken overtly, but looking at the ease with which a Non Media business is able to walk about with the said Media business only means that judgment is no longer done on Buying rates, but on the larger issue for trust.
Couple of days back, I was reading an interview by Martin Cass, ex Carat head in USA, who has started his own agency recently echoed this saying “There’s an enourmous lack of trust” He gives a different reasoning to the whole slide in earnings of WPP &Dentsu stating that it’s because clients are asking for more transparency.
Coming back to my own door step, I have met many businesses about the services that we offer. The biggest challenge that I have faced is the question “I hear you and appreciate what you are trying to do, but why should I pay you for a service that my agency partner is supposed to be doing”. It has often left me at loss of words, but then I to quote Martin Cass again, “I think it was Irwin Gotlieb who said ‘Where there’s confusion, there’s opportunities to make money’.” Our service is very simple; we want businesses to avoid the said confusion, not just in the media side, but also in technology, security, UI/UX. It is true that we do not have grey hair to prove our experience, but that’s when I look up to Jack Ma’s famous words “When you are in your 50s, work with the young, they understand technology better”. This is also the reason why global brands have turned to young blood, who are in their 30s, to lead the digital business.
To conclude, I highlight few changes that are called for to change the way we are working today;
- Businesses should start getting into the details of how money is being spent in digital platforms and not simply outsource it.
- Businesses should start creating a digital marketing function rather than digital advertising function, ie stop chasing ideas & invest in strategic thinking. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.
- Audit, the way financial audit works, needs to be given to a third party. It is not that the CFO is bad at his/her job, but it’s part of the compliance today. Digital media & platforms are complicated and calls for something like that
- Subscribing to tools are only good if the implementation is done right. Don’t buy into any technology because it is a global brand, but buy it for real use cases.
Guest Article authored by Rahul Vengalil – Founder & Chief Executive Officer, he can be reached at [email protected]