Global Marketers Improving Media Oversight: WFA Study Finds More Control, Transparency


A new study from the World Federation of Advertisers based on a membership survey taken in May concludes that many big league marketers are taking last year’s Transparency Report from the Association of National Advertisers to heart and making substantial efforts to improve stewardship of their media spending practices and relationships with agencies.

In the last 12 months, per the study, 35 multinational companies with combined annual marketing spend of more than $30 billion report taking wide-ranging actions in response to concerns that they need to do a better job of controlling and optimizing their media activity.

And it’s not just transparency issues being addressed but also brand safety, viewability, ad fraud and issues related to media expenditures.

On transparency, 65% of respondents said they have improved their internal capabilities via moves such as hiring a head of programmatic. More than 70% indicated that they have amended their media agency contracts, and 58% have included terms that define agency status as agent or principle at law.

Nearly 40% said they have added or plan to add specific media/financial audit right clauses to contracts. And nearly half (47%) indicated that they have added or plan to add language to contracts calling for the return of incentives (i.e., rebates) from media vendors in exchange for doing business with them.

And many noted that they are increasing media training, adding data ownership clauses and taking greater control of programmatic ad efforts.

With respect to ad fraud, many are also taking actions recommended by the WFA, with 55% of respondents now limiting runs of exchange buys while 43% are shifting away from using CPM as their key metric in favor of business outcomes. And 40% are developing in-house resources to help tackle ad fraud. More than half (54%) said they are now working with third-party verification ad fraud partners and another 11% said they have plans in the works to do so.

In addition, 26% say they have put in place contractual stipulations assigning liability for misallocation of spend on fraudulent inventory. Another 51% said they are planning to do that.

On the brand safety front, nearly half (49%) have adopted “whitelists” and “blacklists” of sites where advertising should or should not appear. And more than half (54%) say they have worked with third-party verification companies to monitor the environments where their ads are placed. And 68% say they have suspended or intend to suspend investment in ad networks that raise red flags on brand safety.

On viewability, 57% said they have begun to implement viewability tracking via third-party vendors, while 40% say they now invest only in inventory that meets minimum industry viewability standards.

Robert Dreblow, head of marketing services at the WFA, commented: “The WFA has long championed the need for clear and transparent relationships between brands and their agency partners. Last year’s ANA report was a catalyst for a new wave of action by brands not just in the US but around the world, addressing many of the media issues that our members have highlighted. These actions, coupled with an increasing number of WFA members sharing that they have witnessed improved transparency, are positive signs that we can create an improved media landscape for brands, agency partners and media owners.”

This article first appeared in

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Steve McClellan

Steve McClellan is the Editor of MediaPost's Agency Daily (MAD).

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