‘Media has never been more complex’: How ISBA plans to restore transparency for advertisers

Three years on from the launch of its original ‘Media Services Framework’, ISBA has given the guide a “fundamental overhaul” to help advertisers navigate new issues in the rapidly evolving media ecosystem.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) is hoping to drive greater transparency between advertisers and their media agencies with the launch of its “overhauled” Media Services Framework.

According to ISBA, the updated framework will provide advertisers with greater clarity and understanding around contract clauses and their intent, greater transparency around media planning, and ultimately greater value.

The framework addresses longstanding issues such as transparency in the digital supply chain, as well as new issues like ‘inventory media’, in which agencies buy inventory from media owners and resell it to their clients. The practice arguably influences agencies to prioritise certain media channels over others, instead of adopting the best strategy for their advertiser client.

Media neutral planning has never been needed more than it’s needed now.

Phil Smith, ISBA

ISBA’s director of agency services Andrew Lowdon developed the framework in consultation with advertisers, agencies, auditors and intermediaries. Lowdon has more than 20 years experience working for both brands and agencies, and prior to joining ISBA in 2009, spent six years as global category leader of media and marketing at FMCG business Associated British Foods.Lack of transparency makes it hard to build trusted relationships with media agencies

“Over the past few years, the media landscape has evolved quite significantly,” Lowdon tells Marketing Week.  “And there’s still the ongoing debate about transparencies not being resolved.”

Last year, for example, a report published by ISBA, the trade body for UK advertisers, the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), and auditor PwC, revealed 15% of advertiser spend through the programmatic advertising market was “unattributable”.

“What we wanted to do was make a document that created more clarity and was more focused on some of the issues where transparency is seen to be challenged,” he explains.

The original Media Services Framework was launched in April 2016, the same year the ANA published a ground-breaking report which exposed a culture of non-transparency media buying practices in the US. An updated framework was released in 2018.

ISBA director general Phil Smith adds that it is “absolutely pointless” to point fingers and assign blame as to how issues in transparency have developed, explaining the most important thing now is for advertisers to put in place commercial arrangements that give them better control and understanding over their media strategy and spend.

“Media neutral planning has never been needed more than it’s needed now. There’s no doubt that without this [framework] it is in jeopardy,” he says.

“The media landscape has never been more complex. So for a client, you absolutely need something like this to be able to navigate your way through it.”

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