By Michael Bürgi and Antoinette Siu • October 2, 2023 • 7 min read •
This Media Buying Briefing covers the latest in agency news and media buying for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Monday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →
Tuesday starts Digiday’s twice-yearly Media Buying Summit, taking place this time around at the Ritz Carlton Tiburón in Naples, Fla. Nearly 200 media agency folk from holding companies and independents, along with brand and ad-tech/mar-tech executives will gather to share insights and knowledge about the media agency business, which is doing its best to adapt to tectonic change in the media business.
Although one could easily scribble down a list of at least 20 issues affecting the media agency world, there’s only so much time over the course of three days (the conference wraps on Thursday Oct. 5). So we’ve tried to boil it down to five major developments that are impacting this industry the most.
During the Town Halls, which Digiday runs under Chatham House Rules, we look forward to hearing what you think are the biggest issues, challenges and opportunities.
Retail media/Commerce media
Not a week goes by where there isn’t news of a new retailer throwing its hat into the crowded ring of retail media networks. Just last week, tech and software giant Microsoft launched the U.S. version of its ad network, which invites retailers to plug into its varied ad offerings, joining massive retailers including Walmart, Target, Albertsons/Kroger as well as smaller retailers like Dollar General. As several executives have noted over the last few years, “Everything is an ad network.”
But the glut of retailers making fresh use of their valuable first-party data has also ushered in a mass of confusion over how media agencies and brands can evaluate all these retail media networks side by side. As Albertsons’ svp of retail Kristi Argyilan told Digiday last week, “Clients are at this place where they’re struggling to be able to compare us to each other to understand where they are getting the greatest impact on the investment they’re making. And if they can’t even compare us to each other, then how would they ever be able to compare us to all of the other marketing channels that they use?”
Standardization over elements like terminology and measurement will be key, as will centralized places to purchase programmatically, like Criteo and The Trade Desk are offering. The only area of doubt is — does investing across retail media channels actually lead to more effective results? It certainly gets the brand closer to point of purchase, but as one industry executive noted, has the consumer already made up their mind at such proximity? That will be answered in coming months and years as this red-hot area gets scrutinized more closely.
For how much the influencer marketing business has matured in recent years, influencer agencies to independents alike are exploring a variety of ways to tackle their measurement challenges: How exactly do we calculate the return on influencers and creator campaigns?
Some are experimenting with larger brand lift solutions, post-campaign research with consumers or brand inclusion and likability – aiming to show the connection to increased sales and revenue. Agencies are also becoming strategic about the discovery, terms and which type of influencers to work with, from the very established to the micro-influencers.
One thing is for certain: The influencer business is changing fast – from the rapid development of generative AI and content creation tools to the growth of social commerce and digital out-of-home expansions.
Transparency in programmatic
A recent estimate from Insider Intelligence forecasts that about 90% of all ad dollars spent in connected TV are purchased programmatically. And it’s not too far off in other media, even digital out-of-home, which in recent years has pushed for inclusion in programmatic ad buying as a means of being compared side-by-side with other media.
But there remain numerous challenges to spending on media through programmatic channels, particularly on the open internet. Not least is wasteful spend, from duplicative inventory to advertising on MFA sites. And industry organizations on both sides of the Atlantic are striving to bring more transparency to the process of programmatic buying, since it’s virtually impossible to know where clients’ ad dollars actually land — and if they have the impact one hopes for.
Gaming (including Web 3 and the metaverse)
More than a little reminiscent of the eternal promise of “the year of mobile” that the media agency world experienced in the last decade, gaming and its various iterations seems to still be approaching its peak of potential — but not quite there yet.
As Digiday’s gaming and esports reporter Alex Lee has documented, while platforms like Twitch and others can deliver millions upon millions of young and valuable audiences — the types that are harder than ever to reach through video or other channels — the ability to monetize those audiences with ad dollars remains largely unfulfilled.
Why? For one, these audiences are in places like Twitch because they don’t want to be marketed to. Brands need to be very careful wading into these waters lest they incur the wrath of young audiences who aren’t shy about voicing displeasure at poorly directed marketing efforts.
But efforts to build out new marketing opportunities through the metaverse continue, despite the fact that the heat disappeared quickly around it and Web 3 when generative AI muscled its way onto the scene around the end of 2022 (more on that below). In fact, Lee’s new podcast with Digiday Media’s audio producer Sara Patterson, Is This the Metaverse? delves into some real-world uses of virtual worlds — give it a listen.
The great spoiler of 2023, genAI, is having a greater impact on the broader world of media and marketing than anything in recent memory. The advances in the space have been so frequent and far-reaching, it remains to be seen how much humanity has let it get away from us.
But meantime, agencies must deal with the ways in which AI is affecting their jobs, from the mundane but important applications of machine learning in the data, measurement and research side of the business, to applying genAI to devising fresh approaches to media investment.
There’s also using AI to sniff out other AI in areas of misinformation and copyright abuse. Many in the industry want, surprisingly, governmental involvement here. But is it too late for limits to be placed on AI? Time will tell soon enough.
To keep up with the latest news and updates on AI, make sure to read Marty Swant’s weekly AI Briefing, out every Monday, as a means of reviewing the biggest news of the prior week.
Color by numbers
With the Super Bowl months away, Experian surveyed 3,200 U.S. adults across 32 metros that have at least one NFL team. Here’s what it found about football fans’ spending trends, inflation be damned:
- NFL fans plan to spend an average of $748 this season on a variety of expenses related to their fandom.
- 20% would take on $5,000 in debt if it meant their team would win the Super Bowl.
- Los Angeles Rams fans have the highest self-reported average credit score of 691, followed by San Francisco 49ers (689) and New York Jets (683).
- Who’s most hardcore? New York Giants fans said they would take on the highest average amount of debt of $17,062 if it meant the Giants won the championship this year.
Takeoff & landing
- There were lots of big-time account moves last week: Omnicom Media Group won the lion’s share of Uber’s estimated $600 million media business, responsible for North America, Europe and Latin America. WPP’s EssenceMediacom retained duties in AsiaPacific … Publicis Media won Kimberly-Clark’s U.S. media business, according to reports that estimate the business at $240 million … Amazon put its estimated $20 billion media, advertising and promotion business up for review, for which IPG’s Initiative handles the most. Amazon is believed to be the biggest advertiser globally … Stagwell’s Assembly in MENA landed Virgin Mobile’s media business in the United Arab Emirates following a competitive pitch. Media spend was not disclosed … Known landed The CW’s media business
- Dentsu and contextual ad platform GumGum launched a product called Contextual Intelligence for CTV, which aims to help advertisers figure out where their ads are placed in CTV using keyword targeting in lieu of cookies.
- Independent agency group Court Avenue purchased connected experience agency Gigantic Playground, which specializes in experience design, software engineering, emerging technology, and IoT connectivity solutions.
- Several industry organizations, including the ANA, 4A’s, WFA and ISBA, came together with Jounce Media and deep.See.io to define and identify MFA sites. Elements to look out for include high ad-to-content ratio, rapidly auto-refreshed ads, heavy paid traffic sourcing, bland content and poor design.
“AI is exciting, but I do think it’s now going to go through its process of, ‘Wait, I couldn’t create a million ads in a minute? That makes sense.’ There’s some compliance problems to that, there’s approval problems, there’s some inaccuracy … Machine learning has been hanging around in the background for a long time, so I do think there’s going to be this kind of continual use of technology that we can get excited about, but it’s just the cycles we go through.”
— Sean Corcoran, U.S. CEO of IPG’s Mediahub, talking about AI’s potential and pitfalls.
- Original research overseen by Digiday’s deputy managing editor Julia Tabisz found that agencies have cooled significantly to using Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms. Take a look at the report here.
- An influencer agency called Influencer adopted a brand lift measurement tool to better quantify the value that influencers can bring to marketers and their agencies.
- Attention metrics is finding more traction among audio publishers including NPR and iHeart, who are finding it helps put them on a more level playing field with other media.