Written by James Diba, Senior Client Partner
The trend of advertisers looking to insource various elements of their digital media operations, typically spanning search, social & programmatic, doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. Having worked with a number of brands at various stages in their journey to fully insource digital media, one thing that has become evident to me is how often a robust governance process can be overlooked.
Before going any further, I should clarify what I mean by a governance process. In this context, I am referring to a framework by which dedicated roles & responsibilities are assigned, to ensure that due diligence and monitoring is being given to various operations within a business.
This oversight can be forgiven when these teams are often under intense pressure to deliver against aggressive timelines and having to implement a completely new way of working. Whilst juggling the demands of numerous stakeholders who may not fully understand the technical intricacies to the required level.
The reality is that by neglecting governance processes throughout the various stages of insourcing, you can expose the businesses to increased risk of negative brand reputation, wasted budget, incorrect technology selection, inefficient operational processes and a lack of consistency.
Below are five key areas that are most commonly missed. This list and the examples given are by no means exhaustive – and every business is likely to treat these in different ways – but provides a start point for brands assessing their own governance processes:
1) Selecting Technology
When selecting technology, ensure that requirements are captured from all parts of the business and not purely a procurement led decision. Without doing so, the needs of certain teams or markets can be overlooked, and areas such as integration with the rest of the technology stack can be missed. A central team/person is required to carry out this governance either in a newly created role or part of their existing remit.
Tip – set working groups to ensure that requirements from across the business are captured and prioritised accordingly. This gives every team a voice through which they can be heard.
2) People & Process
With the right technology in place, the right people and processes will allow you to operate the technology as efficiently as possible. Firstly, a robust hiring process will source the right talent (the difficulty of this is not to be underestimated). Secondly establishing ways of working and formal processes will reduce the risk of costly errors and increase the performance driven by newly insourced technologies. Again, teams and global markets can have their nuances. But there are certain processes which should always be in place, such as ‘buddy check’ signing off of budgets and strategies, both on plans and actual implementation in platforms. After insourcing, brands do not have the luxury of falling back on their agency when errors are made, and errors with budget implementation can very quickly become very costly!
Tip – document ways of working, ensuring that; they fit with your existing team structure, all team members are clear on their responsibilities, the processes can be monitored for adherence.
3) Commercial Oversight
Brands can more easily leverage their total spending power when they know what it is; and for most this is only visible with a centralised governance process. This is particularly relevant for multi-market brands or brands who are considering implementing a technology from a vendor where they may already utilise another of their products. Many brands and their procurement teams have a tough job in getting close to parity in terms of rates with technology vendors versus what their agencies may enjoy. By understanding the full spending and relationship leverage that is at their disposal, they can help to close this gap and drive more efficiency for their insourcing efforts if they decide that contracting directly is the best route forward.
Tip – utilise insight and reporting from across the business, and do this work up-front before commencing any RFP/negotiation process.
4) Brand Consistency
Brand messaging can very quickly become inconsistent and create poor consumer experiences without properly aligned teams. There needs to be centralised governance to understand how messaging and creative is being delivered across markets, channels (including both offline & online), buying platforms and formats. Often insourced teams can begin working in silos as they are eager to get their own channels performing, without giving the due consideration to signoff processes around brand messaging and creative consistency.
Tip – have a centralised point of contact internally who works very closely with your creative agency, to understand the brand messaging across all consumer touch points. Creative should not go live without the prior approval of this person.
5) Brand Safety
Brand safety continues to make mainstream headlines but sadly, all too often, it is only escalated within organisations when these headlines resurface. Make no mistake about it, brand safety is not an issue which is going away, particularly on UGC platforms. I should highlight that fraud is also a huge part of the discussion around brand safety. But it is often overlooked at the senior levels within organisations, most likely because it can be harder to control, harder to detect and doesn’t end up in the headlines as often. Many advertisers are guilty of burying their heads in the sand in this regard. However, there are many steps that can be put in place to effectively mitigate issues around brand safety and fraud. Some of the most obvious being to work with independent verification vendors, through to some more obscure (or less commonly implemented) tactics such as SSP whitelisting. It is so important for brands to have a defined approach to brand safety and to ensure that it is being strictly adhered to. This can be a difficult conversation in smaller markets where topics such as verification can be a new concept. However, the long term benefits and security to brand reputation always offset this initial difficulty.
Tip – take the time to understand what your current approach is brand safety, and how your partners can support you in tackling this. Once you have done that, create a framework that clearly sets out your minimum acceptable standard that you internally, or any of your partners, need to adhere to. Continue to challenge and push your vendors in this space, as more media becomes digital, brand safety and fraud prevention approaches will need to keep up!
To summarise, the insourcing of digital media is not a menial task and should never be carried out in silos. Governance across all processes is absolutely essential to streamline operations between the various teams and stakeholders across a business. Working at TPA, I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing businesses who are successfully navigating these complexities. I can’t wait to see how the brands I work with in the future can address the challenges to deliver successful inhouse operations.