The 7 'T's of change shaking up media

Tom Denford: co-founder and chief strategy officer of ID Comms
Tom Denford: co-founder and chief strategy officer of ID Comms

Seven key areas of the media supply chain are undergoing rapid change thanks to the debate about transparency, Tom Denford of ID Comms says.

It’s been 12-months since the US Association of National Advertisers produced its landmark report on media transparency and, rather than gather dust, there has already been real impact:

Greater transparency

Firstly, media transparency where a huge amount knowledge was gained by marketers thanks to the ANA's forensic research and analysis with K2.

There has been a big uptick in the number of advertisers conducting audits both of media pricing and agency contracts. This has established new behaviours allowing marketers to hold agencies to greater account.

The promotion of full transparency as a core requirement of good agency service has been a feature of recent pitches and we have been advising advertisers to demand greater transparency as a condition of entry to major media pitches. 


Secondly, media talent, where there has been major change in agency leadership in companies like GroupM and MediaBrands, the development of new innovative agency structures and a broad rethinking of how agencies can best serve the needs of advertisers.

These changes have been really positive and a signal that the agency world has listened to the changing demands of advertisers this year. 

On the client side, advertisers are investing in new leadership roles for media. The appointment of Gerry D'Angelo to the new role of global media director at P&G shows how such global leaders can design better governance for media investments and take a more strategic view of how media is managed. 

Looking ahead we will continue to see more executive level oversight of media dollars, with more advertisers employing experienced media specialists (often from agencies).


Thirdly, media terms of business have changed because the way agencies get paid (and indeed how long it takes them to get paid) is one of the most influential factors in agency performance. 

The most immediate reaction to the ANA report has been for advertisers to dig out their agency contracts, some for the first time in years. This has led to some renegotiations, with talk and reports of financial settlements being secured as a result. 

We’ve also encountered many advertisers looking to overhaul their payment model, moving away from a blunt commission to more sophisticated methods of performance incentives to drive more transparent behaviours on the agency side. 

Training and capabilities

Fourthly, media training within clients has been given a new focus. Some brands have asked us to undertake capability audits to spot knowledge gaps and design training to fill them and more have been investing in media training, some basic and general, some more advanced and bespoke.

We expect such demand will increase as it becomes clear that all marketers need to have a basic understanding of the complex media function.


Fifthly, media trading has changed because more advertisers now understand the meaning of "principal" and "agent". More are now demanding a fully disclosed model.

Some of the more advanced advertisers are also taking more control of media buying decisions and developing their own capabilities either building in-house systems or licensing from independent third parties.

We expect media selling to become more open, transparent and democratic as auction based buying becomes the norm. The barriers to entry in media buying (which has been mainly about scale) will be reduced.


The sixth key change is in the area of media technology. One major impact has been increased demand for higher levels of accountability required of media investments and the quality of measurement and data accuracy.

The media transparency action plan laid out by P&G has boosted advertiser interest in how their media investments are measured and encouraged support for initiatives like TAG (Trust and Accountability Group) and the MRC (Media Ratings Council) standards. 

In the next year, we expect many more advertisers to invest in data and analytics technology.


The final change has focused on media thinking and the need for advertisers to take a more strategic view, seeing media less as a cost to the business and more as an investment.

We have been excited to see many more major advertisers addressing this issue and have also noted a (small) improvement in the quality of briefing to agencies, with advertisers taking more time and energy to brief well, provide proper KPIs and evaluate agency planning work more closely. 

Advertisers are applying greater scrutiny over the agency planning process and the result has been better planning output from agencies.

There you have it, the seven Ts of change in media. We’ve seen more change in the past 12 months than in the previous 12 years.

The ANA Transparency Report has made media much more of a central issue and it will create a positive legacy for the industry in the US and around the world. 

Tom Denford is co-founder and chief strategy officer of ID Comms.

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