Cannes Lions 2017: Ebiquity's chief executive Michael Karg talks through its plan to tackle media transparency

Elliott Haworth
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Michael Karg (Source: Ebiquity)

Hello from Cannes Lions! Yesterday I caught up with Michael Karg, group chief executive at media analytics consultancy firm Ebiquity, to talk through its plans, announced this morning, to tackle one of the hot topics in advertising at the moment: media transparency.

Ebiquity this morning unleashed its Transparency Measurement Tool, available from late June, to help advertisers understand how well their business operations perform in achieving the level of media transparency they desire from their marketing activities.

Here’s what Karg had to say:

EH - So Michael, in the current climate, why is transparency so important?

MK –There’s a lot more complexity, as technology and digital has entered the advertising ecosystem, in a really big way. The steps between advertiser, publisher and end consumer have increased greatly, and subsequently, there are so many steps that there's lot of transparency issues along the way. Clients don’t always know where their money is going. And I think, the complexity of the ecosystem over time is evolving and maturing, and there’s almost too many players – you may have seen one of those Luma charts, like 5,000 players in various parts of the ecosystem. Although, I think over time many of those will consolidate and change.

EH - Why so?

MK – There has to be a lot of consolidation, but in the time we are in at the moment, where the whole ecosystem is evolving very rapidly because there's so many players, for example, any point solution [ad tech companies in the ecosystem which serve a serve a very specific purpose] – which point solution do you pick as a client? And how do you assess the point solution? How does that point solution then fit in with another point solution, and how does that integrate with the systems you have? So it's quite complex, and that complexity leads to lots of point transparency issues – or potential point transparency issues.

LUMAScape – marketing (Source: LUMA)

EH – So how does the scoring system work?

MK – Well I think that what we have learned through working with many advertisers is that generally they want to drive more transparency. The question is then how do you define that transparency? It’s a big concept and you need to break it down into: what does it mean for a client? What does it mean for media? And what’s your starting point? And how does that starting point compare to your own organisation in different markets? How does that compare to your competitors in your industry and to your market overall? And is your market different to another market? We felt that there was lots of questions from clients about specifically that, and there’s nothing that they can use to compare themselves internally, or even set targets.

EH – So it’s a self-assessment then?

MK – I think a big benefit will be that they can say they self-scored themselves. It’s quite intense and fairly complex because of what it asks: the sort of data being used, the sort of tech, the sort of contracts, there’s really lots of questions. It’s a self assessment, and what clients will have is a baseline score, and when they have that score then they can say ‘okay, now we know how we are scoring, as an organisation we want to have more transparency, what is our goal in the next year?’ And on the basis of that question, they have to ask what they can do to move the needle. So it gives them a guideline and guidance on how they can improve over time and in what dimensions. And ultimately it's down to them, they have to decide what level of transparency they desire.

EH – Surely if it’s a self-assessment, that puts the onus on advertisers to be truthful?

MK – Yes, but at the same time it’s to their own benefit. I have great confidence that they will use the score first and foremost for their own purposes, it’s confidential – no one will know what their score is. We may aggregate the data and say in a certain industry, this is the level of transparency, but it’s not on a company by company basis.

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EH – You’ve said you want the score to become an industry standard benchmark for transparency – where do you see it leading to in the future?

MK – Somebody needs to step up and say: there’s lots of conversation about it, how do we measure it, and what’s the baseline? And since we are independent, we have no vested interested in these elements, we can come in and say at least it’s a guideline, it’s a starting point – we can have a debate around the need to extend it over time, and the need to add elements – but it’s a starting point.

I think the conversation needs to be more specific around the elements that define transparency, and once you have that in place, you can focus on a much more specific, much more solution-oriented basis. Because I think it’s not enough to just raise awareness of the problem, you then have to provide a solution for it.

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