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Why the truth about inhousing will be hard to come by

Why the truth about inhousing will be hard to come by

Advertisers hold the cards when it comes to reporting success – so how will we know if the great in-housing experiment has worked? Plus: ISBA’s Dorchester headache and why Advertising Week Europe mystifies.

Much of the chat right now is around inhousing. It’s certainly got agencies, already facing some pretty extreme existential challenges, exercised.

But let’s be clear. We’re never going to know the truth about whether it works because every party has a vested interest.

The vendors – agencies – because, understandably, they dare not admit that for an advertiser to do it themselves might sometimes be as good, let alone better, than what they do. Whether it is or not.

The critical one, however, is the buyers – advertisers. Inhousing represents serious exposure in cultures used to years of downsizing and outsourcing to reduce risk and where failure is not indulged.

But as the paymasters, they hold most of the cards when it comes to defining and reporting success and therefore writing their own histories.

There’s a good piece on some of the realities here, but for now there’s simply too much smoke in the room.

Across the years, a few advertisers tried to insource legacy media too and it invariably failed though the truth took a long time to emerge for the same reasons.

There are perhaps also some parallels and lessons to be learned from the 40-year arc of media auditing.

At first, agencies (myself included) did everything they could to besmirch/discredit it. With some exceptions, this more or less worked for a decade or so until creeping critical mass was reached, at which point agencies pivoted to adopt a more collegiate stance. At least ostensibly – privately they continued to seethe.
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Another decade or so and consolidation meant that agency pools then got bigger than audit pools, so things got confrontational again, but different because it was about whose willy was bigger.

This in turn led to an atmosphere of accommodation between the big media buyers and the auditors in which a kind of pantomime was played out for the (mainly procurement) clients.

Finally, auditing became largely irrelevant as targeted, biddable online and addressable rendered old-school comparisons redundant.

Except to the procurement folk who don’t understand or refuse to accept that and who are the people who are pretty much keeping the legacy auditing panto business afloat these days.

The Dorchester

Each day sees further calls to boycott of the Dorchester Hotel in reaction to its owner, the Sultan of Brunei’s, decision to introduce draconian and medieval punishments for homosexuality in his country. Such is the seriousness of this infringement of human rights that this transcends mere virtue-signalling.

The Sultan is one of the world’s wealthiest men so a boycott is unlikely to bother him much. It might even open his hotels up to the patronage of his cronies and others with more sympathetic view of his cultural ‘values’.

Closer to home, the Solus Club has dined monthly at the Dorchester for ever and ISBA has held its excellent Annual Lunch there for several years now, having settled on it because it provides a conducive environment and quality service at a sensible price.

How will both bodies react? Should they move elsewhere? If so, where? Good, well-catered, large, central rooms are in short supply, especially at short notice.

I would imagine ISBA, which has thrown itself into inclusivity is under considerable pressure to up sticks, certainly from its all-female President/VP trio, at least one of whom cultivates a high personal profile on the issue.

A bit of a nightmare for a small organisation with much else on its plate right now.

Advertising Week Europe

So another year, another AWEurope.

Having attended and participated and in the past and been disappointed – and mindful of conserving revenues these days – I now tend watch it from afar.

I do sometimes gatecrash surreptitiously but it’s usually pretty well-covered so the only penalty for detaching is a few hours’ lag.

But did anything of note happen there this year? My take-out is nada, certainly little of consequence given the hype around the event and probably less even than in previous years. The media feeds were pretty humdrum, with few serious announcements or initiatives.

The organisers never really hit it off with ISBA back in the day which didn’t stimulate early advertiser participation. I remember writing an open letter to the organisers here on Mediatel after the third event which was neither acknowledged nor was any apparent heed taken. Things don’t seem to have improved much since.

Ever more, it looks like a talking shop for the organisers – headed by ‘Lord’ Matt Scheckner (I was told somebody once bought him the honorary title for fun and as an American he often uses it without irony) – to milk.

At the private rolling parties in the Picturehouse lounge and roof bar – a number of which I’ve enjoyed myself – whoever is sponsoring them, it’s the same senior owner and agency folk who talk to each other over lunch and at industry boards and gatherings every week.

For the regular delegates – who also have to pay pretty serious money to attend even if it’s a fraction of what the group above coughs up – it’s like a nightmare freshers’ week. Chaotic, queues everywhere and poor odds of getting in to any of the few key sessions.

Nor does it attract Government officials or business bodies beyond advertising so it’s not a serious trade event and in any case it’s billed as European, an uncertain quantity these days.

Bottom line, it mystifies me why and how owners and agencies – who frequently remind us of the challenges they face – invest in it at all, let alone as heavily as they do. The same substantial amounts of money could surely be much better spent targeting new business streams.

(Some readers might think that my hosts at Mediatel are only too happy for me to criticise a competing organiser, but as ever these are my own thoughts).


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AbiSlater, Director of Communications, ISBA, on 24 Apr 2019
“ISBA announced to members two weeks ago that we will be holding the 2019 Annual Lunch at the Intercontinental Park Lane. We are very much looking forward to the event on July 2 in a great venue. We are delighted that this year's speaker is Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times. Tickets are on sale now!”

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