What Are Marketers’ Top Industry Concerns Heading Into 2018?

December 11, 2017

Forget ad blocking – or even ad fraud. Those are low on the totem pole of industry issues causing concern for marketers and advertisers as they draw up their marketing plans for 2018. Instead, viewability and accurate measurement is the biggest cause for concern, according to a new WARC survey.

The focus on measurement makes sense given several pieces of news to emerge this year, such as Facebook’s repeated acknowledgments that it had discovered measurement errors. Studies have shown that digital media buyers have little trust in audience analytics and measurement and that only a minority of advertisers and agencies trust data from publishers, media partners, tech companies, DMPs and DSPs.

More broadly, research has indicated that the pressure on marketing to measure its value, impact and contribution is growing.

Beyond viewability and accurate measurement, brands and agencies responding to WARC’s survey also pointed to talent and skills as a big cause for concern in 2018. That aligns with recent survey results in the US, in which advertising execs pointed to a lack of staffing and talent as a key roadblock on the job. A separate study found marketers complaining that not having enough personnel was their biggest impediment to doing the marketing they would like to do.

Lack of headcount isn’t the only problem: as digital marketing becomes ever-more important, marketing leaders are tasked with finding strong talent. But a wide-ranging study revealed that on a 100-point scale, marketers working at advertisers around the world rated their organizations’ digital capabilities at an average score of just 57.

Brand Safety’s Also A Concern

Meanwhile, the WARC survey showed that more than one-quarter of brands and agencies are concerned about the complexity of adtech and martech, which makes sense given the array of solutions and vendors that marketers are now managing.

More than one-fifth in the WARC survey likewise point to consumer data regulation such as GDPR as a big concern heading into 2018.

Slightly fewer are concerned with brand safety, though this seems to be climbing as an issue. Indeed, new survey data from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) indicates that 42% of marketers don’t know all the publications at which their advertising runs, and 95% believe that association with fake news could hurt consumer trust in their brand. As a result, the vast majority are likely to reduce spend with partners that include unreliable sites and most will increase direct spending with brand-safe publishers. That trend is supported by research from MediaRadar, which found fewer brands running programmatic ads during the first half of this year, and more engaging in direct buys.

Agencies, for their part, are less concerned with brand safety than they are with the Google/Facebook duopoly, which is capturing an estimated 61% of global online advertising revenues this year.

Agency-Client Relationships in Turmoil?

The WARC report also demonstrates that a significant proportion (28%) of agencies view the transparency of their relationships with clients as a big cause for concern as they draw up their marketing plans for 2018. Marketers, for their part, seem slightly less concerned (19%).

Separate results confirm that these relationships – which came under increased scrutiny in 2016 – remain fragile. Fully 57% of creative agencies and 52% of media agencies agreed that there is a crisis of trust between media agencies and clients. More than half (51%) of brands surveyed shared that sentiment.

One of the larger worries for agencies is management consultancies moving into their turf. And those concerns seem well-placed: brands were more likely to agree (38%) than disagree (31%) that management consultancies are better placed than agencies to help them achieve digital transformation. And although agencies unsurprisingly weren’t of the same opinion, one-third did feel that consultancies are better placed.

Finally, in terms of digital transformation priorities for 2018, brands and agencies each ranked the following as their top 3:

  • Drawing insights from “big data;”
  • Customer experience; and
  • Data organization and management.

The executive summary of WARC’s report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: The results are based on a WARC survey of 616 marketing and advertising professionals around the world from brands and agencies.

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