At a large national media conference earlier this year, I sat down to lunch with a media auditor to talk about trading desks. When I told her that we hadn’t spun our agency trading desk into a separate company from which to sell programmatic campaigns at a markup, she responded by saying, “Boy you’re missing out. You can make a lot of money that way.”

The statement seemed wildly out of place, as we had spent the morning listening to advertisers demand more transparency from their agencies. As tensions have grown between some agencies and their clients over business practices, we haven’t really made any adjustments to ours. B/T was built on the idea of partnership and honesty with those that trust us to invest their media dollars. Technology will continue to change, but our values will not.

Unfortunately, we’re not the norm. Marketers have the money, but feel less in control than ever. They’re forced to navigate a complex system of agency relationships that complicate, rather than simplify, their marketing efforts. Over the last three years, the industry has seen a steadily growing concern over agency transparency, and more recently the ability for platforms to protect the brands that spend money with them. In an industry that is built on relationships, how did we arrive here?


ANA survey finds nearly half of respondents are concerned about the transparency of media buys.

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An independent ANA study finds non-transparent practices and rebates to be pervasive in the media buying industry.

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AdAge identified media transparency as one of its “Biggest Stories of the Year”.

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Proctor & Gamble demands all media and ad tech partners meet certain criteria to clean up their media supply chain by end of year or they will pull advertising spend.

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Former Mediacom CEO Jon Mandel states that agency kickbacks are pervasive in the industry at ANA’s Media Leadership Conference.

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More than 250 brands including L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Audi and HSBC suspend their campaigns on YouTube due to ads appearing next to extremist content.

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While these are complicated matters with far-reaching implications, it boils down to two questions:

  • How has your agency demonstrated partnership with your brand through transparent media transactions?
  • What does your media agency do to protect your brand in an unpredictable landscape?




Partnership & Transparency

At B/T, we’ve never considered our brands to be simply clients. Brands are our partners, and we work towards a shared vision of increasing brand sales and reputation, and creating long term relationships with consumers. It is our duty to make decisions based on the best interest of our brand partners, regardless of the financial benefit to the agency.

We Believe

  • Partnerships start with a fully transparent contract/scope of work that spells out exactly what services we will be providing and what the cost of services will be
  • Media, ad serving and data costs should be passed through to clients without markup
  • Programmatic campaigns should be run at cost without additional “tech fees”
  • Any added value in the form of inventory we receive, or negotiated rate savings, goes directly back to the client’s campaign that generated it
  • Agencies should be paid a fair price for the time and effort it will take to complete the work
  • Every decision and buy we make should be based on what is best for the client’s campaign, rather than previously committed agency-wide vendor partnerships.

Brand Safety

At B/T we take every possible step to understand what is happening in the changing ad tech space in regards to viewability, brand safety and ad fraud. Utilizing a hands-on keyboard approach, we take full responsibility for the management of digital campaigns, and partner only with media companies that have the same level of ownership of brand responsibility.

Our Responsibilities

  • Take every possible precaution as it relates to viewability, brand safety and ad fraud
  • Implement an MRC (Media Ratings Council) accredited-third-party verification service across all of our digital campaigns (B/T utilizes DoubleVerify based on extensive testing)
  • Regularly review our whitelisted/blacklisted keywords, sites and channels
  • Continually evaluate other ad tech solutions to ensure we are bringing the best possible technology to our brand partners
  • Work with vendors to ensure they continue to evolve their brand safety measures

Transparency and Brand Safety will continue to be hot topics for some time to come, and we will continue to closely monitor them. However, our positions will not change. As stewards of our partners’ dollars, our way of doing business has remained consistent. Transparent business practices and brand partnerships will continue to be our top priorities.

Stacey Barlow
Stacey Barlow

VP of Media Investment
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