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Media buying transparency: Here’s why clients should have access to their ad accounts

Media buying transparency: Here’s why clients should have access to their ad accounts

It’s time to talk about media buying transparency and why many agencies prefer to keep their clients as far away from their ad accounts as possible. This isn’t a new issue – this has been around as long as digital media buying has been in existence.

And where it remains the case is where clients have failed to educate themselves on media buying best practice and data ownership.

Almost 10 years’ ago, I was asked to write a Pan Africa media plan for a Telco client whose agency was part of a globally owned group. I did, and my rates were questioned. I was told they were too low and that I needed to adjust my costs and build in a significant agency commission. I walked away from the job.

Media buying arbitrage

Fast forward to 2023, and you would hope things have changed. Surprisingly, they have not. It seems unbelievable that even today, agencies insist that clients can’t be given access to Facebook ad accounts as it compromises other client data. This is categorically untrue: access is set at an individual account level and every client should be set up with their own business manager.

In fact, they should own the Business Manager and partner with their agency for agency access. And even if the ad account sits inside the agency Business Manager (which it really should not), it’s very easy to assign access to a client that allows them to see their ad account info and no-one else’s.

Getting to grip with KPIs

So why do agencies like to keep their clients out of the ad account? What’s there to hide? In short: money. At TDMC, we’ve taken on many clients over the years who’ve discovered that what they thought their agency was spending on paid media, and what was actually being spent, was worlds apart.

So where does the trickery start? Most commonly, it’s with a KPI setting. While KPIs are an essential measure of success for any digital campaign, all too often they are being set so far off course that it is almost hard to believe they are true. And for naive clients who do not understand how to set KPIs, they are none the wiser.

So, what makes a valuable KPI? Knowing what business success looks like for you as the client is the best place to start. Clients can do this by reviewing past data, understanding their numbers, and knowing what was previously achieved as well as what they would like their teams to achieve now.

Manipulating for gain

Here’s an uncomfortable truth about how agencies can manipulate client budgets if they are left to set the buying cost KPIs. The story unfolds something like this: Your agency sets the KPI which you accept. Your agency then delivers a buying efficiency that results in an over-delivery on your media volume, and you are ecstatic.

You think your agency is brilliant. But beware. What may be happening is that the KPI was inflated 10 times over the actual buying cost. So, while you think your agency is over delivering, in real terms, you are receiving way less inventory than you should, based on your budgets and spend.

This article was first published on The Media Online.

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