Advertisers say agencies have failed to adapt to programmatic and that there should be a “radical overhaul” of the agency model.

The scalding findings come from a survey by Infectious Media of 200 decision-making marketers within programmatic roles across EMEA, APAC and North America, finding 71% of advertisers believed media agencies have struggled to adapt to programmatic.

Unsurprisingly, issues with transparency were also cited by respondents, with just under three quarters (74%) claiming agencies don’t fully report financial data, while 73% don’t accurately measure programmatic.

In addition, two thirds (66%) claimed they lack control over their relationship with publishers, while just over half (53%) believe it’s the result of agencies being “untrustworthy”.

“The extent to which brands want greater control and believe agencies have struggled to adapt to programmatic should be a wake-up call for our industry,” said Martin Kelly, Infectious Media CEO and co-founder.

“Advertisers could – and should – begin demanding a better deal, which means revisiting contracts and inserting audit clauses or switching to partners that grant full data access. For agencies, there’s an urgent need to proactively address advertisers’ concerns by offering full transparency and working with partners that can effectively prove the value of programmatic.”

Faith in the future

Despite widespread concerns among advertisers, the majority haven’t lost faith in agencies’ ability to turn things around; 96% said agencies should manage multiple aspects of programmatic advertising going forward. However, some 86% favoured a hybrid model whereby they would manage some aspects of programmatic in-house.

Larger advertisers had the greatest appetite for in-housing, with 49% saying they would like to bring strategic planning in-house, and manage relationships with publisher data and inventory themselves.

While this desire to in-house was partly driven by a lack of transparency (68%) and control (65%), the availability of more qualified staff in-house (71%) and advances in DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) and DMPs (Data Management Platforms) (69%) were the more significant drivers.

“Even with all the criticism being levelled at agencies around transparency and fraud, our research shows advertisers still see them playing a valuable role,” added Kelly.

“However, agencies will need to adopt a more flexible, hybrid approach that caters to advertisers’ specific requirements as well as their desire for greater control over their digital advertising. This will be crucial if agencies are to build a more effective and sustainable working relationship with brands in the future.”