Thought of the Day - Hybrid Buyers and Sellers

The more I talk to people who cold-call the office on the phone, job applicants and other people who reach out to our company with business opportunities, and the more I read blogs and online communities centered around the Cost Per Action space, the more I realize the impact objectivity and ethics have on the online media space. There are people who grow up within the online marketing space never understanding that agencies operating under the classic agency model bring objectivity to their clients.  There are also people who grow up within the online marketing space never understanding the conflict of interest inherent in simultaneously planning media and having your own media product to sell.

To an extent, this is not their fault.  They've come of age in a business climate where there's little difference between selling agency services and selling an advertising product.  They think it's all executed in the name of servicing the client, and therefore there's nothing wrong with it.  They sell their own ad network to an advertiser, and in their own minds, they see themselves as the client's agency, valued as much for their ability to make strategic recommendations as they are for their ad product.  But they're really not the agency.  They're just a vendor applying the same skills an agency would to optimizing communications and squeezing more bang for the buck out of the campaigns they've sold the client.

What strikes me is that they don't see the difference between an AOR relationship where an agency is handling all media planning and buying chores and is being paid on a retainer basis, and a sales relationship where the client is buying media from a seller.  That division doesn't exist in their minds.

To an extent, this division doesn't exist in the investment sector either.  To many investors and analysts, it's all one category of companies providing services to advertisers.  That's why they don't understand the difference between an AvenueA and a DrivePM.  It's why analysts refer to DoubleClick or ValueClick as a digital agency.

It's not that the line has blurred between buyer and seller.  It's that for so many people, both inside the business and out, the line has never existed.  To these people, it's okay for a digital agency to also own an ad network because the traditional advertising mindset of emphasizing objectivity and staying away from conflicts of interest are not core values.

To me, those core values have never been questionable.