Former SMG President Andrew Swinand Launches Consultancy Called Transparent

Pitch to Clients: 'Take Back Control of Data' and 'Have Full Knowledge of Costs'

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Former Starcom Mediavest Group President Andrew Swinand is launching a media consultancy called Transparent Media Partners at a time when marketers are expressing concern and confusion around media-buying practices.

Mr. Swinand describes Transparent as a consultancy that helps clients "navigate the digital landscape" and "take back control of their data and have full knowledge of the costs," by providing guidance on choosing technology, implementing and managing that technology and establishing direct relationships with vendors.

"With 5,000 new technologies, it is hard to make sense of what 'works' and to establish effective direct relationships with technology providers (though the tech providers are hungry to have direct relationships)," said Mr. Swinand via email. "In addition, there is a lot of confusion in the market around transparency, ad fraud, viewability, rebates, etc. I believe that clients want to pay their agencies and technology partners a fair fee. That said, they want to know with full disclosure what this is and where the money is going."

Part of what's creating this "confusion" is a "misalignment of incentives" between agency and client, he added. "What was once a very people-intensive business that was based on paying for [full-time employees] has become, and continues to become, more automated," he said. "Media agencies are seeking to sell [clients on] more people. Clients are seeking to deploy integrated marketing stacks to allow them to leverage data to work toward addressable advertising…with [fewer] people."

Transparent, which launches with 11 full-time staffers, is only one of Mr. Swinand's many Chicago-based ventures. He left Publicis Groupe's SMG after more than a decade in 2011 to start Abundant Venture Partners, an accelerator network of startups and technology firms. He also founded creative and analytics agency Frequency540.

Although his latest venture is not an agency -- "We are not a media agency," the firm states on the "About Us" page on its website -- it's working "in partnership" with clients' media agencies to perform audits and reviews of existing buys, plans, and processes, as well as optimize buys based on viewability standards, said Mr. Swinand.

Among Transparent's leaders are Stephanie Ridley, partner in charge of client service, and Bryan Simkins, partner in charge of technology. Ms. Ridley, who is moving over from Frequency540, previously served in senior roles at Starcom Mediavest Group. Mr. Simkins is also joining from SMG, where he served in a senior digital media and technology role.

Mr. Swinand would not disclose clients, but said that the shop is starting out with a global hospitality brand, a global luxury brand, two global consumer packaged-goods brands, a U.S.-based telecommunications provider, a U.S.-based financial services firm, and a U.S.-based technology company.

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