T's and C's -- What's the Fuss?

Media Buyers, Sellers Need Clear, Straightforward Definitions

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As much of a joy as it is to address -- really, is there anything more sexy? -- who has ownership or access to which types of campaign data has become visible of late, at least in certain media circles, thanks to Group M revising its terms and conditions.

The uproar over Group M's move indicates there are lots interpretations and assumptions when it comes to data ownership and the current T-and-C guidelines, created by the 4A's and the IAB. Now, I could go on and on about how individual agency versions and extensive addenda are counter-productive from an industry process standpoint, and will do very little in the end except add a lot of paperwork inefficiency and keep more corporate lawyers employed. But I won't.

I'd rather focus on the data-ownership portion. Clearly publishers fear commoditization, especially in the context of re-targeting. For many, their audience is identified, rented and cookied, then reached again from that point forward via low cost network re-targeting. The dollars come to the publisher initially, but then migrate to these networks.

This is a common practice. An audience, and that audience's data, is a publisher's value -- it has every right to be concerned. In the extreme case, publishers are never needed after the cookie pool is built, which is created by either an initial campaign, or by networks who buy inventory to build that pool. While context is important for some advertisers, the pool and its inhabitants might be enough for many others.

To allay these twin fears, one approach is the "data IO" -- perhaps instead of contracting for a fixed number of impressions, we contract for media plus 30 days of data use; after that, we go back to the publishers for fresher data, perhaps modifying the data terms as our needs change. Heck, don't even buy the initial media, just buy the cookie pool. Some publishers may sell both, especially when inventory is sold out in certain areas. In fact, they are selling both right now -- they just happening to be adding the data as a bonus with no expiration date. Publishers would at least be compensated for their anxiety.

I'm not necessarily buying in to that idea as the best one or even a good one (it's not even mine -- I first heard it from Don Epperson, former CEO of Havas). But by putting the issue in concrete terms (an IO -- I can picture that!) a simple-minded media person like me can get the essential point.

Some publishers will not sell. ESPN's recent history of not working with networks is a reflection of wanting to keep the audience close and in its control. Maybe that is why laying the ground rules via revised T's and C's is the best approach, and then we take it from there as more data use is required by one party or another.

Publishers do not necessarily deserve remuneration, but they do deserve certain assurances and a say in how the data is used. And as long as I can still conduct business for my clients in an effective manner, I'm happy for our side to oblige.

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Eliot Kent-Uritam is an associate media director at San-Francisco based digital media agency Mediasmith. His areas of expertise include target definition and analysis as well as emerging-media strategy.

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