Trust, Transparency and AAM’s Role in Media

November 21, 2016

Former AAM Board Chairwoman Chris Meringolo shares her concerns with the industry’s overall lack of transparency and explains how AAM helps advertisers safeguard their media investments.


In her role as vice president of integrated marketing solutions for Bayer Consumer Health, Chris Meringolo is responsible for protecting Bayer’s large-scale media budgets. Meringolo, an active participant in both the Association of National Advertisers and AAM, recently sat down with us to share how she has seen media evolve and what marketers should do to track their advertising dollars. See part one of our interview with Chris.


Out of all of the issues facing the media industry today — invalid traffic, ad viewability, ad blocking, overall transparency — which are the most concerning from your position?

Overall transparency is a good way to describe all of my concerns. Sometimes there is a lack of transparency because of fraudulent activity, while at other times there is a lack of transparency because some media professionals do not know what’s behind the data. For us as marketers it is especially challenging to be diligent because the world is so complex and constantly changing. We need to follow our money. You wouldn’t give your personal money to someone and say, “Let me know what happens when you’re done.” We need to follow our business investments.



If you had to give your colleagues three pointers to help them build transparency into their media buying processes, what would they be and why?

First, ensure that you understand and approve of the third-party tracking and audit measures your agency is using on your behalf. If not, consider your own independent supplements. Second, continually ask questions of your partners and challenge them to have transparent discussions. Lastly, follow your money because, while your agency may manage your media and brand safety, it is your money and responsibility to make sure it is spent properly.


How can AAM help resolve some of these issues?

AAM has played a big role in helping resolve and drive awareness around the issues that are contributing to the overall lack of media transparency across the industry. The entire AAM team has done a tremendous job at reaching out to other organizations in the industry — many that were established to serve the industry — to join forces and expedite resolving some of these issues. In addition to these new partnerships, AAM is developing digital services like Site Certifier that are geared toward helping media buyers and sellers be more aware of what’s actually happening with their inventory. While I don’t know if there will ever be absolute resolution for the industry and while AAM’s role may vary with some of the issues, it is important that we work together to stay on top of today’s topics the best we can.


AAM recently announced a new strategic partnership with ANA that helps marketers access credible media and connect with premium publishing brands. Why is this partnership important to bringing more transparency to the industry?

This ANA partnership is tremendously important, especially as I think about the history of both organizations. The ANA is the strong force for what we as marketers need from an association for advertisers. While the ANA is advocating from the marketers’ perspective, AAM has been the force for verification and transparency across all points in the industry for over 100 years.  In the past, marketers relinquished a lot of the issues surrounding media buying to their agencies and media sellers. As a result (and I make this as a very general statement), we always just assumed that someone was taking care of media buying for us. Recently AAM and the ANA have independently raised their voices that marketers have to follow their money. Now, having those voices advocate together makes the message more powerful.



Is audited circulation still a key component in brand measurement?

Verifying circulation continues to be incredibly important. We don’t want to buy something and get less than what we thought, and this still applies to print circulation. However, ABC changed its name to the Alliance for Audited Media for a reason. Media buying is no longer just about circulation. We are now buying people and interactions. So it is becoming more important that we verify beyond circulation and think about the other measures that we transact on that need to be verified. We need to make sure that what we’re paying for is what we got.


What do you see as emerging industry trends that could impact the business transactions between AAM’s publisher and advertiser clients?

I see a major shift to programmatic buying and ultimately to a more persistent identification of the people we’re targeting. We’re shifting from buying distribution, or eyeballs, to actually buying impressions against specific people. I think that is going to, and already does, have a big impact on AAM’s role.   

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