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IAB's European programmatic in-housing report met with scepticism

David Murphy

Industry executives have reacted with scepticism to an IAB US study which found that, across the EU5 countries (UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain), an average of 86 per cent of brands have moved the programmatic ad buying function completely or partially in-house.

The findings are based on the Ipsos MORI Omnibus Survey fielded in March 2019, in which 950 European-based brand representatives participated. The respondents represent media decision makers across all job titles and 16 major ad categories. All are qualified as involved in making digital, television, mobile, radio, and/or print media decisions. Pre-Meditated Media, LLC authored the study by integrating insights from the Ipsos MORI Omnibus Survey, executive interviews, and industry research. According to the IAB US website, the report was published “with the support of the IAB Data Center of Excellence and Accenture Interactive.”

It found that in the UK, 88 per cent of respondents had either moved the function completely in-house (48 per cent) or done so in part (40 per cent). In France, the figure was 88 per cent (43 per cent in-house, 45 per cent in part). For Germany it was 89 per cent (35 per cent in-house, 54 per cent in part). For Italy, 86 per cent (45 per cent in-house, 41 per cent in part). And for Spain, 78 per cent. (32 per cent in-house, 46 per cent in part).

But the figures, and Accenture’s involvement in the report, have led some to question the findings. Ryan Skeggs, chief commercial officer at GiveMeSport, told Mobile Marketing: “I do get sceptical when you get these sponsored pieces of work. According to the study, 40 per cent of UK advertisers have in-housed programmatic. If that’s the case, then I don’t understand why my sales guys are spending money and maintaining relationships with trading desks and agencies. There are partners we work with that have programmatic teams client side, but is still activated by the agency. Looking at recent activity, I see four advertisers, of which one I would class as having their own internal team. The other three, yes they have a programmatic team client side, but it is still all transacted by the agency, and I would bet my bottom dollar that other publishers would paint a similar picture."

Skeggs also questions Accenture’s involvement with the report. He said: “With all due respect to Accenture, their business model for programmatic is to help clients do it in house, so this smells a bit iffy. Practical experience and my own gut feeling, plus that of others I have spoken to, says these numbers feel a little bit whack. We see where the money is coming from and know the clients we have direct relationships with.

“The worrying thing is that this comes from the IAB, which is supposed to be an independent body, that the industry is supposed to trust, but they are putting this out in partnership with a company that has a vested interest in companies in-housing.”

Alex Rahaman, chairman of rich media ad tech firm Nexd, also expressed surprise at the study’s findings. He told us: ““In my experience in Europe, few brands have taken even part of their programmatic buying in house let alone all. I’m not sure why these brands are declaring they have done this bar to appear enlightened. Maybe a global Auto brand or FMCG may have the scale to do this, but the vast majority still rely on their agency to use DSPs. Some rare exceptions could be the luxury brands in Italy who often don’t use media agencies.”

We asked the IAB US to clarify Accenture Interactive’s involvement with the research, but have so far not had a response.

Update:
On Monday, 29 April, the IAB told us:
"Accenture Interactive was simply the sponsor of the research alongside the IAB Data Center of Excellence's board, which includes a variety of companies across the ecosystem. Accenture Interactive did not have anything to do with the development, execution, or presentation of the research or findings beyond serving as a sponsor."

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