Cameron Prockiw is the founder of Vovia and has helped top companies around the world use the internet more effectively for over 20 years. Cam also enjoys traveling, experiencing different cultures, and learning new things.

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Agency Bad Behavior – Five Media Buying Sins Which You’re Likely to Run Into

It never ceases to amaze us how often we see bad behaviour by media agencies when we take over campaigns. Unfortunately, it’s still all too common as we’ve found that even some of the most well known agencies take advantage of their clients and provide compromised service. Personally, I find this behaviour disgusting – at best it’s negligent, but often it’s actually purposefully dishonest… Today I’m going to teach you about the shenanigans I have seen personally, so that you can protect yourself against this kind of agency behavior.

Agency Bad Behavior

The following is a list of the most common infractions, which you should be aware of so that you can ensure your media agency is not pulling these tricks on you:

  1. Opaque pricing – Agencies should provide a complete breakdown of pricing, including breaking out their fees from media and platform costs. Time and time again, we hear about agencies charging a single fixed fee with no breakdown, which is downright dishonest! In fact, whenever we’ve taken over one of these accounts and can estimate the cost of media and platforms, we’ve found that these agencies are doing this for a reason–they’re charging two to three times the going rate for agency fees!
  2. Not optimizing – We often see accounts that have been set-up and forgotten, which we call “set it and forget it”. It sounds innocuous, but if they’re not optimizing and making adjustments to your campaign, then what are you paying them for? Another variation on this is the use of 3rd party media partners who do the optimization for the agency, yet the agency still charges the standard management fee. In this case, you’re actually being double charged, paying both the media partner and the agency to optimize your account!
  3. Unclear reporting – Your media agency should be optimizing your campaign to clear and meaningful KPIs. Unfortunately, we often see reports from other agencies which are unclear, either focusing on KPIs that don’t matter (impressions, clicks, or clickthrough rates, rather than on-site goals) or even worse, on vanity metrics that are pointed out to make the agency look good, even though performance is less than stellar (we’ve seen improvements in bounce rates or ‘time on site’ called out, even though goal completions have dropped).
  4. Botched analytics setups – Unfortunately, we’ve found problems with most of the Google Analytics setups we’ve reviewed. Some of the most common problems are using old GA code, putting the tracking in the wrong place in the site’s code (resulting in some traffic not being tracked), and the use of duplicate tracking codes (resulting in traffic being double-counted). It’s also common to see ad campaign traffic that was not UTM tagged properly so it feeds into Google Analytics labeled incorrectly or not labeled at all (attributed as “direct” traffic). There really isn’t any excuse for it, but it looks like many agencies do not have very deep analytics knowledge.
  5. You don’t own your accounts and data, your agency does – I saved the best for last – the absolute worst agency practice! Agencies should set-up accounts under your control so that if you ever switch agencies, you can take your data (and valuable experience) with you. Even though most media vendors will agree that accounts should be set up in this way, they seldom enforce this so it can be difficult or impossible to get control of your account and retrieve your experiential data. Unfortunately, we run across this problem at least a third of the time when taking over campaigns from other agencies, most recently from a national media agency that refused to give the client their account nor their data. The result is that we had to start over and could not learn much from the company’s years of past campaigns.

If you’ve noticed any of these practices or are worried that your media agency may be taking advantage of you, get in touch and we’d be more than happy to check it out for you, and can let you know if we’ve run across your agency doing any of these practices in the past.

At Vovia, integrity is a core value and we strive to always do things the right way. Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case for many in the industry, so you really do need to be conscious of your agency’s principles and practices.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!