Publicis Groupe recently announced a program that will give midsize businesses their money back if it fails to deliver results. Bill Duggan recalls a similar initiative from the 1990s, and outlines why such a pledge looks very different in 2020.

Marketing in the COVID-19 crisis

This article is part of a special WARC Snapshot focused on enabling brand marketers to re-strategise amid the unprecedented disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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There was some interesting industry news recently when Publicis Groupe, the holding company, announced a new partnership between Publicis Media and Epsilon called “The Pact.”

According to a press release, The Pact is “a new solution to provide US midsize businesses with guaranteed outcomes, to maximize their return-on-advertising spend through the current crisis and to set the foundation for these businesses to be recovery ready.

“Every marketing dollar invested in The Pact will be guaranteed to drive real business outcomes such as sales, new customer acquisitions, return-on-advertising spend, registrations, or other agreed KPIs.

“If results are not delivered, 100% of The Pact investment will be refunded.”

Publicis Groupe acquired Epsilon, a data-driven marketing service, in July 2019. And The Pact will leverage the expertise of Epsilon with the scale of Publicis Media, tapping into the proliferation of new data signals from rapidly changing consumer behaviors to drive timely, relevant messaging in digital advertising.

Midsize companies are specifically targeted as they have very clear and measurable KPIs, including sales, registration, coupon redemption, and new-customer acquisition.

Kudos to Publicis for introducing The Pact. In a time of incredible uncertainty, the promise of guaranteed business results should be very well-received by marketers.

This program reminds me of the work of the great Keith Reinhard. Back in 1990, Keith was chairman of DDB Needham Worldwide, and one of the most important and respected leaders in the industry.

At the time, Keith introduced a compensation model called “Total Creativity. Guaranteed Results” that tied client business performance with agency compensation.

Keith admitted in an interview with Ad Age many years later that the program “got a lot of good press but few takers … and it was wrong to use the word ‘guarantee.’” But it did help ignite the current widespread practice of incentive compensation for agencies – the ability to make more money (and sometimes less) based on agreed-upon business criteria.

Times, of course, are very different now than they were 30 years ago. And The Pact program takes advantage of the two major differences of:

  • uncertainty caused by COVID-19, and therefore potential interest from clients in a “guarantee”;
  • the power of data-driven marketing.

“Data” is possibly the hottest four-letter word in the marketing industry today. While it has great benefits, it also presents challenges.

For instance: A tremendous amount of money is spent on data for media-buying decisions, specifically third-party audience data. Third-party data can come from many different parties, and multiple methodologies can be used in its collection, structuring, and marketing.

That variety in sourcing often makes it difficult for advertisers to understand exactly what they’re buying, leaving advertisers at a disadvantage, and at risk of purchasing data that’s unsuitable for their purpose. To address this problem, advertisers need to evaluate the quality of a dataset before purchasing it.

Data Sources for Media: A Buyer’s Guide, a new paper from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Trust Consortium, recommends criteria for evaluating data, as well as a checklist for advertisers to use when considering a new data partner. The paper is available to all.

I’ll be curious to hear real-life case studies from The Pact, highlighting what I hope will be great success. And I encourage the use of the new ANA Buyer’s Guide to help marketers increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the data they buy.