Media Transparency: What’s a Marketer to Do?

August 14, 2015

By Duke Fanelli, CMO at the ANA

When it comes to the current industry upheaval surrounding media transparency, specifically media rebates, there is no shortage of finger pointing coming from both agencies and marketers. Speculation abounds that the rebate revelation is behind the current onslaught of agency reviews, the continuing breakdown in agency and client trust, and, as some marketers have suggested, the result of pushing agencies for increasingly lower fees. The media rebate issue became headline news following a scathing and very public unveiling by Jon Mandel, former CEO at MediaCom, of media rebate practices during a presentation at the ANA’s Media Leadership conference in March.

The issue sparked such debate and accusations that earlier this year the ANA and 4A’s created a task force on media transparency comprised of top marketers and agency leaders. At the time the task force was announced, Bob Liodice, ANA president and CEO said, "We are genuinely pleased that the leaders of our industry recognize that transparency concerns — real and perceived — need to be addressed and mitigated. Media transactions have become increasingly complex, and our priorities must include recommended practices that enhance the understanding of the transaction processes."  

In June, to more fully understand the issue and identify solutions the industry can rally behind, the ANA issued an RFP to identify a third-party organization that could conduct a thorough and objective analysis of all media transparency issues impacting both marketers and agencies.

The August issue of ANA magazine takes a deep dive and hard look at the topic of media transparency and media rebates in the cover story, “The Eroding Cliff.” While the industry works toward a solution to its transparency challenges, the article points to some immediate steps marketers should consider. They include:

  • Know exactly what’s in your contracts with media agencies. “Don’t be afraid to ask them for more information, and truly understand where the money is going,” Liodice advises. “Understand how much money an agency is making on your respective brands.”
  • Don’t be lulled by the fact that an audit is going on. Most are only one level deep and incapable of tracking where the money is really going, especially if the agency parent company has subsidiaries and/or overseas operations.
  • Understand the business models of your media buyers, then agree on where lines are drawn on direct and indirect financial benefits derived by media dollars entrusted to the agency.

For more, read “The Eroding Cliff” and find additional recommendations on what to do right now in the “Thinking Clearly” sidebar, on page 6.

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