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An Independent Study of Media Transparency in the U.S. Advertising Industry

Executive Summary

The ANA's focus on media transparency began four years ago with the knowledge of undisclosed media rebates. An ANA member survey taken at that time indicated that 28 percent of respondents claimed to have awareness of the practice of U.S. media companies providing rebates/incentives to agencies for referring or influencing client spending toward that media company.

The ANA then developed a white paper in conjunction with its outside legal counsel, Reed Smith, to explain rebates in more detail. In early 2014, the ANA and Forrester teamed up to explore transparency more broadly via another ANA member survey. Results indicated rapidly growing concerns about transparency across a variety of business practices, including rebates.

To validate members' concerns, in June 2015, the ANA issued an RFP for an industry-wide media transparency study. The ANA believed that an independent, objective organization was needed to provide indisputable marketplace clarity and help set the record straight. (View the full RFP now.)

The ANA last fall selected K2 Intelligence, an industry-leading assessment, compliance, and cyber-defense services firm, along with Ebiquity and FirmDecisions, a top marketing-performance optimization company, to lead discovery and fact-finding efforts into media transparency issues and develop longer-term transparent business practices.

The important industry initiative, stewarded by the Executive Committee of ANA Board of Directors, sought to:

  • "Demystify the landscape" and provide a clarifying perspective on non-transparent behavior
  • Understand the role of agency holding companies and their levels of engagement
  • Understand if media plans are being compromised
  • Evaluate marketers' practices and processes affecting agency behavior

Results of the seven-month study were released June 7 by the ANA in conjunction with K2 Intelligence. The study revealed that numerous non-transparent business practices, including cash rebates to media agencies, were found to be pervasive in a sample of the U.S. media ad buying ecosystem.

Read the full report by clicking the download link to the right (or below if you're on mobile).


"An Independent Study of Media Transparency in the U.S. Advertising Industry." ANA/K2 Intelligence, 2016.