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The Tipping Point in Media Trading - Are We There Yet?



For several years now the issues and challenges within the media trading sector have been highlighted, discussed and debated through various presentations and trade press articles.

This timeline highlights the articles and discussions which have been openly in the industry forum since at least early 2012 through to the 'furore' surrounding MediaCom and the joint investigation into media practice by the MFA/AANA, the ANA Report of June 2016, through to the AANA's response published in October 2016 to Marc Pritchard's IAB speech in January 2017 and now to the AANA's Inconvenient Truth opinion piece in March 2017 (close to 5 Years since these issues were first highlighted).

This timeline will be continually added to as further information and articles appear - Subscribe to MediaScope's newsletter for updates

What Your Media Agency Might Not Be Telling You

Scroll Down - from April 2012 to March 2017...

April 20 2012

  • Agency Discounting Trigger Money Laundering (Adnews - Paul McIntyre & Simon Rutherford) 

    Steep agency discounting on remuneration deals is at its worst level ever and is so rife in large advertiser account reviews that the industry is on the cusp of a meltdown.

    That’s the view from Simon Rutherford, the usually rather restrained founder of rising media independent Slingshot Media Ventures, who poured scorn this week on the “greed and ego” of media agency management.

    Rutherford said the rot is so bad it is driving the industry “underground” to make profits from “hidden commissions, value banks, short buying and the like” 

    Read More

May 4 2012

  • New Media Buying Landscape Requires Marketers to Out-Perform the Market to Benefit (Darren Woolley from TrinityP3) - It is well reported that marketers are concerned about the lack of transparency in media trading with media agencies setting up trading desks to trade media inventory. Much of this inventory appears to be “bonus” inventory provided by media owners at no cost to the agency networks as part of the sales incentive used by media owners to secure share of market and share of advertiser budget. While most discussion is about how to stop this practice, this approach is flawed as the situation has been created by a short term view taken by most advertisers to reduce the agency-cost of their media, with the media agencies compliant in this endeavour. And the only people that seem to be profiting from this strategy are the industry auditors who get paid to go looking for “value bank” of “bonus” inventory and end up only finding refunds due to poor agency accounting practices.

June 6 2013

  • State of the Media in Australia - in early 2013 a survey (by TrinityP3 & MediaScope) was put to the market asking about the key challenges affecting the media trading process.  Results were presented at Mumbrella360 with an open and honest panel discussion involving senior marketers, agencies and publishers looking at issues surrounding programmatic and the impact of procurement on the media trading landscape.

July 24 2013

  • What Your Media Agency Might Not Be Telling You (Mumbrella) - "I’m going to begin with a confession: running a media agency ain’t what it used to be. Based on what clients pay directly to their agencies, few of us would still be in business. So these days, our agency has to find other ways". Read More

October 18 2013 

  • Who Does Your Media Agency Really Work For? (TrinityP3) - "With the dismantling of accreditation in the late 20thCentury, the media agencies began to get remunerated based on the resources and services provided to the advertisers. Under enormous competitive pressure and a largely undifferentiated marketplace, the margins fell to unsustainable levels. Yet media agencies continue to report reasonably healthy profits, because in many markets today, the media owners are increasingly funding them through additional commissions and incentives." Read More

February 3 2014

  • Have Media Rebates & Kickbacks Killed Media Neutral Planning (TrinityP3) - "With the increasing choice of media channels available to marketers, there has been a growing necessity to obtain media-neutral advice on the most effective way to select & buy access to the media channels. But there are changes happening, often beneath the surface that is making the concept of media neutrality increasingly more difficult to achieve." Read More

March 5 2014

  • 6 Excuses Media Agencies Use to Not Deliver Promised Discounts (TrinityP3) - "You have run the media tender and managed to secure a new agency who has promised amazing savings not only on your agency fees, but also buying your media at 20% or 30% better than your incumbent agency could ever deliver. What’s more they’ve guaranteed it. In bold type with 100% of their profit at risk if they fail to deliver. It is too good to be true. And it probably is, so prepare yourself with the excuses that will inevitably come should you bother to check if these promises are delivered." Read More

June 6 2014

This video was shown as part of the State of the Media session at Mumbrella360 (hosted by TrinityP3 & MediaScope) - where major marketers, media agency and publisher representatives read quotes directly from the industry on key issues...

October 14 2014

  • What Your Client Might Not Be Telling You (Mumbrella) - "I’m going to begin with a confession: there’s a lot that I don’t tell my agencies. Indeed, there’s a lot we can’t tell them, but if I was to sum up the problem in most agency/client relationships it’s that we don’t actually trust each other. And if there’s one thing that irritates me, more than any other as a marketing boss, it’s when our agencies come in and tell us how they want to be “partners” in our business." Read More

28 November 2014

27 January 2015

  • Fraudulent agencies, dodgy DSPs: You’re killing our industry (AdNews) - "I was sitting at an agency roundtable recently. You know the type: representatives from different outfits discussing the best approach for a common client. One staffer from a prominent media agency began pushing his company’s ‘top-of-the-line DSP’. On the surface this person was outlining the value proposition for the client, but it soon became clear what he was really saying: “My agency has given me a directive to funnel a percentage of our client’s money into DSPs, regardless of viable alternatives”. Read More

6 February 2015

 9 February 2015

  • Aegis Claims it Does Not Use Value Banks (Adnews) - "Dentsu Aegis CEO Luke Littlefield has moved to clarify his agency's position on value banks, telling AdNews categorically that Dentsu Aegis' network of agencies “don't do value banks”. Read More

10 February 2015

  • Ad Fraud Uncovered - What & How it Happens (AdNews) - "Since GroupM confirmed it was carrying out an investigation on auditing irregularities on client accounts for its MediaCom unit, client transparency and ad fraud have been the most talked about topics across the industry.  Looking at the wider ad space -  from kickbacks and bribes to dummy invoicing, fudged figures, value banks, secret offshore accounts and more, AdNews has delved into how ad fraud, or misusing a client's money due to a lack of transparency, is operating across the booming ad tech sector." Read More

23 February 2015

  • ZO director refutes alleged fraudulent tactics (Jonathan Betts, grp business director at ZO - AdNews) - "It was with a sinking feeling that I first read AdNews’ article titled “Ad fraud uncovered – what and how it happens”. On first glance the article seems like a fearless exposé of an industry where unscrupulous organisations are busy siphoning funds from advertisers to make themselves rich at their clients’ expense. To think that this is what media agencies have become today makes me both sad and angry.Read More

26 February 2015

  • It's time to reframe the media conversation: The future is leverage (Chief innovation officer at ZenithOptimedia Aaron Michie - AdNews) - "There are two things that dominate far too much of the conversation around media agencies these days: the rise of programmatic and the uncovering of shady practices. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be talking about questionable trading (it’s vital we clean it up) and it would be insane to deny automation is going to be a huge part of our future (I, for one, welcome our new robot overloads), but it’s really time to reframe how we’re talking about media and start focusing on the exciting and very human future the industry has ahead of it." Read More

9 March 2015

On November 28 2014 Mumbrella revealed 12 staff had left MediaCom due to overcharging of some clients in their TV trading.  An audit into this issue was then undertake with results and ongoing commentary reported in trade media...

April 22 2015

  • GroupM's John Steedman Exits: New CEO to be Appointed (via Adnews)Veteran media industry operative John Steedman will finish-up at GroupM in June as CEO and executive chairman but a hunt for a new Australian CEO continues. GroupM’s worldwide president, Dominic Proctor, and Asia Pacific CEO regional CEO Mark Patterson, are in Australia and told staff this morning.  Steedman has previously described the past six months as the worst of his forty-year career after irregularities at MediaCom around post-TV campaign reporting on key clients were found to be true in an investigation by EY.

June 22 2015...

  • MFA & AANA join forces for media practice investigation (via AdNews) - Key advertising peak bodies have launched a joint effort to develop an “action plan to achieve greater transparency” within the media landscape. Following on from news the US ANA has launched its own process, looking for a third party to handle the investigation, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) have confirmed to AdNews that a joint working group had tapped PwC to conduct a similar process.

We'll continue to add to this timeline as more articles appear - Subscribe to MediaScope's newsletter for updates

November 27 2015...

  • MFA launches 'transparency framework' on rebates, value banks & agency trading desks (via Mumbrella) - The industry body representing Australia’s major media agencies (MFA) yesterday issued a new “transparency framework” which is set to govern how they interact with clients on hot button issues such as agency rebates/commissions, so-called ‘value banks’, disclosure of margins on agency trading desks and ethics training.

March 2016:

June 2016 - The ANA Releases it's Report into Media Agency Transparency and Value Banks

August 2016, 

September 2016 - Billing irregularities by Dentsu Japan are reported by trade media 

October 2016 - AANA Releases Agency-Advertiser Guidelines in Response to ANA Report

January/February 2017 - P&G's Marc Pritchard speaks at the IAB's Annual Conference Calling Out the Digital Media Industry

View Marc Pritchard's Speech Here

  • Ritson: P&G's Marc Pritchard Makes the Biggest Marketing Speech in 20 Years (MarketingWeek) - Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard laid into Google and Facebook’s ‘walled gardens’ and demanded transparency from the digital supply chain, heralding a new era in digital advertising. First up was the increasingly dodgy world of programmatic, and specifically the long list of ad tech vendors who each “punch their ticket” and take a significant slice of the client’s media investment long before it ever reaches a publisher or platform. “We serve ads to consumers through a non-transparent media supply chain with spotty compliance to common standards, unreliable measurement, hidden rebates and new inventions like bot and methbot fraud,” Pritchard announced.

 March 2017

  • Confessions of a Digital Agency Exec: Consulting Firms are Coming (Digiday) - 
    Agencies today are not just competing with each other, but also with data-rich consulting firms that have been moving in on their turf over the past few years. Deloitte, for example, has acquired a dozen creative agencies, while Accenture Digital was named the largest and fastest-growing digital agency network by Ad Age last year. In the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we grant anonymity in exchange for candor, one digital media agency executive said that consulting firms pose a clear and present danger.  
  • March 13 CMO's Must Confront Media's Inconvenient Truth (AdNews) - Head of the AANA - Sunita Gloster - wrote an opinion piece in AdNews - "I suspect that in a few years, Pritchard’s speech, and his earlier call in January for the media community to clean up the digital supply chain, will be hailed as transformative and the needed jolt for marketing’s renaissance in business. Pritchard will be rightly credited with shaking up the industry to address the “murky” media supply chain and repositioning marketing as the stimulus for business growth.  He was forthright: marketers at the highest level must personally take action and responsibility now. It was courageous and confronting stuff."
  • March 13 - AANA's Sunita Gloster & Mark Buckman Appointed to PwC's CMO Advisory Board (AdNews) - "PwC will consult Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) CEO Sunita Goster and Foxtel MD of customer and retail Mark Buckman to help guide the firm on its new consulting business to marketers. The pair will join a six-member CMO Advisory board as non-executive directors and the move won't affect their existing roles." 

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Other Pages of Interest

  • MediaScapes - well-known guides mapping the entire Australian commercial media landscape - including digital media, television, outdoor and mobile billboard media, media agencies & more.  MediaScapes appear on office walls throughout the industry!
  • Newsletter - stay up to date on media industry news and opinion by joining over 2,650 media trading 'influentials' who receive MediaScope's newsletter each Friday morning.