So there you have it. Eight months in the making and aided by K2's FBI-trained investigators, the ANA report has delivered a suitably damning indictment of agency transparency; rotten from top to bottom.
In the words of ANA Chairman, Tony Pace, “...the report has unearthed a ‘fundamental disconnect’ between advertisers and their media agencies."
Job done, then?
Well, only if you think the best way to proceed is to elicit just the right amount of handwringing from agencies and their owners before getting back to the way things have been for over a decade.
Once the tsunami of bad headlines has died down, these multibillion dollars businesses will continue to dictate how the vast majority of the free-market media world operates.
Indeed, anyone thinking that a WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, Dentsu Aegis, Havas, or even the biggest independents, like Horizon Media, would give up that dominant position and stop investing in 21st-century trading models, has never sat around the negotiation table with them.
This project was supposed to be an open and independent fact-finding mission that would ultimately bring the main parties together. That went out the window when the 4As threw away the RSVP slip and came up with their own interpretation of media transparency.
It was a defensive and misjudged move, always likely to produce a largely fact- and blame-free 62-page report that callously judges an entire industry, making it even less attractive than yesterday — and most likely less profitable too as someone ultimately will pay the price.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe that the media-transparency issue is best solved behind closed doors and around the negotiation table; allowing mutually agreeable plans to be developed and roadmaps implemented.
Instead, we are now faced with having to achieve that same objective with one party universally shamed and the other understandably mistrustful of their intentions.
So today, we deal with the hangover; the realization that most ANA members were well aware this was happening — but the culture of complacency ultimately won. The only chance to recover something positive out of this self-inflicted dilemma is to recognize the wilful blindness that created it.
The ANA needs to help its members overcome the fear of change that stigmatizes them (as well as costing billions of dollars in lost opportunity), and offer the talent, tools and services that clients actually need to restore trust.
In effect, the industry needs to realize that without reciprocal trust and collaboration, true transparency will never be achieved.