The fact is that media has been bribing clients and agency folks since the beginning of time, and everyone knows it. They just don't call it “rebates" — they call it being flown to and housed at the Olympics, the Oscars, or nearly every other spectacular that normal people don't stand a chance of getting into. Tickets to Broadway shows and every major sporting event in the world are handed out like shopping mall Santas distributing candy canes. I once had a middle-level media buyer say to me, "I can get two tickets behind home plate at the 7th game of the World Series 15 minutes before game time — with just a phone call."
I know other media buyers who go to the finest restaurants in New York three nights a week, and never once pick up the tab.
When I asked an agency friend why he’d put a brand that simply DID NOT belong in a sports magazine there, he replied simply, "Hey, I want to go to the Olympics."
Five days at a spa, a week of fishing in Alaska, a shopping spree on Boulevard Saint-Germain, a cruise down the Dalmatian Coast — all can and have been had by media buyers as “thank-yous" for their spending. Under the guise of "building and maintaining relationships,” millions have been spent by media companies on junkets, gifts, tickets and meals for those at agencies who can redirect where ad money goes.
To be sure, this kind of kickback takes place in nearly every industry, and probably pales in comparison to what happens in pharma and defense, and is decidedly different from cash rebates that are not disclosed to clients. (Or is it?)
Everyone is running around like town criers calling for more "transparency" as a potential resolution to the cash/inventory rebating. But seriously, if you want to be really transparent, add up ALL of the ways that media bribes more spending out of agencies. Have every agency person at every level disclose the value of any meals or tickets they get, and from whom. Should then be pretty easy to see if their media buys are trending off-base as a result.
The ANA is a trade association. It answers to its members. If the members wanted to know who, what, where, when and how, they should have demanded it.
This all kind of sounds like folks writing letters to the editor complaining about speeding in their neighborhood, then routinely doing 45 in a 25-mph zone on their way home. Those who get tickets, well, they are the bad guys.