Reactions to the Association of National Advertisers’ media-buying transparency recommendations Monday ranged from muted to “we’re all in.” Muted was Madison Avenue’s official response, underscored by 4As chief Nancy Hill’s statement that the trade association will respond in due time, after thoroughly reviewing the report, its recommendations and a proposed template for media-buying contracts that would give clients explicit and unprecedented audit rights of their agencies.
All in may be the best way of describing how others -- including at least one former 4As member agency -- reacted. Cincinnati-based Empower MediaMarketing, which pulled out of the 4As when it gave a tepid response to the ANA’s release of its initial report on the subject last month, immediately reviewed the new recommendations and “pledged support” to the ANA and encouraged other agencies to follow suit.
“We read it all, and we reviewed it all, and we understand the language proposed by the ANA serves the advertiser. Of course, we can only speak for Empower, but we’re celebrating the terms of this proposal because it creates complete transparency,” said Andrew Susman, vice president of Empower’s New York operations, adding, “When does common sense become common practice?”
“We anticipate some initial pushback from agencies and their holding companies on this level of transparency. However those who embrace it soonest stand to benefit most,” said Thomas Bridge, founder and CEO of media auditing firm Media Management Inc., adding, “If agreements are specific and adhere to best practices, then agencies and holding companies have nothing to lose by embracing this additional level of transparency."
Bridge said the recommendation and the language of the ANA’s contract template does give clients the “expanded, robust and far-reaching” rights to audit their agency’s books and media-buying practices than has historically been the industry standard, but it raises some other complex issues, including the role technology is playing as an intermediating agent between agencies and advertisers, and whether agencies are actually acting as agents anymore, or as the principal maker of their own media marketplaces.“There are issues with agencies acting as ‘principal pay’ vs. that of an agent. It is without question that an agency acting as an agent creates conflict with the advertisers business goals down to the media buyer level,” he explained, adding, “At no time should the interests of the agency supersede the interests of the advertiser."