A Second Half Of 2016 Filled With Divorces And Separations

As 2016 continues to unfold, we can expect to see significant changes in the relationship between marketers, media agencies and their holding companies. We can also expect major changes in the leadership at some of the biggest media players in the U.S. market, such as Fox News — and Yahoo, now that it is merging into Verizon/AOL.

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) have fallen out, part 2. The ANA released its suggestions to combat the nefarious dealings from media agencies and media holding companies in a set of recommendations and a contract template, and the 4A’s rejected all published ANA suggestions last Friday. As predictable as they are consistent, the 4A's proposed that advertisers adopt the 4A’s own recommended solutions instead.

My take on those 4A recommendations is that they aren’t great for advertisers (a refresher can be found here).



Many commentators have said that the fallout from marketers renegotiating their contracts following the ANA’s suggestions will quite possibly result in a very changed landscape going into 2017. At minimum, the contracts will be different, which means agency holding companies will potentially make less (but more honest) money. At worst, there will be an avalanche of pitches where marketers might explore left-field offerings such as in-house solutions or independent boutique agencies, or perhaps  use media owners as agencies, or choose the services of consulting firms such as Deloitte.

I am a bit upset with those who say: “Well, actually it is all the marketers’ own fault. If only they had done more to manage media, and if only they had kept the procurement department at bay.” I get where these comments are coming from, and partially agree. But at the same time, when the media agencies separated from the creative agencies and set up shop by themselves, their main selling point was cost-efficiency. It still is today, with pitches full of RECMA rankings, volume-share-per-media pie charts and assorted other “mine are bigger than yours” slides.

Our dog has just graduated from  obedience school. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a little training and a lot of repeating and rewarding. It seems to me that the media agencies have done exactly that, training us to believe that, ultimately, price is the decisive factor, repeating that mantra over and over, and then rewarding themselves.

Adding to the media-industry world inferno are changes at the top. First it was Roger Ailes, who departed from Fox under a cloud of sexual harassment claims and lawsuits. This is the moment for the new Murdoch generation to showcase a new direction of leadership. And this weekend we saw the downfall of Saatchi & Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts over being totally tone-deaf on gender equality.

Call me old-fashioned, or perhaps a goody two shoes, but when I read about the kind of language that these fine business leaders allegedly used in meetings and conversations when talking about business, clients or colleagues, I can only conclude that the writing was on the wall for a very long time. The F-word belongs in the privacy of your bedroom, and even there its use is questionable. Assorted other colorful language belongs to the bully and should have no place in the boardroom, as far as I am concerned.

As Retired Gen. John Allen said last week “Words are windows into people's souls.” Place value on what people say; you may learn something.

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