I Know What You Did Last Summer

Is it already a year since everyone’s inbox exploded with the ANA report on media transparency?   You know, the one that found over 100 examples of transparency issues, but none that were corroborated by any individual agency or holding group?     While it was reassuring to read last week that 60% of ANA members have taken steps to address this issue, another summer tome arrived on our doorsteps this week, this time on Production. 

The ANA Production Report has been well crafted by twelve industry experts working with an ANA committee. While I totally support all the content and conclusions, I feel it lacks the gumshoe style analysis of the one from a year ago. Not all summer sequels are as good as the original. That said, marketers should still be sure to react to this report in multiple ways. 




For all the sound and fury on agency transparency, the reality is that too many client-agency contracts are just not in shape.   If you are running blindly through a china shop and something breaks, don’t expect the store owner to fix it.   The best marketers have dragged their legal teams and often outside experts together to sit down with agencies and sort out better agreements. 

We were recently asked to audit rebates on behalf of a global CPG marketer – not only did their contract not spell out the rebate rights, they didn’t even have any audit rights.  #Embarrassing.   You can be sure that your company agreements with subcontractors for your manufacturing are going to be far more detailed than those with your marketing partners.  Close the Loop. Get a New Contract.  Move on from there. 


The report mentioned that 40% of marketers are taking production work in-house.  We’d be surprised if the number is really that high, but it depends on how production is defined.  Certainly, it’s in the public record that marketers from Unilever to Apple are investing in in-house agencies and design teams to drive speed and efficiency into the process. 

But being closer to where the sausage is made is not a panacea to great work (thinking of you, Pepsi).  The French Riviera was not awash with In-House Agency Lions this summer.  World class communications thinking still requires the very best creatives you can find.  Not all of them want to sit in New Jersey and make margarine ads five days a week. 


You might expect a consultant to say this, but if I was a CMO or an SVP of Procurement, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night without regular audits of my marketing partners.  It would be like living in that beach house in New Orleans or driving that Ford Edsel without insurance.   

Ongoing audits are part and parcel of a professional and transparent relationship.  Last time I looked, there were four companies with one million people doing this.  By the same token, this is not the job of ambulance chasers.  Do not hire consultants on a contingency basis who offer to “share in the recovery.”   No one needs Dog the Bounty Hunter walking into their agency to find out where the prisoners can be taken.   I’ll be pleased to mention a recent production audit we did of an Omnicom agency where they were literally 100% compliant.   The winner in this scenario is the spouse of the CMO who will see a much more relaxed and rested soul. 

Audits should also be selective.  We work with a number of companies who pick countries at random every year.  Turkey, Portugal, Chile, Russia.  It doesn’t make commercial sense to do an onsite audit of the same US agency every year.  Spread them out and keep them random. 


OK, this section is really some next level black belt sh*t and may not be for every agency relationship.    Please first slide on some rose-tinted glasses and imagine this scenario……. there’s a method through which you can pay an agency more when they can demonstrate they have cost you less.  Pause on this one a little.     We’ve seen several scenarios where, as part of the agency variable incentive / bonus, they are required to provide biannual “Production Management Reports” – initiatives they have taken on your behalf to optimize production costs.  Their half twin sisters in the media agencies have already been doing this for years.   Prove you can be an active partner in optimizing production – and we will reward you for that role.  

With the growth of social, mobile and viral, the marketing world has become more awash in content than ever before.  From the Tweeter in Chief to the humble Brand Manager, there’s never been more messaging than in any time in history.  Paying for that fairly and appropriately is an ongoing challenge.  We applaud the ANA for shining some light on this bushel – but now it’s up to every individual marketer to do something about it.  

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