ANA Finds Rebates Still A Major Client-Agency Trust Issue

Three years ago the ANA released a major study on transparency and the agency-client relationship that found the practice of taking undisclosed rebates -- agencies taking rebates from media companies without disclosing the details to clients -- to be much more widespread in the U.S. than previously thought. 

The report addressed other problems as well, causing quite a stir in the industry, and may have been the catalyst for an ongoing FBI investigation into media practices. It also led to many media agency search and contract reviews. 

Now the ANA has found the practice is still a major concern -- the top concern, in fact -- among advertisers, according a new survey from the trade group and its outside counsel Reed Smith on agency-client trust issues. 

The survey, conducted in August, showed that 32% of the 188 respondents cited media rebates as “a big problem.”  Other issues contributing to the breakdown of trust included invalid traffic and digital ad fraud, data confidentiality, and agencies reselling media to clients with an undisclosed markup -- all cited as “a big problem” by 30% of respondents. 



ANA CEO Bob Liodice stated that “While significant progress has been made,” since the transparency report was issued three years ago, “this new survey indicates the persistence of those issues and shows the problem is still top of mind among advertisers.” 

Earlier this year the ANA launched what it calls the “Trust Consortium” in partnership with ReedSmith to periodically review trust issues between clients and agencies. Going forward, Liodice said, that Consortium “will work collaboratively with the industry to achieve even greater progress and more disciplined behavior.” 

Additional issues of concern to respondents included: 

  • Rebates for digital ad data
  • Lack of transparency into the cost components of the programmatic media supply chain
  • Data integrity issues (e.g., accuracy and relevance)
  • Walled garden limitations on measurement 
  • Brand safety 
  • Influencer fraud (e.g.,  fake followers, fake engagement stats).  

The full report can be found here.

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