My colleague Larissa Faw published a blockbuster story today about the ongoing (and soon to be completed) Disney media agency review.
Sources in the know tell her that Disney is taking “squeeze play” in its talks with contenders to a whole new level, a level those sources consider unethical. Maybe worse.
Like every other marketer in the world Disney wants reduced fees. Natch. It also wants its prospective agency to use its own leverage to squeeze media companies harder for rebates that would contribute toward the agency’s compensation for services to Disney. That’s pushing the envelope pretty hard. I doubt if Disney, wearing its media company hat, would consider giving a bigger rebate to an agency because another client wanted to manage its cash flow more efficiently.
And Disney has also floated the idea, according to Larissa’s sources, that maybe the winning candidate could boost Disney’s coffers by convincing its other clients to earmark a little more of its ad spending to Disney properties.
Oh to be a fly on the wall during those conversations. The sources who spoke to Larissa were pretty indignant—make that damned pissed off—that Disney would think such a proposition was appropriate to even consider let alone actually articulate in review conversations.
I mean it’s downright Trumpian in terms of the blatant conflict of interest that it raises. Disney is known as a rough-and-tumble player that loves to throw its weight around and exact as much leverage as it can, but still. A media company looking for an agency to help plan and buy ad time and space for its vast portfolio of properties exerting pressure on said agency to persuade other clients to spend more with Disney. Do that and you get our business.
Right. ‘Do us a favor,” as Trump put it in a conversation to the Ukrainian president—a conversation that sparked an impeachment inquiry.
I wonder what the feds will make of this. The feds, that is, that are investigating potentially fraudulent media buying practices in the U.S.
It’s not clear that Disney has done anything fraudulent in the strict legal sense of the term. Yet.
But if the company has even suggested what sources say it has with regard to a so-called “share shift,” well, that’s just plain corrupt. If it’s not illegal it ought to be.