"One critical expectation is that the output from the study must
be reported without bias," said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. "The report
must demonstrate objectivity and integrity throughout to ensure
that the study is beyond reproach."
the RFP, with all deliverables due by July 24, seeks to
"demystify the landscape" by having an objective third party
"conduct its own investigative analysis – interviewing
marketers, agencies, publishers, vendors and other players to
develop a fundamental understanding that can be shared with the
industry at large."
The investigation shouldn't be confined just to rebates or
"agency volume bonuses," but to a wide range of practices that
affect or could affect how inventory is selected, including
"barter, arbitrage, 'dark pools' (or inventory sourced from a
variety of processes and re-sold to clients), agency trading desks,
and global inventory management/swaps," the RFP states.
One key area of focus is the role of holding companies and how
they're involved in the activity of their individual agency units.
Holding companies have the scope and complexity to "perpetuate
transparency issues," the RFP said, but their leaders "been
emphatic that their organizations conduct business openly and with
The study will also look at whether undisclosed incentives may
result in media plans that aren't in the best interests of clients;
develop best practices and industry standards for transparency; and
look at cases where marketers' behavior may be pushing the
"Marketers should come under the same level of scrutiny that is
being suggested for the agency business system," the RFP says. "Are
marketers squeezing the agencies so hard that agencies have had to
resort to less transparent behavior?"
One big question is whether a third party can uncover what
marketers themselves sometimes feel they can't, even amid
multi-billion-dollar agency reviews.
In a transparency "town hall" session at the ANA Advertising
Financial Management Conference in April, Ana Jernestaal, assistant
VP-finance for L'Oreal USA, which is
in the midst of a review of its $2.3 billion media buying account,
said: "We know [rebates] exist, but we're sitting across the table
from advertising agencies that are flatly denying it."
Speaking at the same conference, Irwin Gotlieb, chairman of
WPP's GroupM, said incentive arrangements that put media agency
compensation at risk if they don't deliver certain reach and cost
or other targets have essentially made them no longer true
"agents," of clients.
"You cease to be an agent the moment someone puts a gun to your
head and says 'These are the CPMs you need to deliver,'" he