The ANA Report – Considered

It’s been about a week since the ANA’s report into transparency hit the best seller lists. Lest we forget (and judging from some of the less temperate comments flying around some seem to have forgotten) the report was titled: ‘An Independent Study of Media Transparency in the U.S. Advertising Industry’. It was not titled ‘Why Advertisers Hate the Holding Companies’, nor ‘We Name the Guilty Parties’.

The report was about transparency in media placements in the USA. People who it must be assumed knew what they were talking about were interviewed, as is very common anonymously. The findings have been released. Either respondents were uniformly mistaken or there’s something in what they had to say.

The two key players – namely the agencies and the advertisers do not come out of the report too well. The agencies because they’ve been found not to be any too transparent; the clients because they drove fees ever lower and then agreed to contracts that in effect let the agencies do whatever they wanted.

It’s a little strange that the holding companies have expressed so much pained surprise, given that on at least two comparatively recent occasions AdAge has reported on practices subsequently highlighted within the K2 report.

The ANA report is not only about rebates; it also speaks (in 4.4.1) of the difficulties arising when agencies hold equity in supplier companies.

As reported in AdAge, Laura Desmond, then CEO of Publicis company Starcom held a Board position at Tremor Video from January 2012 until resigning her post in September 2013. Her role on Tremor’s Board had been vetted and approved by Publicis.

In 2012 18% of Tremor’s revenues came from Starcom clients, again according to AdAge. 18% seems a big number.

Then there’s rebates dressed up as service agreements, considered by the ANA in This is the practice of ‘selling’ the supplier research, or some other service at a hugely inflated price – in fact so inflated often the buyer never gets to see any report, or indeed any benefit.

In June 2015, AdAge reported two adtech vendors being ‘offered’ this exact ‘service’ by Havas. One of the ‘buyers’ reported that no service was ever forthcoming from this arrangement, involving a Havas company in Spain.

The Cog Blog in March 2014 reported on WPP buying the ad network 24/7, and putting it in with their then-trading desk Xaxis, thus putting Xaxis in the position if it chose to do so of buying from itself. Not that anyone would have known as Xaxis then considered it un-necessary to tell clients where it was placing their digital budgets.

Back then (in February 2014) Bill Duggan from the ANA wrote: “Our business has historically been built on trust and relationships. But this transparency crisis is causing trust to break down and ultimately that will affect the relationships marketers have with their agencies and the media”.

… read on at

Originally posted by Brian Jacobs on The Cog Blog at BJ&A
16th June 2016