This article was published by Business Insider on October 6, 2016
Dave Smith and John Cate contributed to the content.
The advertising agency industry was rocked in late 2015 by allegations of improper actions being taken with advertiser dollars, especially — but not limited to — the media investments being handled by large multinational agencies/holding companies.
This past June, an investigation commissioned by the American Association of National Advertisers (ANA) validated much of what was a primary concern: agencies were not being fully transparent about the ways that they were making money.
We’ve taken note of all of this.
As an independent media agency that has always aspired to the best practices in transparency, both relative to costs and data, we felt it was time to be clearly and publicly committed to a set of principles. Last week we issued a Client Bill of Rights as a set of promises to our current clients, and as an offering to prospective clients.
We shared the document as well with our friends and colleagues in the industry, and have been overwhelmed by the positive response.
While many in the industry are already running their businesses in the spirit of these principles, the K9 report from the ANA and subsequent Ebiquity best practice recommendations have made it increasingly apparent to us that not all in our industry are willing to run their companies in a fully transparent way.
Even the 4A’s guidelines on transparency issued this year have a certain opaqueness to them. So while our Client Bill of Rights still stands in its purpose, we have decided to develop a companion Marketer Bill of Rights.
This outward pivot of our client-facing set of principles is intended to be a helpful starting point for marketers and agencies in thinking about how they can define their relationships.
From the start of this effort, we have been clear that issues of transparency in cost and data in our industry are not easily solved. We are also not casting any specific allegations at any particular entity.
We’re only being very clear about how we do business and how many other transparent mid-major agencies do business too.
Our Marketer Bill of Rights are found here. We welcome questions and feedback from our clients, prospective clients, sellers, industry friends and even competitors. We think this is an important time in our industry for all “agencies” to clearly define our businesses.
Mediasmith’s Marketer Bill of Rights
Mediasmith is a transparent and full disclosure media agency. We believe all Marketers have the following rights:
- Marketers have the right to unbiased media recommendations that are not influenced by their agency’s seller relationships.
Marketers come to agencies for their experience and media relationships, but should expect agencies to view the media landscape objectively, and to provide media recommendations that are intended to build the marketer’s business, not the media sellers.
- Marketers have the right to expect agencies to be their buying agents , acting only in their best interests.
This is why agencies are called agencies, and where some are blurring their roles.
III. Marketers have the right to know that their buying agency does not also own or sell media.
No agency can own media and sell it without a conflict of interest.
- Marketers have the right to itemized invoices, including separation of agency fee from seller costs.
Marketers should know exactly what’s being paid for each component of media, and even be provided the actual seller invoices if wanted. This is what’s really meant by transparency.
- Marketers have the right to see all of their media performance data, and to know where all of their advertising runs.
Performance and insights are generated by marketer’s investments. At minimum, they have a right to see all of the data generated from their campaigns.
- Marketers have the right to receive and pay their own media invoices.
Most agencies plan to do vendor payment for their clients as a service, but with nothing to hide, they should gladly volunteer this option to their clients.
VII. Marketers have the right to own any rebates, discounts, or media value generated by their investments.
It’s the marketer’s money that earns this value, and they own it. Agencies should take their client’s lead on what to do with their money.
VIII. Marketers have the right to know all media technology costs.
Media technology costs should be just as transparent as media costs. No proprietary technology, white labels or black boxes should go undisclosed.
- Marketers have the right to formally audit their agency’s finances as related to their media buys.
Agencies should welcome whatever their clients require to ensure trust.
- Marketers have the right to know if their agency is subcontracting work and to whom.
Marketers should have confidence that only agency employees or disclosed partners will be handling their money. The use of undisclosed sister company relationships and other outsourcing does not encourage transparency.
David Smith is CEO and Founder of Mediasmith, an independent media agency based in San Francisco specializing in media planning and buying. John Cate is President and COO of Mediasmith.