‘The ANA has failed its members’: Publicis hits back at transparency report

Publicis Groupe has taken a strong position, decrying the results of a national Association of Advertisers (ANA) study, indicating that agencies engage in “non-transparent” business practices, including rebates for “the amount spent of media.” The study, conducted between October 2015 and May 2016, shows “evidence of a fundamental disconnect in the advertising industry regarding the basic nature of the advertiser-agency relationship," according to the ANA.

In a strongly-worded statement, Paris-based Publicis Group has indicated that the ANA “has failed its members, advertisers, agencies and the entire industry by releasing a report that relies on allegations about situations involving unnamed companies and individuals to make broad, unsubstantiated and unverifiable assertions. Despite repeated urging by Publicis Groupe and others in the industry to include names and sources in its report, the document hides behind suspicions and anonymity rather than encouraging real accountability.”

According to the statement, Publicis were active participants in discussions with the ANA and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) with the goal of improving media transparency. Publicis claims that the ANA unexpectedly abandoned the talks and sent a letter, signed by Maurice Lévy, chief executive of Publicis Groupe, to 4As chair and Horizon Media chief executive Bill Koenigsberg, expressing their concern over press leaks and the overall situation.

“We, and others, made considerable efforts to achieve consensus among various stakeholders, only to have all of that work discarded at the eleventh hour,” the letter states. Lévy copied the communication to Michael Roth (chairman, chief executive of IPG), John Wren (chief executive of Omnicom) and Sir Martin Sorrell (chief executive of WPP). The perceived breach of trust illustrated in the report, according to the letter, could “have the potential to cause great financial and reputational damage.”

For it’s part, Publicis cited “strict internal rules, including a code of conduct that serve as important controls on our practices and public reporting” in its statement and added that “we are committed to full compliance with the terms of the client-agency agreements we sign. We always want to hear from any client that has concerns about the delivery of our services and how we are compensated, so that we can address those directly with them. We also recognize that some alleged practices under question may not be egregious transgressions, but rather outmoded practices that have not kept pace with the fast changes in the media landscape that require more engagement and dialogue between agencies and clients, and better alignment to assure comfort and consensus.”

Publicis indicated that they may have further comment on the report but noted in the report that “the industry has been diminished and maligned by the ANA’s short-sighted and unilateral agenda of casting aspersions on an entire industry, rather than promoting trust and transparency, which should be paramount.”

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