One year on from the investigation into media transparency and rebates taking place within the marketing services sector, conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) the organisation has released advice for members from learnings its investigation provided.
The widespread allegations made against media agencies and their financial behaviour when it came to billing clients was a major talking point of 2016 and is one that has yet to be fully overcome, with Procter & Gamble's marketing chief Marc Pritchard among the most prominent of critics into agency transparency.
As part of its blog post looking back on its subsequent investigation and resulting K2 Report, leading to it issuing formal transparency guidelines that included the creation of a chief media officer role to oversee all activity, it has offered further views on how advertisers can protect themselves.
The first step; 'A Look Inside' advises advertisers to consider conducting an internet investigation to offer an assessment of risks including whether a 'fair share of rebates and incentives' have been received if the agencies had received any kickbacks themselves while using the client's budget. Also reviewing current contracts to ensure sufficient protection which may be renegotiated as a result.
'A look outside' is the second step advised, telling advertisers to audit their agencies to find out how rebates and incentives are being used, the benefits they are receiving and how much the advertiser should claim back. Should they be uncooperative or simply claim they no longer 'engage in questionable activities' should not be accepted at face value, it added, with verification demanded.
The third step 'A Look to the future' advised advertisers undertaking two initiatives - the renegotiation of current contracts or additions to agreements, and transparency ensured within future request for proposals (RFPs).
"The industry is on the road to restoring trust, but has a long way to go. To preserve marketplace integrity and protect shareholder values, advertisers cannot let up and must continue to pressure agencies for complete transparency. The delays and public denials by agencies (despite reality) cannot continue. Agencies should prove their sincerity through cooperation in audits and legitimate contractual provisions that insure transparency, or make it clear where an agency refuses to embrace it," wrote Bob Liodice, chief executive of the ANA in his blog piece.