ISBA updates media services contract template to better ‘accommodate’ agencies

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) has released an updated version of its media services contract template, a document it initially released in 2016 to help members get a better sense of how agencies are spending their media budgets.

ISBA, which represents more than 3,000 brands in the UK, introduced the contract template in hopes of giving marketers more control over how their money is spent. The framework contract was created in part to push for more transparency at media agencies, which have been accused of accepting rebates from media sellers without telling clients and engaging in other controversial practices. It also addressed topics including click fraud, viewability, verification and brand safety.

According to ISBA, the updated version of its media services framework was drafted in partnership with “all six of the media agency networks,” which had PwC acting on their behalf. ISBA said it also took “valuable feedback” from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), the UK’s trade body for agencies, and was able to "accommodate many of the network agency suggestions for improvements and clarity that were made."

ISBA included agency input this time around since it was criticised for not consulting agencies for the first version. Agencies were quick to call the initial contract framework one-sided since it came solely from the perspective of ISBA.

Phil Smith, director general of ISBA, said in a statement that the trade body worked hard to ensure that it “consulted proactively with the network agencies and believe this has been beneficial in ensuring agencies are aligned.” He also said that ISBA created versions tailored to individual agency groups’ business models that “still adhere to the principles of the framework,” and that it is “very open to working with more agencies in this way.”

ISBA said that much of the redrafting of the framework revolved around digital advertising clauses, an area the trade body said reflects “how complicated this area still is for marketers and how, importantly, they should examine their agreements covering these services.” The second iteration also moves “the conversation on from transparency to alignment,” according to ISBA, which it said is part of a broader move to ensure sustainable relationships between brands and their agency partners.

In response to the revamped framework, which is available to ISBA members starting today, the IPA said that the updated template should be seen as nothing more than a starting point. In a statement, IPA director general Paul Bainsfair advised agencies to “approach the framework in the spirit in which it is intended, which is as a conversation-starter, and then work out and agree what the mutually beneficial terms of their client-agency relationship should be.”

Richard Lindsay, IPA Director of Legal & Public Affairs, added that the “core of the document remains much the same,” noting that “clients seeking to use the new version ‘as is’ or to borrow heavily from it are still likely to find themselves engaged in protracted contractual negotiations with agencies, which is not good for either party.”

In September of last year, ISBA said that it identified £6bn of media spend that had been or planned to be negotiated using the initial framework terms, although it admitted that very few advertisers had used or are using the contract in its original format or in totality.

According to ISBA, the contract has been officially adopted by 15 agencies so far.

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