IPA blasts Accenture's move into media buying as a 'direct conflict of interest'

The IPA says it is "troubled" by Accenture's move into media buying

The IPA has slammed Accenture’s decision to open a media buying arm as representing a “direct conflict of interest”.

The advertising trade body said it was "troubled" by the consultancy's plans to start offering programmatic media planning and buying, describing the move as "incompatible with its legacy role as a media auditor".

Accenture unveiled the new 'Programmatic Services' offering on Wednesday, touting it as a way to “help advertisers take back control of their media capabilities”.

But the launch has raised the hackles of the IPA, which dismissed Accenture’s claims that the new unit could operate independently of its existing Media Management business which audits media agencies and runs pitches.

"As well as compromising impartiality, no business can legitimately offer competing media services to a market where it has a media auditor’s access to confidential client and agency media data and financial information," said IPA director general Paul Bainsfair.

"In an era where transparency is under the spotlight, this self-evident conflict of interest is unacceptable.”

The IPA’s angry response echoes similar concerns that have been expressed by the industry in the wake of Accenture's announcement.

Stephen Allan, worldwide chairman and chief executive officer of the planning and buying agency MediaCom, described Accenture's new services as "troubling" in a blog post.

"They can’t police transparency and measure performance for clients while also competing with those of us who provide media services," Allan wrote.

"I’m sure Accenture will promise all sorts of Chinese walls between the two bits of its business but as someone who now competes with one part of the company, I would be extremely reluctant to provide MediaCom’s proprietary data to another part."

And Christian Polman, chief strategy officer at media auditor Ebiquity, told The Drum Accenture could no longer be considered "an independent consultant".

"They are now clearly conflicted with their own media measurement and financial auditing services, which gives them access to confidential media pricing and performance data from media agencies and their clients," Polman said.

In response to the concerns, Scott Tieman, global lead of programmatic services at Accenture Interactive, said: "Media audits are conducted by a dedicated practice within Accenture Operations – an entirely separate business from Accenture Interactive – and confidential data/non-disclosure protections, firewalls and policies are in place to ensure that information is not shared with any other part of our business.”

For its part, the IPA says it is now in dialogue with fellow trade body Isba about how to tackle the development. The two organisations have already been working together on a Media Auditor Code of Conduct.

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