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Media agencies defrauding clients by asking for kickbacks to recommend software, says Salesforce boss

One of Australia’s most senior software sales executives has claimed the behaviour of Australian media agencies is verging on “fraud” in asking for kickbacks in exchange for recommending its products to clients.

In a public post on LinkedIn Kevin Doyle, Salesforce’s director of advertising technology, claimed local agencies had asked him twice in the past month for “referral fees” in exchange for signing up clients to Salesforce’s data management platform.

Doyle said in the post that unlike Salesforce, other “huge” advertising technology and marketing technology companies do pay agencies such “kickbacks”.

He wrote:

“Twice in the last month media agencies in Australia have asked me what our ‘referral fee’ is for getting a client onto Salesforce DMP. The answer, is $0. And always will be.

“I find it surprising how many huge AdTech and MarTech companies give agencies kickbacks under the guise of ‘preferred partners’. Doesn’t seem too far away from ‘fraud’ to me.

“I believe that technology companies can make a good living selling technology, and agencies can do the same by selling services to enable and drive value from that technology.”

Doyle: “It doesn’t seem too far away from fraud”

Doyle told Mumbrella that he was unable to comment further because of Salesforce policies on talking to the press.

Doyle’s LinkedIn post

The practice was condemned by one of industry’s longest serving media agency practitioners, Peter Horgan. Approached by Mumbrella, Horgan asked to speak in his role as boss of Omnicom Media Group rather than as chairman of media agency industry body the Media Federation of Australia. He told Mumbrella: “Any discussion about rebates is inappropriate and affects impartiality.”

Salesforce launched its Salesforce DMP product earlier this year, promising to help brands unify its data across every consumer touchpoint.

The offering competes with similar products from the likes of Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe and others.

Major brands can spend millions of dollars on using such products to manage their consumer data. One source told Mumbrella that agencies may get up to 25% of the fee as a kickback.

Horgan said he hadn’t observed the behaviour described by Salesforce’s Doyle but pointed out the software industry has its own practices with resellers and system integrators that are at odds with the agency model: “It’s a whole new world when agencies sit down with the tech vendors.”

Andrew Hughes of the Louder Consultancy has previously called these practices out, telling Mumbrella last year how both agencies and consulting firms were often providing conflicted technology advice to clients.

“On the technology front for both advertisers and publishers, it’s not much different, with specialists and consultants having alternative financial agendas for pushing particular solutions which cumulate in revenue share or financial incentives for recommending a vendor,” Hughes, a former head of technology for IPG Mediabrands, said at the time.

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