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Five of Australia’s six media agency groups condemn plan to charge fees to facilitate client relationships

Five of Australia’s six major media buying groups have condemned the idea of asking media companies to pay for help building closer relationships with advertisers.

The statements, condemning the proposed practice, were shared after Mumbrella reported the existence of the document, which was circulated to more than a dozen media companies.  It was sent to a suite of traditional and digital media players allegedly offering them the chance to get closer to clients in exchange for a fee.

The initiative is seen as an unusual one within the industry in the context of the traditional three-way relationship between advertiser, the media agency acting on its behalf and the media company, and the questions of potential conflict of interest which arise.

The letter also detailed a menu of other consultancy services. These included facilitating sessions which would put media owners in a room with clients and agency execs in exchange for a fee. The price for that service is allegedly determined by how many of the group’s clients media owners chose to see. One proposed fee was $150,000 to set up four client meetings.

GroupM, IPG Mediabrands, Omnicom Media Group, Havas Media and Publicis Media have all told Mumbrella they do not and would not take part in any such practice.

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WPP’s GroupM – whose aligned agencies include Mediacom, Mindshare, MEC and Maxus – categorically denied being behind the document. GroupM’s local CEO Mark Lollback issued a statement saying:

“In reference to a story published today on Mumbrella, ‘Cash for client access: a new low for media?’, I want to categorically confirm this is not a GroupM company practice, nor it is something ever carried out by a GroupM agency – MediaCom, MEC, Mindshare or Maxus. The idea that an agency group would offer access to clients for a fee is deplorable and as an ex-client, I find it particularly insidious and dishonest. GroupM is strongly committed to transparency and we will continue to uphold the highest standards in that regard.”

 

IPG Mediabrands – whose agencies include Initiative and UM – categorically denied being behind the document. It said:

“We have seen comment in the industry concerning so-called “cash for access to clients” being offered to media owners. First, this comment does not involve any business at IPG Mediabrands. Second, if this practice exists, we completely condemn it as having no place in our industry. Good business relationships and partnerships in our industry are built on the highest professional standards, effectiveness and shared creativity in helping solve a marketing or media challenge.”

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Omnicom Media Group – whose agencies include OMD and PHD – categorically denied being behind the document. CEO Peter Horgan – who also chairs industry body the Media Federation of Australia – circulated a memo to staff saying:

“Dear team

“There is an article in yesterday’s Mumbrella alleging a rate card by one of the agency holding groups exists to charge media owners for client access.

“The OMG agencies view our very existence as driving growth for our clients by connecting consumers with products and services. This is achieved via open access and collaboration with media owners in the generation of ideas and solutions. This is one of the reasons we are held in the highest regard in media owner surveys. It is also why we push so hard for honest and timely feedback to media partners.

“Any mechanism that impedes open collaboration is the antithesis of acting in the best interests of our clients. To seek to charge for meetings, frankly, beggars belief. Whilst this is not proven, the allegation is a slur on our industry, and OMG will be playing a lead role with the MFA and AANA to clean this up.

“I want to assure you all that the OMG agencies have never and will never participate in this kind of behaviour.

“If you have any questions, please grab me.

“Horgs.”

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Havas Media categorically denied being behind the document. CEO Mike Wilson said:

“I’m horrified and appalled to hear this kind of thing is happening in our industry. It is not a practice that would be tolerated within our agency.”

publicis media

Publicis Media – whose agencies include Zenith and Match Media – categorically denied being behind the document. It said:

“At Publicis Media we always operate in an open and transparent triumvirate relationship with our clients and media partners.”

Dentsu Aegis

One of the six big media buying agency groups, Dentsu Aegis Media – whose agencies include Carat, Vizeum and sister media investment company Amplifi – was asked by Mumbrella whether it was behind the document and a number of other detailed questions. Stating that senior management were not aware of any such practice, it issued the following statement:

“Dentsu Aegis Network does not request payment from media owners for access to clients.

We operate at all times with the highest level of integrity under a robust Code of Conduct which commits all employees to conduct business with honesty and integrity and to uphold the highest standards in order to protect the interests of our employees, clients, shareholders, stakeholders, and communities in which we work.

“Amplifi is a division that has been established to re-invent the supply side of media and re-invent relationships with media owners for the benefit of all. It is a separate and distinct entity within our group that operates independently from our agencies that represent our advertiser clients. Amplifi provides a range of services to partners, to better navigate the digital economy.”

Mumbrella does not allege that any of the practices described above are illegal.

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