U.S. Media Buying Probe May Ensnare Marketers

Ever since former Mediacom CEO, Jon Mandel, publicly alleged four years ago at a forum held by the Association of National Advertisers that media buying agencies were engaged in non-transparent behaviors in order to retain discounts and rebates that belonged to advertisers, investigations into such practices have not receded.

The U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which has been underway for nearly a year, just recently led to the subpoena of records from one major advertiser.

Until now, attention within the industry has focused on behaviors among media buying agencies, real or imagined, but today’s article in AdAge adds a cautionary warning to marketers:  some of you may want to lawyer up.

Why?

If investigators can prove any brand-side marketers approved of, encouraged or willfully ignored misconduct by their media agencies, they could be facing criminal charges. And someone on the agency side may strike a plea deal in exchange for implicating a client.

According to the ANA’s website, the purpose of its recently released whitepaper, Media Buying 2018 – Transparency at a Crossroads , co-developed with legal firm ReedSmith, is to “provide a historical perspective of the transparency issues and to outline the options that advertisers have to cooperate or not cooperate with the FBI.”

If you’re involved with media buying, either client or agency side, you may want to seek advice from your own counsel – both corporate and personal.

Bajkowski + Partners LLC is a leading consultancy providing services to marketing and procurement teams in the areas of agency relationship management, agency search, process audits, contract and SOW development and audits, and other marketing operations related areas. For more information, please visit our website.

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Apparently DOJ Not Finished With U.S. Media Buying Investigation

According to an article published by AdAge on March 25, 2019, the Department of Justice had impaneled a federal grand jury, enabling the U.S. Attorney to issue a subpoena to an unidentified “large marketer” for its media records.

This comes as a surprise given December 2018 reporting by both AdAge and Adweek that the DOJ had cleared five major holding companies.

The FBI’s investigation into U.S. media buying and transparency practices began last April as a result of a 2016 media transparency report, also known as the K2 Intelligence Report, released by the Association of National Advertisers.

The K2 report cited serious problems that went against media buying best practices and agency-client contracts.

This week’s AdAge article cites concerns among ANA member marketers over agency backlash and blacklisting should their participation in the K2 and DOJ investigations become public.

Apparently the DOJ has been working with a non-redacted version of the K2 report which contains the names of more than 40 sources that participated in the ANA-sponsored investigation.

 

Bajkowski + Partners LLC is a leading consultancy providing services to marketing and procurement teams including building in-house media planning and programmatic as well as in-house creative and production operations. For more information, please visit our website.

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Five Major Holding Companies Cleared in DOJ Investigation

According to AdAge and Adweek, the Department of Justice closed its two year investigation into video production and post-production practices against five of the largest ad agency holding companies – IPG, MDC Partners, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP.

Apparently the DOJ has declined to comment on the status of its investigation which focused on whether ad agencies were awarding production business to their in-house departments over third-party providers in a ‘rigged bidding’ process.

The DOJ is still investigating media buying practices among the agencies, driven by the ANA K2 report citing serious problems that went against best practices and agency-client contracts.

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Agency Transparency Issues, Audits and Reviews Projected to Increase Sharply in 2017

Adding fuel to the fire

The gap in client-agency relationships widened when, in March 2015, allegations by former Mediacom CEO Jon Mandel of widespread U.S. media agency kickbacks during the Association of National Advertisers Media Leadership Conference led to an eight-month investigation conducted by K2 Intelligence for the ANA. The resulting K2 report, issued in early 2016, generated criticism on the reports validity by the agency community but got the attention of U.S. marketing and procurement professionals alike.

While no one will say whether this issue drove the spate of high profile media agency reviews over the past year, the timing is certainly hard to ignore. And it was definitely the reason behind some assignments Continue reading

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