ANA Retains Two Firms To Investigate Agency Rebates

bobThe Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is looking into kickbacks following allegations leveled at agencies.

Several months after the ANA formed a joint transparency task force with the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the 4As), it revealed Tuesday it has hired two firms, K2 Intelligence and Ebiquity/FirmDecisions, to do more fact-finding around the issue of media transparency.

The vetting process included 26 firms, said Bob Liodice, ANA president and CEO.

K2 brings investigative prowess and Ebiquity supports it with knowledge of the media and advertising industry.

“The scope of this project is very large and we’re talking about a lot of ground to cover,” Liodice told AdExchanger. “There are a lot of different things the agencies are saying and what you have is myriad facts and perspectives that need an independent, objective point of view.”

The consultancies will conduct extensive interviews (Liodice said it could easily extend into the triple digits) with media constituents, from agencies to marketers.

It will also be an anonymous process.

“It’s not our intention to name names or companies,” he said, adding that the ANA hopes to understand the extent to which the transparency issue plagues the industry.

“If we discover a relatively limited set of transgressions, for lack of a better word, we’d pack our bags and go home because things really aren’t that bad,” he added. “But if a large percentage of activity is not consistent with what we’d consider to be ‘sound operating principles,’ we will say something.”

K2 Intelligence and Ebiquity will be buttressed by the ANA’s media connections and partnership with the 4As, he noted.

The working group formed within the Joint Media Transparency Task Force expects to issue its first round of media transparency principles within a few weeks, a process which was already underway.

Although Liodice said K2 and Ebiquity’s respective efforts won’t be tied to a strict deadline, he expects to complete the first phase of the process, including the interviews, in a few months or around the new year; although it’s beginning the investigation domestically, Liodice said it could scale globally eventually.

The ANA’s latest announcement comes just days after the organization concluded its big Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando.

The issue of media transparency came to a head during a previous ANA show – the Media Leadership conference last March – when former Mediacom CEO Jon Mandel lit a fire, alleging widespread kickbacks and questionable margin practices.

“It certainly put these issues into a different sphere,” Liodice acknowledged. “While the board realizes this is an uncomfortable area for everybody, they recognized we needed a truly independent study to understand the clarifying facts and what are the pieces of knowledge we need to set this industry straight.”

Check out footage from AdExchanger’s Clean Ads I/O conference, featuring an interview with the 4As, ANA and IAB:

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