Welcome Back To The Past

Well, that didn’t last long. Remember all that talk from network agencies about buying plans instead of justifying agency deals, of negotiating client-by-client, and their greater focus on planning, research and insight?

Just before Christmas, ‘Campaign’ reported that a row had broken out between Channel 4 and Publicis Media. By the turn of the year, ‘Campaign’ had moved on to stating that ‘Channel 4 Kicks Off 2019 Without Publicis Ad Money’ as the PM agencies (Starcom, Zenith and Blue 449 amongst them) boycotted Channel 4.

Setting aside for a moment that this isn’t Publicis’ money but money invested on behalf of their clients, who wins in a dispute like this?

Clearly not Channel 4.

Not those planners at the Publicis agencies who have to explain to their clients why that brilliant strategy built around C4’s exciting contextual research programme is now actually a terrible idea, because their buyers say so.

Not the Publicis Media clients who have had access to a major TV channel denied them. According to some basic Nielsen analyses, there are a number of PM clients (including Samsung, Mercedes and KFC) who spend ahead of C4’s ‘natural’ share of TV revenues (estimated at 26%) on the channel.

Presumably this skew means the planning agencies considered C4 to be an important part of a number of their clients’ plans, until someone (and I bet the someone was not client facing) decided otherwise.

Even Publicis Media doesn’t win. They’re fighting an old-style battle, in public, whilst the rest of the business is involved in the great transparency debate.

The only winners will be the independent agencies (like the7stars and Goodstuff) who have (not for the first time) seen their client-first policies amplified by the behaviours of a network agency peer. Their new business teams will have had a busy Christmas and New Year break.

It really doesn’t matter whether the C4 / PM dispute is around price, the structure of the agency’s deal or whether the quality of biscuits served in the upfront meeting wasn’t up to scratch. These agency deals are bad for the industry.

Agencies are there to do a job for each and every one of their clients – individually; to write creative and engaging plans, and to deliver those plans through imaginative buying and placements.

It would be interesting to know how many PM clients were consulted before the agency pulled ‘their’ cash from C4. To save any PM executive replying I imagine they will say ‘all of them’. Sure.

This dispute and others like it will have consequences.

It adds fuel to the argument for in-housing. Procter and Gamble (a PM client) for one has its own C4 deal and is thus not affected. Why wouldn’t other clients strike direct deals with major vendors, to take back control over their own media spending?

C4’s Chief Commercial Officer Jonathan Allan has apparently written to every client affected. I wonder what he might be offering them.

Why don’t Publicis Media use their muscle against those media vendors who don’t work within joint industry committees on audience measurement and whose respect for data privacy is lacking?

But then Facebook is rather larger than C4 and has any number of direct client deals.

With that in mind it was encouraging to read that Mat Baxter, Initiative’s Global CEO was, according to the WSJ ‘advising’ his clients not to spend on FB ‘to protest what he described as the social-networking company’s “egregious behaviour”.’

Publicis Media might like to note Mat’s use of the word ‘advise’.

Less encouraging was his parent company IPG’s response: ‘Mr Baxter’s comments were his own and not an official position from the network or company.’ Thanks for the support, chaps.

Even less encouragingly both Michael Roth IPG’s CEO and Carolyn Everson, VP Global Marketing Solutions at FB are quoted in the WSJ article. FB clearly went to the top to stifle any unpleasantness.

Coincidentally no doubt, IPG was an early stage investor in Facebook.

No wonder the network media agencies get such a bad press – even when they try to do the right thing they get dumped on by their holding companies.

Truly 2019 is off to a dreadful start.

 

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