The Strange Case of Irwin Gotlieb and the Auditor

The first element within the ANA’s enquiry into agency rebates and other alleged malpractices was published back in June and contained the results of 150 confidential interviews with media practitioners. Its conclusions may have surprised many advertisers but I am yet to find anyone with an agency background who was shocked by the findings.

You might have thought that once the ANA conclusions were out there a smart strategy for the agencies would be to batten down the hatches, put their own houses in order, speak privately to their clients and make as few public statements as possible.

And to be fair this is what most of them have done.

Except for Irwin Gotlieb, GroupM’s Global Chairman who it seems prefers the attack-as-the-best-form-of-defence option.

There is no other way to explain an extraordinary interview Irwin gave on stage at the Video Everywhere Summit, as reported in Mediapost on October 28th.

In this, he said “The entire effort was a biz-dev [business-development] effort. … The ANA allowed themselves to be part of a third-party’s business development.”

He then went on to name the auditors Ebiquity by name. Irwin is not a huge fan of media auditors.

For those with short memories, WPP is engaged in a legal action against Ebiquity’s Firm Decisions for an alleged breach of an NDA involving documents sent in error by GroupM to FD. This may or may not have been on Irwin’s mind.

Irwin wants us to believe that the ANA’s Board of CMO’s (many his clients) was somehow duped by Ebiquity; that Ebiquity then managed to doctor 150 interviews conducted by another organisation altogether (K2), not to mention the interviews conducted by Irwin’s ex-colleague Jon Mandel which started this whole merry-go-round spinning in the first place.

So Ebiquity, according to Irwin managed to persuade the ANA’s Board, K2, Jon Mandel and more than 150 unsuspecting respondents to help their new business effort.

Irwin must have a very high opinion of Ebiquity’s influence, not to mention their organisational abilities.

Irwin concludes his argument by saying that as no scandal has emerged then the whole ANA thing must have been overblown: “How much has surfaced? Have you heard a lot? Has a major scandal surfaced?”

Maybe others prefer to discuss private and confidential matters in private.

The fact is that following the ANA’s work the industry will be the better for having well informed advertisers, partnering with agencies who are fairly paid to behave totally transparently in the advertisers’ best interests.

The external, objective monitoring of performance has never been more relevant than today – whether we’re talking of measuring Facebook or auditing media agencies.

Irwin Gotlieb has been an outstanding media professional for very many years.

But his unshakeable belief that everyone not with him is against him does him no credit.



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