Last week, the ANA dropped its much-anticipated report on the practice of rebates, or kickbacks, that media sellers pay agencies for steering clients’ dollars their way — without fully disclosing it to the clients. While the report focused largely on non-transparent practices by the agencies, for this Digiday Confessions, we talked to a veteran publisher who says media sellers aren’t helping, because their outdated way of doing business hampers already-squeezed agencies.
How widespread do you think these rebates are?
It drives a lot of agency buying decisions. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t is very misguided. It’s a function of these agencies being understaffed. The gifting and these buying deals are symptoms of the same thing. The agencies are squeezed. Their businesses are bad. That leads down a path of vendors having to ultimately have to supplement the compensation of their employees.
How do you become aware of it?
You see trends in terms of accounts buying certain brands over and over and over. You can call it preferred vendor status; you get the sense that clients would be better served being in certain places than others. It’s not “what’s good for the client;” it’s just what they do.
Who’s to blame?
The blame lies in exactly same place as the ANA says. We use agencies to the point where there’s no account that’s properly funded and staffed, so you have an absolute explosion of ad tech companies calling on me.
What part do the media sellers have in all this?
The way sellers are being directed to go to the street is part of it. The message being sent to them is: Do whatever you have to do to get the business. Buy them sunglasses. If you’re a senior level person, it’s, just get the money. We’re a relatively unregulated industry. So [rebates are] a super-expensive pair of sunglasses.
So it’s a bigger-scale version of gifting, which has become so commonplace.
It’s just pervasive, and it’s just how business is done. And it’s increasingly hard to get the attention of these people because they’re so overworked. The gifting almost doesn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t get noticed anymore. It’s reached such a level of ubiquity that it’s almost expected. It’s treated as, “Isn’t this how business is done?”
How do things on the seller side need to change, then?
It’s hard to say. Publishers are so broad these days. On the premium content side, we need to recognize there are staffing challenges at agencies. We have to recognize that we’re selling in same way we used to and they’re not buying same way they used to. Some brands, you call on them and they have a separate print and digital person. If the agency can barely do their jobs, we have to make it easier to reduce the friction to make it easier for them to buy from our organizations.
You don’t sound very outraged about all this, though. What’s been the reaction at your company?
People are more concerned about Facebook eating the world. This is not the biggest issue.
How Yeti is marketing like a DTC brand on social media and in the outdoors
Known for being a brand of indestructible coolers, cups and increasingly lifestyle apparel, Yeti has been evolving from a wholesale company to one that markets more like a direct-to-consumer company as it experiments on platforms like TikTok, Pinterest and its own media properties.
How Zola is boosting its OOH spending in New York for ‘engagement season’
OOH ads for the startup, best known for offering wedding registries, will not only be in the Rockefeller Center subway station (where they are hoping to capture the attention of couples going to visit the Christmas tree) but also with subway digital ads, billboards near Bryant Park as well as downtown in Soho and with wild postings throughout the city.
Inside the tensions countering advertisers’ latest quest for programmatic transparency
Brands such as P&G and Unilever have cooled on auditors' proposals in a study led by the ANA.
SponsoredHow Comscore is simplifying pre- and post-campaign measurement for advertisers
Produced in partnership with Marketecture The following article provides highlights from an interview between Greg Dale, Comscore’s general manager of digital, and Mike Shields, co-founder of Marketecture. Register for free to watch more of the discussion and learn how advanced advertising measurement is providing advertisers access to the deep data they need across all platforms. […]
Acxiom’s CEO on why everything’s an ad network now, and what that means
Chad Engelgau talks about how Acxiom will harness retail media networks and the metaverse -- as well as the need for marketers to connect internal data to be more effective.
Florist brand uses video to connect with families during the holiday season
FTD LLC, also known as Florists' Transworld Delivery, is looking to stand out during the holiday season through connected TV with the goal to drive brand recognition and incremental traffic.