×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Madison Avenue Ad-Buying Practices Under Federal Scrutiny (Report)

The opaque nature of media buying practices is under new scrutiny, with federal prosecutors in Manhattan believed to have opened an investigation into the matter, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, and issuing subpoenas as part of their work.

The investigation is examining agencies getting rebates from media outlets, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. Havas, the French company that is owned by Vivendi SA, is being looked at as part of the investigation, the report said. A Havas spokesperson could not be reached for immediate comment.

Much of the media business could not operate without the flow of ad dollars, and five big advertising companies – Interpublic Group. Omnicom Group. WPP. Publicis Groupe of France and Havas – allocate billions of dollars in Madison Avenue cash thanks to their control over big agencies like Wavemaker, Spark Foundry, Initiative, and OMD. In 2016. an influential trade organization, the Association of National Advertisers, released a report alleging that various media companies offer rebates to big media-buying firms in exchange for a greater amount of ad dollars – a prospect that suggests the potential allocation of billions of dollars in advertising may be influenced by a desire for a sort of kickback, rather than being done in the interests of big-spending clients.

Relying on interviews with 150 people conducted by K2, an investigations firm, the ANA found that media owners paid rebates to agencies “in amounts ranging from 1.67% to approximately 20% of aggregate media spending, depending upon the deal.” In some cases, the percentage of the rebate owed increased along with agency spend, the company’s report stated. The organization found instances in which media agencies could purchase advertising inventory from a supplier, then mark up the price as much as 30% to 90% before passing it along to a client. Evidence suggested that a media agency’s owner, typically one of five or six global holding companies, may have pressured individual buyers to direct a client’s ad money to areas where a markup might be possible, the report stated.

These sorts of arrangements are common in Europe and Latin America but have long been viewed skeptically in the U.S. Some media executives have suggested that what could be at issue are transactions involving the sale of new kinds of ad inventory that have gained new allure as technology makes the sales process easier. More advertisers have shown an interest in so-called “programmatic” inventory, which is purchased according to a predefined set of data put in place through software. Some of this inventory is sold through private exchanges, reducing the transparency around the purchase.

The ANA study opened a rift between advertisers and their agencies and prompted many to outline new polices demanding transparency about how ad dollars are spent and allocated.

It remained unclear whether other ad companies were being examined by federal prosecutors.

 

 

More Biz

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale

    Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale Date

    UPDATED: The troubled Woodstock 50 festival has run into more difficulties, as multiple sources told Variety late Friday that the April 22 on-sale date for the event has been postponed. Agents for artists scheduled to perform at the festival — which include Jay-Z, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Halsey [...]

  • National Enquirer - Jeff Bezos

    Hudson Media CEO James Cohen Purchases the National Enquirer

    Hudson Media’s CEO James Cohen announced Thursday that he will purchase the National Enquirer as well as American Media’s other tabloids, the Globe and the National Examiner. With the purchase of the National Enquirer, which Cohen reportedly bought for $100 million, he plans to strengthen their collaborative efforts, documentary shows, weekly podcasts, and theme parks. [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music’s Free Tier Is More Advertising Play Than Spotify Killer, Analysts Say

    When news began to spread last week that Amazon Music’s long-anticipated free streaming tier was imminent, headlines emerged about its threat to Spotify and Apple Music, with some stories saying that Spotify’s stock price dropped in response to the news. But not only was today’s launch of the free tier basically a soft one — [...]

  • Nicki MinajCFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Dinner,

    Nicki Minaj Parts Ways With Longtime Managers (EXCLUSIVE)

    Nicki Minaj has parted ways with Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant and Blueprint/ Maverick Management, a source close to the situation confirms to Variety. She had worked with the pair for the majority of her career. The source says the decision was mutual and amicable, and there was no specific reason for the split, adding [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music Launches Free Streaming Tier, Through Alexa Only (for Now)

    Amazon Music today basically soft-launched its free streaming tier, in which U.S. customers of its Alexa voice assistant will have access to top Amazon Music playlists and thousands of stations, at no cost. The limited access that the new free service provides — it’s only available through Alexa, and when the listener requests a song, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content