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Now drugs giant GSK joins the agency rebate gang

Unknown-3Giant drugs company GSK, some of whose employees in China have been detained by the authorities for allegedly bribing doctors hard on the heels of a $3bn fine in the US for misleading marketing, has landed its big feet in the mire again by demanding that its marketing agencies pay extra for past as well as future work.

According to the company: “If your agency has performed work for GSK in 2013, please provide a [percentage] rebate for the 2013 global annual spend by GSK. For all future GSK annual £ spend levels, please provide a percentage rebate. All agencies must complete this question.

“If selected to be a part of the GSK Global Digital Roster, please indicate a one-time sign-on bonus you will offer GlaxoSmithKline (in GBP).”

What makes the above extra-alarming is that GSK seems to have no idea who actually works for the company. Is it sending this to all the agencies on a list in the hope that some suckers send it money?

GSK is following in the not-very-distinguished footsteps of Premier Foods which tried, inter alia, to persuade Starcom MediaVest to pay it £300,000 for the privilege of handling its UK media.

A GSK muppet – sorry, spokesman – says: “We hugely value the relationships we have with our key partners and suppliers, many of which have been in place for years.

“As part of a long running programme we are reducing complexity in these relationships by increasing the levels of business we place with key suppliers while securing discounts on volumes of services. We value our suppliers and we would encourage them to talk to us if they have concerns.”

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This is all complete bollocks of course. One might have a bit (only a bit) more respect for these grasping corporations if they said: “we suspect that agencies (especially media agencies) get backhanders from all over the place and we want some.”

And, indeed, some of them do so. But that’s often because the client negotiates such ludicrously low fee levels that the money has to come from somewhere.

It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of a company like GSK to hire a consultant or three (there are plenty of ex ad types out there plying this particular trade) to tell it how much it needs to pay to receive an adequate service.

With an approach like the above it’s hardly likely to receive a good one.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

2 comments

  1. It seems that GSK believes that not only it shouldn’t pay for the agency services – agencies should actually pay GSK for handling their business. That would be like my boss expecting for me to pay him for hiring me. It is amazing how people working for GSK have no shame at all.

  2. Just noticed David Cameron, who is currently in China with Andrew Witty saying GSK is a “decent and strong British company”.
    Yeah a $3 billion fine is easy to miss, Dave.

    Come the revolution, this lot will be first up against the wall.

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