ISBA is trying to give agencies ‘latitude’ over client payment – so that’s a new form of daylight robbery

The issue of client payment terms for agencies rumbles on with some agencies, according to Campaign, demanding that the UK government intervene.

We might politely remind these optimistic souls that governments of all hues have been loudly proclaiming their commitment to fair payment to and treatment of SMEs, as they like to call them, for years and done sod all about it.

The UK government itself has just completed (well nearly completed) a review of creative agencies through its new Government Procurement Service (ie well-remunerated Scrooges) that is widely reckoned to have been the most inept and unfair such review in living memory; so that’s another reason not to expect any useful action from that quarter.

And now we have Debbie Morrison (left), supposedly in charge of best practice at advertisers’ body ISBA, saying: “Almost every client we speak with is looking closely at this issue and working with their finance teams to find ways of providing the latitude that their agencies require. It is in their interests, after all, that their agencies are solvent and able to do their job.”

Well that’s jolly big of her; her members don’t want agencies to go bust. But “working with their finance teams to find ways of providing the latitude that agencies require” is a whole pack of weasels crammed into a dozen or so words. What does it mean? We’re going to stuff you (as Mondelez International and P&G are already trying to do, with payment terms of 120 days and 75 respectively) but find a way of keeping you afloat somehow – maybe by lending you the money we owe you, at interest naturally.

Somebody needs to tell these clients where to get off; either one or more of the big agency groups or, for starters, the UK’s IPA agency trade body which is always wittering on about how hard it’s working to persuade clients not to behave like flat track bullies.

One agency boss told me this week that, whatever payment terms are agreed, all they constitute is the opportunity to begin negotiating with the Orcs in the procurement and finance departments. Commercials are paid for up front; because the otherwise useless CMOs actually want those.

What a shower.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.