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New brooms at Publicis Media and ISBA signal media transparency dispute isn’t over

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell may have called time on the fractious dispute ‘twixt advertisers and media agencies (he says clients now accept the two sides need to get on) but a couple of recent appointments suggest this view might be a touch optimistic.

mike-paul-jpgPublicis Media has hired high profile PR man Mike Paul (left) – a self-styled ‘Reputation Doctor’ – to head its corporate communications, internally and externally in North America and Mexico. Paul has two roles: one is to make sure Publicis people understand the endless re-organisation going on – the fabled ‘Power of One’ or POO. The other is to deal with the fall-out from the US Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) report into media transparency. Essentially this involves undisclosed media rebates.

Lauren Hanrahan, who seems to be Paul’s boss (it’s hard to know who’s whose boss at Publicis these days) says: “In the past few months, our first and foremost focus has been working directly with our clients and collaborating with them when they have questions about the reports that have come out and giving them answers.”

Publicis, publicly at least, has taken a more emollient view of client reaction, hardly surprising as it’s lost loads of big media accounts recently and is hardly in a position to berate advertisers. One of its clients, JP Morgan Chase, launched its own investigation following the ANA report.

phil-smithBack in the UK advertiser body ISBA has appointed Phil Smith (left), a former marketing head at Camelot and Kraft, to replace Mike Hughes who’s stepping down after ten years. ISBA and its members have been making noises as well over media transparency although less volubly than their American colleagues.

Smith says: “With the marketing communications ecosystems changing at an increasing pace, advertisers need a strong and effective ISBA more than ever to continue to champion their cause, and be the trusted source of expert, objective advice and guidance – from the advertiser’s viewpoint.”

Just in case you didn’t get the message. So we may have a more combative ISBA coming up.

Advertisers on both sides of the Atlantic have made a rod for their own back by lumping most of their business into the five big marcoms holding companies: WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic and Havas. To do without them now would be like negotiating endless Brexits. A corollary of this is that aren’t many media independents left who can handle really big international and global accounts, Horizon in the US maybe.

They have also swept headlong into programmatic media buying, seemingly unaware (until recently) that this is usually media broking by another name. The media agency buys the time and space and sells it on to clients at a healthy profit. Clients grumble that it’s their money staking this game but few of them are in a position to do it themselves. All they seem able to do is launch endless media reviews in the hope that the new agency will be more malleable.

So it looks as though Paul and Smith will have plenty to do on their opposite sides of the fence.

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