WPP wars with Accenture over media audits

WPP’s GroupM has declared war (they’ve been rowing for years) on Accenture Media Management, the consulting giant’s media auditing arm. According to Digiday WPP will no longer participate in pitches run by Accenture because Accenture Interactive has now entered the media market through its new programmatic arm aimed at helping clients in-house media functions. In some cases Accenture will handle media for clients itself.

Media auditors ask for information on media prices, effectiveness and the particular media bought for a client. WPP argues that this gives Accenture an unfair advantage if it enters the lists. Accenture denies that its Media Management supplies such information to Interactive.

The UK’s IPA, which represents media agencies as well as creative, has made its position on such alleged conflicts of interest clear. Director general Paul Bainsfair says: “As well as compromising impartiality, no business can legitimately offer competing media services to a market where it has a media auditor’s access to confidential client and agency media data and financial information. In an era where transparency is under the spotlight, this self-evident conflict of interest is unacceptable.”

Accenture Media Management is a big business, claiming to audit $40bn of media annually and spending $5bn a year on proprietary tools. WPP’s GroupM, for many years the biggest and most profitable part of the business, has been under pressure from clients in-housing media and demanding more transparency over prices.

Accenture has parked a number of tanks on holding company lawns recently, most recently by buying creative agencies including Droga5. The real threat, though, comes from Accenture’s incursion into media.

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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.