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Ad agency relationships: The transparency discussion

Advertising agencies and clients must understand the flow of money, locally and globally.

The Big Picture

An Important Discussion
A recent Association of National Advertisers (ANA) report, “An Independent Study of Media Transparency in the U.S. Advertising Industry,” has sparked intense debate.

That report highlights the fact that now, more than ever, collaboration and transparency are paramount to ensure clients and agencies clearly understand the flow of dollars and remuneration, locally and globally.

The transparency discussion is important—and it should be leveraged to put steps in place to help organizations get the most from media investments.

Based on our experience, particularly in the face of an ever more complex media and audience landscape, we believe a few specific practices can help a business get the most productivity from its media budgets. Read on for details.

"The transparency discussion… should be leveraged to put steps in place to help organizations get the most from their media investments"


We recommend the following steps:

  1. Formalize the process for performing a comprehensive contract compliance review on all marketing agency contracts - This review should cover major spend areas, including media, digital, CRM, event marketing, content and social media agencies.

  2. Be certain you know how your agency is representing your interests in the market - A clear, formal Business Relationship Assessment can provide clarity on how your agencies are representing your business—and can help with agency and client alignment.

  3. Have third parties take on the responsibility of performing financial invoice audits on your agencies to assess the effectiveness of your media spend across your media supply chain.

  1. Employ Media Performance Benchmarking against cost and quality benchmarks - Confirm that any media utilized where the agency serves as principal seller meets your identified quality criteria.

  2. Get an assessment of the entire media landscape, not just broadcast, but also digital and social media measurements - Many of the findings in the ANA study are associated with digital media and the digital ad-tech (advertising technology) ecosystem, which is natural as digital media transactions are becoming more complex.


While the mechanism may be complex, the underlying principles of trust and transparency are simple—and should never be compromised.

Only with transparency and trust will agencies be able to continue doing great work, helping clients reach their media, marketing and business goals.