Campaign UK


Gideon Spanier re­flects on the7s­tars be­com­ing the first ma­jor me­dia shop to adopt ISBA’S frame­work agency con­tract


Will other big guns fol­low the7s­tars by adopt­ing ISBA’S frame­work me­dia agency con­tract?

It has taken ten months, but ISBA’S frame­work me­dia agency con­tract for ad­ver­tis­ers has got some mod­est trac­tion. Bri­tain’s big­gest in­de­pen­dent me­dia shop, the7s­tars, has be­come the first to an­nounce, in a joint state­ment with ISBA, that it is us­ing the tougher con­tract, which de­mands greater trans­parency and de­tail, par­tic­u­larly around dig­i­tal trad­ing and how agen­cies make money.

So far, only one client of Boun­ti­ful Cow, a re­cently launched agency within the7s­tars group, is us­ing the con­tract, with some “amend­ments”. Jenny Biggam, co-founder of the7s­tars, says she is happy for other clients to fol­low suit and use the con­tract if they wish – but none have yet done so. She sees trans­parency as a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

For Phil Smith, ISBA’S new di­rec­tor-gen­eral, the7s­tars’ back­ing is a “hugely im­por­tant first step” be­cause there has been a vir­tual stale­mate be­tween the trade body for 450 UK ad­ver­tis­ers and the IPA, which acts for agen­cies.

ISBA did not con­sult the IPA be­fore draw­ing up the frame­work in April last year and none of the “big six” agency groups have adopted it.

Paul Bains­fair, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the IPA, gave a cool re­sponse to the news that the7s­tars was get­ting in­volved and noted that the agency had “adapted” the con­tract. “We’ve al­ways said it’s up to in­di­vid­ual agen­cies to work with con­tracts that suit them,” he said.

Be­hind the scenes, the pic­ture is more nu­anced, de­spite ISBA’S ea­ger­ness to fo­cus on what it called the7s­tars’ “quan­tum leap”.

Sev­eral in­de­pen­dent agen­cies have adopted the con­tract and some ISBA mem­bers have been us­ing it as a start­ing point for talks with their agen­cies. An­drew Stephens, found­ing part­ner at Good­stuff Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, says it used the con­tract af­ter win­ning ITV in a pitch man­aged by ISBA. VCCP Me­dia chief ex­ec­u­tive Cather­ine Becker says it has been talk­ing to ISBA about the frame­work, “fully sup­ports the prin­ci­ples” and is “work­ing with that con­tract” on a num­ber of “future projects” with clients.

Tom Den­ford, chief strat­egy of­fi­cer at ID Comms, which helped draft the frame­work, says the in­volve­ment of the7s­tars is “sig­nif­i­cant” given the agency’s size and £250m in an­nual billings. “That makes them big­ger than some of the net­work agen­cies,” he points out.

The awk­ward truth for the big net­works is their profit im­per­a­tive may be greater than their de­sire for trans­parency. It is hard to use the ISBA con­tract if they don’t want to dis­close how they are re­mu­ner­ated: for ex­am­ple, if they use ar­bi­trage and other pric­ing ben­e­fits.

How­ever, even some agen­cies that sup­port ISBA say its frame­work is, as one me­dia shop puts it, “heav­ily stacked in the ad­ver­tiser’s favour”. Ex­am­ples in­clude not giv­ing the agency the ex­clu­sive right to man­age the client’s me­dia spend and al­low­ing the client the right to ter­mi­nate the agency at short no­tice and wide pow­ers to au­dit the agency. Lit­tle won­der that the7s­tars made “amend­ments”.

A leader of an­other in­de­pen­dent agency said no client has sug­gested us­ing the ISBA con­tract yet. Some of his con­tracts run to only a dozen pages. ISBA’S 50-page doc­u­ment is “a touch over the top – like a body search at a bor­der cross­ing”, he says. ISBA main­tains its con­tract is only a frame­work for mem­bers to adapt.

Smith be­lieves the trans­parency de­bate will only in­crease, cit­ing the at­tack by Proc­ter & Gam­ble chief brand of­fi­cer Marc Pritchard on the “murky” me­dia sup­ply chain, but wants a more con­cil­ia­tory ap­proach to­wards agen­cies. Bains­fair also wants a “more con­struc­tive” re­la­tion­ship. The chal­lenge for the big agency groups is to stop sound­ing so de­fen­sive.

ISBA and the IPA were happy to agree a con­tract for cre­ative agen­cies in 2015. The way for­ward may be for the two sides to look again at the me­dia agency frame­work to­gether. That re­quires less PR spin and more dia­logue.

 ??  ?? Biggam: the7s­tars and Boun­ti­ful Cow made some ‘amend­ments’ to the con­tract
Biggam: the7s­tars and Boun­ti­ful Cow made some ‘amend­ments’ to the con­tract

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