down the drain

U.S. Media Buying Probe May Ensnare Marketers

Ever since former Mediacom CEO, Jon Mandel, publicly alleged four years ago at a forum held by the Association of National Advertisers that media buying agencies were engaged in non-transparent behaviors in order to retain discounts and rebates that belonged to advertisers, investigations into such practices have not receded.

The U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which has been underway for nearly a year, just recently led to the subpoena of records from one major advertiser.

Until now, attention within the industry has focused on behaviors among media buying agencies, real or imagined, but today’s article in AdAge adds a cautionary warning to marketers:  some of you may want to lawyer up.


If investigators can prove any brand-side marketers approved of, encouraged or willfully ignored misconduct by their media agencies, they could be facing criminal charges. And someone on the agency side may strike a plea deal in exchange for implicating a client.

According to the ANA’s website, the purpose of its recently released whitepaper, Media Buying 2018 – Transparency at a Crossroads , co-developed with legal firm ReedSmith, is to “provide a historical perspective of the transparency issues and to outline the options that advertisers have to cooperate or not cooperate with the FBI.”

If you’re involved with media buying, either client or agency side, you may want to seek advice from your own counsel – both corporate and personal.

Bajkowski + Partners LLC is a leading consultancy providing services to marketing and procurement teams in the areas of agency relationship management, agency search, process audits, contract and SOW development and audits, and other marketing operations related areas. For more information, please visit our website.

desk with mobile phone and laptop

Media Trading Practices Under FBI Scrutiny

According to Campaign, the FBI may be reviewing media trading and transparency practices in the US, and focusing on specific media companies and any role played by executives.

The article reports that neither the FBI nor DoJ will confirm or deny any activity around the matter.

However, it’s been a widely held belief that some action by the DoJ would take eventually place after the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and its third party auditors issued its K2 Report (June 2016) claiming that media agencies in the US were, to varying degrees, pocketing media rebates and lacked sufficient transparency in their media buying practices.

According to an AdAge article published on the heels of the report’s release, K2 “cited 150 independent sources and ‘substantial evidence’ from 41 sources who reported direct knowledge of rebate deals occurring in the U.S. market. Of those sources, 34 indicated rebates were not disclosed or returned to advertisers.”

The report, however, does not name any agencies or media vendors, and according to the ANA, five of the six major holding companies at the time refused to make any of their executives available for interviews by its auditors.

The 4A’s leadership and some holding companies rebuked the report, citing a “lack of transparency” in the ANA’s investigative process as well as the report itself.

It’s been two years since the K2 report was released, yet according to a presentation by McKinsey at the ANA’s recent Financial Management Conference in Hollywood, Florida, the problems with media transparency and pocketing rebates is still pervasive despite a push by advertisers for greater transparency into the process.

Perhaps this is why larger advertisers are taking part or all of their media investment management in-house.


Bajkowski + Partners LLC is a leading consultancy providing services to marketing and procurement teams including building in-house media planning and programmatic as well as in-house creative and production operations.