Bohemia CEO calls for laws to regulate agency buying and reselling

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 29 March 2017

Bohemia, the independent media agency recently acquired by M&C Saatchi, is drafting a formal transparency charter to cement its position on transparent practices and reassure clients of the way it does business.

Bohemia, which was founded in 2011, has always championed principles of openness, honesty and transparency, and it’s a topic founder and CEO Brett Dawson has spoken about previously.

In a column, published today on AdNews, Dawson called for more laws in Australia to regulate media agencies around buying and reselling media, much like the laws in place in France.

France has regulation called Loi Sapin, which prevents agencies buying media in bulk in advance and reselling it to clients later. It means agencies can only be paid by advertisers and is designed to prevent rebates from publishers.

The French anti-corruption law came into force in 1993, but at the start of this year the law was updated to include digital media.

Dawson also believes it's time for Australian agencies to agree to uphold industry-wide standards of ethics and adopt the AANA’s standard contract templates, introduced last year.

Programmatic is another area deemed to lack transparency but Dawson believes it should be regarded as a way to improve accuracy and targeting not as a vehicle to drive profits for agencies

“The role of a media agency is clear. It’s to provide unbiased specialist advice on how to best navigate a complex media world and to ensure clients get the best value and return for their money,” he says, but adds that there is bias coming from holding groups.

“At present, too many media agencies are opaque agents of the media owner and holding group. It has to stop. Only one type of media agency should exist and that is a transparent agent of the client,” he says.

Read Brett Dawson's column: Open the kimono, tell your clients everything 

The transparency charter that Bohemia and M&C Saatchi are drafting will apply across the group and is designed to “codify and make brutally simple what we will and won't do”.

Speaking about the recent acquisition by M&C Saatchi, Dawson says Bohemia would never have sold to a multinational because it would have meant “too great a risk of conflict and compromise”. The acquisition ended WPP’s involvement in Bohemia, where it previously had a 24% stake in the agency. 

“Together [M&C and Bohemia] bring content and context closer for clients in order to boost creativity and effectiveness without sacrificing transparency and integrity,” he says.

“During the due diligence process, amongst other things we really checked out the transparency and integrity of M&C Saatchi and found we were both prepared to stand in a paddock and shake hands.”

At the time, M&C Saatchi CEO Jaimes Leggett told AdNews: “We all know the dark arts of media and Bohemia's model is different. It is the only agency we've come across that is fully transparent. They earn money in the same way we do. Clients know what they are paying for.”

Listen to the AdNews Podcast with Brett Dawson and M&C Saatchi CEO Jaimes Leggett and chief of strategy Justin Graham where the trio touch on the issue of transparency across the industry as well as much more. 

For information about the AdNews Transparency Summit, click here

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