GroupM tells US staff to stay tight-lipped on rebates

By Lucy Carroll | 19 November 2015
Kelly Clark, CEO GroupM North America

Staff at GroupM's North America office have been told to keep tight-lipped about the company's media buying practices and client remuneration agreements, after last month's news that the ANA has hired top investigators to probe US agencies over kickbacks and rebates.

According to a report by MediaPost, outgoing GroupM CEO Kelly Clark sent out a staff memo on Monday instructing employees to remain quiet about media buying practices generally, and referred to the ANA working with K2 and Ebiquity/Firm Decisions to scrutinise non-transparent behaviour to find out if media plans are being compromised.

In the memo, Clarke said “protecting the confidentiality of our client agreements is our primary responsibility. We also need to ensure that our own reputation for being compliant with client contracts and law is consistently managed.

“If you are approached by anyone from K2 or Ebiquity/Firm Decisions (or anyone else enquiring about remuneration agreements or media buying practices) please refer them to the CEO, CFO, or the corporate communications department of your company and they will manage the communication.”

Clarke said that “those in the company wondering about certain US practices that the company might engage in,” should refer to six key questions relating to rebates, remuneration and buying practices.

Those questions, according to MediaPost, included "does GroupM seek/accept rebates from media vendors in the US; and does GroupM receive rebates elsewhere in the world as a result of spending in the US?"

“The questions related to agency remuneration inevitably fall into one of these six areas and the answers to each of these for GroupM businesses in the US is an unequivocal NO,” Clark wrote.

The memo did not refer to practices in Australia or elsewhere in the world.

Scepticism about media trading has been building over recent years, with online fraud, rebates and kickbacks now hot topics here and overseas. Last year, Australia's second biggest media agency, MediaCom, faced serious challenges after allegations it overcharged clients and reported inflated claims on the TV audiences its campaigns had delivered.

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