Independent media agencies slam NSW govt master media contract

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 23 August 2021
Credit: Mark Leishman

Local independent media agencies have hit out at the NSW Government’s $78 million Master Media contract, saying it locks out Australian-owned media agencies.

The Independent Media Agencies Association (IMAA), which represents more than 100 independent agencies, argues the contract contravenes the government’s own procurement policy and is pushing for urgent amendments to the Expression of Interest (EoI).

The EoI states that the NSW Government is seeking to "engage a single media agency supplier or panel of agencies from one media agency holding group" to provide media strategy, planning and buying services. IMAA says this will ensure the contract is handed to one of the six holding groups in Australia, locking independents out.

The IMAA adds that the EoI was released “under the cover of COVID”, with independent agencies unaware of it.

The group says it has made several unsuccessful requests to meet with NSW customer service minister Victor Dominello, and IMAA members have written to their local members, which have also been unsuccessful.

“The local media buying industry has taken a big hit over the last 18 months. To have the NSW Government exclude us from this contract is not in the national interest,” says IMAA general manager Sam Buchanan.

“This will send the money offshore to support another country’s economy and not our own. We have reached out to the NSW Government to try to find a way to include the local industry, but it seems they are only talking to the multinationals.

The IMAA is requesting that Dominello and the NSW Government review and amend the EoI process and ensure an equal share of government campaigns are awarded to independent agencies.

The group is also requesting that Australian owned, independent agencies are included on the government preferred supplier lists, and, to ensure equal distribution and a fair balance of all government campaigns, that an independent voice should be secured on the selection board.

“If the NSW Government took the time to get to know the local media buying industry, they would see that it employs thousands of talented people and their businesses are Australian owned. This is a lazy policy that will impact the livelihood of Australian business owners.”

“This comes at a time when the NSW Government talks so proudly about supporting the local economy first and yet does not even give independent agencies an opportunity to tender. Australian businesses have not only been overlooked, but locked out. It’s unAustralian and anticompetitive.” 

According to IMAA, the NSW Government’s Procurement Policy is meant to set aside 10% of contracts to SMEs.

A Freedom of Information request from the IMAA has also asked the NSW Government to disclose its advisory committee members, who are advising the Government on the master media EoI. IMAA says this request has been ignored.

“The NSW Government appears not to have allocated any contract budget to Australian owned agencies from what we can see,” Buchanan says.

“We also believe that the advisory committee is comprised exclusively of multinational agency executives, who have influenced the Government in the wording of the EoI. The question has to be asked: why isn’t anyone telling us who is on the committee?”

“We will not give up in forcing the Government’s hand [holding the government to account] and giving Australian owned agencies a fair go.”

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