Q&A: Yum! Brands on MediaCom - ‘As clients we’ve got to be fair’

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 9 March 2015

The audit process into GroupM has raised a number of issues across the industry as to how something like the misreporting and deliberate manipulation of post-campaign performance reports occurs.

Beyond in-house processes and agency practices, one of those issues is the role that clients play in creating an environment where agency staff see no other option.

The role of procurement and price-driven pitching is a constant gripe. AdNews spoke to Yum! Brands chief marketing and development officer Nikki Lawson about the role of clients.

AdNews: Initially, while the audit was being carried out you made a decision to stay with MediaCom and await the outcome. What’s your position now?

Nikki Lawson: We’re in the position that a thorough audit process has been followed and they have been transparent with what's happening and what they were looking at all the way through, so we’re in the position that we feel the audit has been independent, and it was a good thing to do. It seems that EY has corroborated what GroupM found.

AdNews: During this time, Yum! Obviously had a completely new team working on the account – how has that been managed and are you satisfied with the service you’ve received?

Nikki Lawson: In terms of what had happened, it’s the same as what we would have seen before. What was important was making sure in the short term that we had good people on our business, and it was performing for us. That continues to be our short term objective while they are getting a full time team in place; we’ve got to make sure that there aren’t balls dropped in the meantime. They temporarily brought people on to the account to fill the gaps as there were people who got dismissed and some resigned so overnight we had a third of the team we had had.

We’re very happy with what was put in place – one or two things have done even better because they put really senior people on and one or two things went wrong because people didn’t know the business, but nothing dramatic so it’s balanced out. We're comfortable how they’ve handled it in the short term, now we have to work on compensation with them because at the end of the day it’s a lot of spots. We’ll work on that over the next three to four weeks.

AdNews: What was the value of compensation and refunds you’re looking at as a result of the misreporting?

Nikki Lawson: We’ve made a decision that were not going to talk to the media about this, we don’t know the exact number but we’re not going to speculate – it's a private matter between them and us. What’s happened has happened and it's been unfortunate, but we look forward to a successful relationship going forward.

AdNews: Foxtel took the decision to move its business out of MediaCom to MindShare – have you got any plans to make a similar move?

Nikki Lawson: Not presently. If we ever move away from MediaCom it’s not because of what’s happened here – we look at our agencies every few years I’m not going to say never but we are not looking at re-pitching the business or moving away because of what happened here.

There’s been misbehaviour from people on the team and it's unfortunate that it's happened on our business, but in terms of the way they conducted themselves, they’ve been a good partner to us and I think we'd like to treat them the way we would like to be treated if something went wrong with us.

AdNews: Like any supplier relationship there is pressure from both sides and the issue of procurement and pricing puts a responsibility on clients for what happens within agencies – how do you view your role as a client in creating that pressure?

Nikki Lawson: In all these things there’s never one side to the story – when this first surfaced it was one of the things we asked MediaCom. 'Did we make people feel like they couldn’t be anything but the best?' We’ve had a lot of conversations with individuals to say ‘Hey, did we put too much pressure on?'. I don’t know if they’re just being kind to us at this stage but they are saying they loved working with us. I think it’s a combination of when you put young people in a position with a lot of pressure and the emotional maturity isn’t there, or perhaps we’re pushing people too hard.

Between MediaCom and ourselves, the one question is how we make sure that we’ve got the right, not just intellectual capacity in every level but also the emotional capability. How do we rebuild the culture and from our side [make sure] that we as a client are being fair.

We're not going to tolerate poor buying but what we should be is fair, so we'll be working that through with them as well. There’s a lot of benchmarking done that is ‘one agency versus another’ but where is the workload versus reality? If one agency says ‘I'm going to make someone do more than they’re capable of then everybody gets held to that standard.

So it is a tough thing, but we’ve got to look at it carefully. As clients we've got to be fair, none of us wants to get ripped off but at the other end expecting people to produce miracles out of nothing – it’s a tricky balance we've got to keep looking at.

This article is one of a series of articles looking at the GroupM MediaCom audit. Read the rest below:
GroupM reveals findings of MediaCom audit: outlines overhaul of processes
MediaCom admits misuse of value banks – pledges no more
MediaCom faces losing at least one major client
Q&A: Yum! Brands on MediaCom - ‘As clients we’ve got to be fair
Timeline: MediaCom’s audit process


Recap the MediaCom story from last year:
MediaCom exits linked to Foxtel and KFC overcharging
Foxtel moves account from MediaCom to MindshareRogue traders: how MediaCom’s dynamite exploded MediaCom: What now - will a raft of agency audits kick off?
The media's responsibility around MediaCom

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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