The media's responsibility around MediaCom

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 5 December 2014

It's a week since the news broke of the investigation into MediaCom around the over-reporting of TV audiences for some of its key clients.

As you'd expect from something like this, a good chunk of it, if not all, has industry tongues wagging. It's a big deal.

MediaCom's clients are asking how this affects their accounts. All are engaged with the audit being carried out by Ernst & Young.

It's likely that brand owners across the industry, not just MediaCom or GroupM, are asking questions of their agency partners around how something like this happens; and how they can be sure that their own business is in order.

There will be developments that are still to emerge from MediaCom, from within GroupM, and possibly from other agencies.

Certainly there are follow-ups, and outstanding questions. Very few are willing to speak up because there are so many uncertainties and facts begging clarity. 

Even the Media Federation has been quiet publicly, with no official response. It's awaiting the outcome of the investigation before issuing a position.

While trade organisations such as the MFA and AANA should be vocal on the matter, I can understand the hesitance to speak up before the facts are known – but there is a responsibility on their part to be seen to be across it for the benefit of their members, and the reputation of the industries they represent. You can see the AANA's initial statement from earlier in the week, here.

What is clear is that this is a reputational issue for the media industry and while there are hard questions to be asked of MediaCom, of GroupM and the business generally, there is also a need for a responsible approach from the media. The more that's written before the full extent of the investigation is revealed – the more potential damage is done.

We should also remember that there are real people involved, not just faceless corporations. Their fate and the reputation of the industry will be impacted by the controversy emerging from MediaCom

There's a responsibility for the media, both trade and national, to report and handle it responsibly, and get the balance between reporting what's happened and ambulance chasing for every new piece of information.

It won't go away, but jumping on every shadow or scrap of scandal isn't the way to handle it.

John Steedman, GroupM chairman and MediaCom CEO Mark Pejic have a responsibility to their staff, clients and the industry to be upfront and transparent as they can be, both throughout the investigation and down the line - which they are trying to do.

AdNews is more than happy to talk to agencies, clients and consultants across the business to ascertain perspectives, reactions and actions being taken across the industry – but we'd like to be constructive in the way we approach it.

What does MediaCom do from here? How do the MFA and AANA support members and help move past the reputational issue? How do we take stock and participate in a broader debate about the processes they have in place, the relationships between client and agency teams and the pressure and cultures within the industry.

That is our intent.

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