China is the least transparent of the world’s biggest media markets: WFA survey

China is the least transparent of the world’s biggest 20 media markets, according to a survey of global advertisers.

Issues such as arbitrage in media agency trading desks, agency volume bonuses and rebates place China at the top of an ignominious league of the world’s least trustworthy media markets, published by the World Federation of Advertisers. Japan was second.

The study, called the Transparency Index, is the first such report to be published by the WFA, which surveyed its members.

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The report said of China: “Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that ‘arbitrage’ is an issue, as this is a market where brokering is a part of the fabric of the industry. Literally thousands of intermediaries stand between advertiser investment and consumer eyeballs, making establishing true transparency challenging to say the least.”

More mature media markets such as UK, US and Germany, emerged a more transparent in the study – but Japan is an exception.

Japan is considered to be lacking in transparency because of the rebate market and a perception that up to 75 per cent of rebates are retained by agencies rather than passed back to clients, the report found.

By contrast in France, which emerged as the most transparent of the world’s largest media markets, the Loi Sapin anti-corruption law restricts the extent of rebates and discounts other than those published by media owners.

India and Malaysia both rated as middling in transparency terms, while Australia is reckoned to be Asia Pacific’s most transparent big media market.

The report suggested, however, that transparency does not always equate with performance. Data from Telemetry shows that due to the growth of advertising networks, viewability for online advertisers can be lower in, say, the US than in some emerging markets.

The WFA’s members complain that rebate levels are their biggest transparency bugbear, but this varies by market. The visibility of the digital supply chain, however, are global issues affecting all 20 of the countries studied.

Advertisers need to target the digital supply chain and their relationship with media holding companies to stay on top of transparency issues, the WFA suggested in its report.


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