Kicking the ‘kickbacks’ out of the marketing industry will not be easy

People want an end to the old ways of rebates, kickbacks and discounts – but are they really ready for the new ways of partnership, mutual benefit, loyalty and trust, asks Tobias Wilson

So, it looks like the FBI could be the one that finally breaks the media industry out of its old ways eh?

Dwindling profits, sliding share prices (as per Greg Paull’s article for Mumbrella) and increasingly shaky client rosters weren’t enough of a sign; in the end, it was the fear of federal investigation and prosecution that got people to stand up and take notice (and hopefully act).

So, how did we get here? In short, I think both the supply and the demand side are to blame. Neither knew/know the true value of what they’re buying or selling. They’re just doing it because that’s what they’ve always done.

So, let’s start with value. As a media professional, like any professional, you get paid to do what you do and be good at it. That’s what sets you apart from amateurs. Although, going through the motions and spending billions of dollars of your client’s money without any regard for what that investment is doing nor any care about its business impact is reckless and borders on misconduct. It’s also downright amateur.

On the other side of the coin, as a marketing professional, buying any product or service – in this case, media – without knowing its market value or, more importantly, the value of that purchase to your business is also reckless. It borders on misconduct and is downright bloody amateur.

So, we’re both to blame. Put out those torches and put down the pitchforks.

So, how do we work out our true value? In a word. Data. Both sides need access to accurate, business-critical data, and they need it as close to real-time as the business can possibly afford.  

And both sides need to invest in educating themselves on what, where and why to measure. Pro-tip: if you’re still measuring just impressions and clicks, you’re wasting a lot of time and money.

Both sides need to stop treating each other as cannon fodder or feedlots. We’re meant to be business partners. The most successful relationships are ones that are built on trust, loyalty and value. If you’re missing one or all of those things, then you’re simply doing it wrong.

Now, on those rebates and transparency.

Every, single, industry runs on rebates/discounts. Suppliers give discounts to large and loyal clients all the time. Even media agencies to their clients. I know we’ve used these sorts of models to retain and incentivise our clients.

So, while I definitely don’t approve of double-dipping and blindly ripping people off, transparency has to be a two-way commitment. As I said, it’s all about value.

If you want to challenge a suppliers value to your business, you both better be acutely aware of what that value is and if you want 100 per cent transparency, then you better be ready to open your books too. If not, then you’re part of the problem.

As you can read in any of the trade press, people want an end to the old ways of rebates, kickbacks and discounts. But are they really ready for the new ways of partnership, mutual benefit, loyalty and trust? I hope so.

Tobias Wilson is chief executive officer at digital marketing agency APD Singapore, a GrowthOps business


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