Campaign has even made a film about it, The Trust Crisis, with a suitably serious-sounding American voice-over and the obligatory Mad Men clip.
As is so often the case, Sir Martin Sorrell is the only one of the large holding company CEOs to appear. His contribution is to say he prefers the term "relationship issues" to any suggestion that there is a trust crisis.
There's also a "life-is-so-unfair" segment in which Stephen Allan, CEO of GroupM's MediaCom, bemoans the shortcomings of e-auctions as an element in new business pitches. Stephen has a point, but dismissing e-auctions on the basis that the agency cannot control pricing and that (by implication) some of the bidding agencies were promising prices they couldn't possibly deliver, doesn't sit all that comfortably with his agency's use of value pots.
It's also strange to hear a media agency CEO complain about being "outbid" on price. Isn't it the agencies' historic focus on price above all else that has led to this unfortunate situation? Certainly client procurement officers have taken this focus to extremes, but (to coin a phrase) the agencies started it. After all, agency-wide deals pre-date client procurement officers.
What is weird is that everyone taking part in the media agency trust debate seems to be dancing around the key issue. This is not rebates -- important though they are as a lightning rod -- but that agencies have taken to recommending media forms on the basis of the advantages delivered to them as opposed to their appropriateness for their clients' budgets.
For all the holding companies' bluff and bluster about rebates, and about how unfair life is when procurement officers drive a hard bargain, no one has yet denied that this practice of the buy driving the plan is widespread.
Agencies are well capable of writing great plans. But great plans are based on client needs. They're not based on justifying a buyer's commitment to hit his volume target.
Trust breaks down when your professional advisor is suspected of putting his own interests ahead of yours.
"Relationship issues" are the result.
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