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Never mind the transparency debate, we need more business karma

Triggered originally by the ANA’s K2 report, along with issues of digital fraud and viewability, media agencies have been reaching for the word “transparency” at every given opportunity, seeking to justify that their working practices are in rude health.

Agencies and their holding groups proudly proclaim in their annual reports and financial updates how they are committed to making inroads towards gender pay equality and an even-handed approach to maternity and paternity leave.  And that by publishing such details, they are being fully transparent for all to see.

While this is good business practice and should be praised, it’s simply not enough just to cherry pick one part of the business to justify corporate social responsibility (CSR), in an age when consumers and businesses are ever-more demanding about the ethical credentials of those selling them goods and services. All parts of the business from supplier contracts, employee relations to client terms and planning and buying itself, now need to be fully transparent.

We call it ‘business karma’ and it’s about ensuring that all parts of the business reach for the highest ethical standards. ‘Business karma’ should become so embedded in our industry, that it is a given for how every organisation operates, not simply something to be banded around on the column pages of Campaign, or neatly bound into a glossy financial document.

Let’s remember, media agencies are pioneering on many fronts of CSR activity but they now need to join the dots up so good practice runs through the entire business. So, let’s see if we can all join up the dots.

Let’s take GroupM chief transformation officer Lindsay Pattison’s big play about supporting more flexible working hours, so men are given pay parity during paternity leave and women can return to work soon after giving birth without fearing they have now fallen behind in the pecking order. This is a fantastic initiative, and that’s coming from a father of two whose wife has had to fight tooth and nail to continue her career post children.

And let’s join it up with Mediacom’s “People’ First” approach, which effectively says profits must not be pursued at the expense of staff welfare.

Join it up with Blue449’s introduction of subsidised travel and accommodation for graduates to help offset their debts and ensure a diverse workforce.

And connect it with Omnicom’s sharing of office and conference space between agencies to become a more sustainable business.

Finally let’s include a pledge to comply with pro active industry driven initiatives such as NAB’s SHEPARD model and create a healthier, happier workplace.

Let’s take all of this and top it off with a commitment to only making money from a client’s media spend, not from media owner rebates, and you’ve almost got yourself the perfect agency. An agency where beyond how well you can do the job, ‘brand’ fit and personality become a much bigger factor, exactly as should be the case in any service industry.

Only once these dots are joined, can media agencies feel they no longer need to spout off about being “transparent”, as transparency becomes second nature to each and every one of us. Let’s aim to make it the accepted way of how media businesses should seek to operate in 2018 and beyond.