Singtel media pitch: Industry must address 'conflicts of interests aggressively'

Several marketers have gone on the record, expressing their views on Singtel’s latest media pitch which asked for agencies to provide an estimate of how much business they can provide Amobee.

Speaking to Marketing about the matter, Ivan Tan, group senior vice president of corporate and marketing communications said as a client, he would be concerned working with a media agency that has revenue commitments to specific platforms - especially if this is not communicated to the client. Currently, Changi’s media agency of record is Havas, which is coincidentally the incumbent on the Singtel account.

Tan added, “The agency must remove all doubt that it is acting in the best interests of each client. This is why the industry must address the issue of transparency and conflicts of interests aggressively.”

Meanwhile, SMU marketer Ted Choo added that from a business perspective it makes sense for any agency to support their client’s product. He added:

To consciously ask the appointed agency to favour one of Singtel’s product in its proposals, would be bordering on ethics.

Choo also added that any client would be more vigilant in scrutinising plans and proposal if it knew its media agency was also on the Singtel business.

“With programmatic buying nowadays, it will take man-hours to track and trace this bias! Nonetheless, so far, Havas have been utmost professional and I hope they remain with that kind of integrity and professionalism,” he said.

Meanwhile, Marcus Loh, VP, marketing and corporate communications at PSB Academy said it is difficult to believe that Singtel would expect prospective agency partners to steer businesses towards its digital marketing subsidiary Amobee, given the fact that media agencies are already hard-pressed to restore the trust from their portfolio of clients.

"Media agencies [are having to win back trust of clients] amid scandals of non-transparency in the effectiveness of their recommended channels, while fending off media platforms reaching out directly to their clients, promising them greater efficiency and returns without the middle man. To that end, any agency that accedes to these expectations, simply by responding to the tender, only exacerbates this prevailing, negative optics of non-transparency," he said, adding:

Whether one wins the pitch or not, they’ll stand to lose.

Commenting on the overall media ecosystem, Spencer Lee, commercial director of AirAsia said the media ecosystem has drastically changed in last few years. Today we are living in a mobile-first world and experience is the new currency not exposure.

"In this disruptive world, a marriage between technology companies and media agencies is the only way forward where both combine their unique expertise to not only grow client’s business but also discover new opportunities," he said.

In a previous statement given to Marketing, a Singtel spokesperson said the organisation does not comment on commercial tenders particularly so for tenders that are midway through the procurement cycle. But as with all such tenders, it invites suppliers to respond to the defined needs of our many departments and subsidiaries.

Singtel currently works with Havas Media for its media buying and planning. Marketing understands OMD is also vying for the account. Both Havas and OMD did not respond to Marketing's queries at the time of writing.