New ISBA contract framework is a levelling-up for advertisers

Yes, media is becoming more complex, but this new framework should remove much of the pain for marketers that want clear and transparent relationships with agencies, writes FirmDecisions' global audit director

Innovation in media gallops along at breakneck pace, with new platforms, formats, and trading mechanisms appearing all the time. The pace of change is dizzying, often rendering last year’s agreement invalid or inadequate.

One of the most important aspects of a successful advertiser-agency relationship is a well-written, frequently-updated contract. And that’s why we’re so supportive of the updated Media Services Framework Agreement launched by ISBA this month.

With media in a constant state of flux, the time was right for a root-and-branch overhaul of ISBA’s template contract.

For a start, it was redrafted in partnership with an external lawyer with extensive experience both client- and agency-side.

Importantly, it was also enhanced by a rigorous process of consultation with industry experts, including FirmDecisions. We were keen to play our part and delighted to do so, helping to ensure the new framework was up-to-date, incorporated best practice, and comprised a structure and terms acceptable to both advertisers and agency partners.

One of the key areas where the new framework has seen significant additions is data. Contracts of even the recent past were focused on media, but data is increasingly important and – until recently – largely overlooked.

Modern marketing demands advertisers control ownership, usage, and pricing of the tools used to manipulate data. Data transparency is also critical. Advertisers need to decide who can access their data, how it’s stored, how/if it’s shared, and what happens to it when agency relationships end. The new framework agreement brings data front and centre.

No need to start from scratch

By updating its Framework Agreement to be fit-for-purpose for media today, ISBA is arming its members with expert industry guidance on what should be included in critical agency agreements.

The revisions are sufficiently comprehensive to be used in the UK and other markets. Of course, there will need to be local tweaks for local nuances, but the ISBA Framework Agreement provides a levelled-up benchmark for advertisers worldwide.

For many of those in marketing, there’s a perception that engaging in the detail of contracts is painful, however important it may be. With this new framework, much of this pain is removed.

You don’t start from scratch, you start from a high bar – a template contract created by the industry, for the industry, to a standard that bakes in both verification and transparency.

Even if your contract is only a couple of years old, start by comparing what you have today with ISBA’s template; whatever’s missing, lift that in. And if you don’t have an adequate contract, this is a great place to start.