John Billett is the chief executive of Johnbillett.com
John Billett is the chief executive of Johnbillett.com
A view from John Billett

John Billett: Advertisers need to be wary of stepping into 'honeytraps'

Pooh could never get enough honey. The insurance referral fees scam following the city coup with exchange-traded funds had not satiated his more honey appetite. He turned to unregulated media trading.

Procurement Piglet would never give more honey. Marketer Kanga was unlikely to spend more on advertising right now. But Tigger and his media owner friends were always bouncing around selling over-supplied media. Pooh saw Tigger as a possible honey factory.

Pooh had a cunning plan. For a load of extra honey above the standard 100 pots for 85, he would buy loads of Tigger's media, control the inventory, decide whether Piglet and Kanga got lots, a little or none of the honey while persuading Piglet to give him more honey, via higher performance-related fees. And if Tigger expressly offered an extra 13 free honey pots, making the deal 100 pots for 72, Pooh would swing his buying towards Tigger and away from others in Hundred Acre Wood. Pooh could also use some of the extra honey to reward who he chose and entice Kanga and Piglet's advertiser friends to his house.

Pooh had to convince Eeyore-ditor to endorse the practice and validate that his personal honey deal still offered Piglet and Kanga good value. Pooh had a wave of little brain.

Pooh persuaded Tigger to sell his media to everyone at prices within a narrow band. That would ensure Eeyore-ditor could never give Piglet a bad audit. There were doubts whether Piglet ever received or asked for copy invoices. So Tigger would invoice Pooh at one price and Pooh could invoice Kanga at another price. In addition, the extra honey would be rebated as an unaudited volume discount - or bearish consultancy fee - direct to Pooh. And Piglet would still pay a honey bonus based on the Eeyore-ditor price that excluded the extra honey discount.

Pooh has never had so much honey. The result is some off-strategy media buying but, these days, Kanga is far more interested in Tesco facings than media precision and Piglet focuses more on the discount difference from a questionable norm than on absolute value. And Eeyore- ditor measures Tigger's prices without reference to the size and location of that unmonitored missing honey.

There is nothing wrong with media owners paying additional commission in exchange for volume and share gains. But those extra discounts go direct to media agencies, are untraceable, remain unaudited and skew value. Millions of pounds fail to find visibility for which the advertiser is paying.

Parts of the advertising media industry are diving to the bottom along with the remains of insurance referral fees and exchange-traded funds. Owl enquired of Pooh: "Does Christopher Robin know what you are doing to media?" "No. He still believes I'm a cuddly bear."

John Billett is the chief executive of Johnbillett.com