Offshore Oligarchs of Advertising
Brave sources inside three of the world’s largest advertising holding companies (WPP, Publicis Groupe, IPG) provided confidential, detailed information about how offshore holding companies are siphoning money and jobs out of America and padding their bank accounts. This is their story.
Insiders Speak Truth to Power
For decades it appears advertising and media budgets may have been siphoned out of the United States into offshore holding companies leaving merely fragments of the budget retained for US employees. Speaking with confidential industry insiders, we’re learning the methods used by holding companies to extract resources from US businesses, stagnate US wage growth, and enrich owner/operators of the holding offshore holding companies.
One of the confidential insiders, an SVP based in Manhattan, said, “Our goal for the year was to reduce US employees while telling advertising clients we supported the US economy. Nothing could be further from the truth”.
Another confidential insider, a VP based in Chicago, said, “Almost everyone who works in advertising knows that holding companies have decimated agency culture and creative talent while moving billions of dollars to offshore banks.”
Does the Advertising Industry have a Problem with Offshore Holding Companies?
Pinning down details has been an arduous and sometimes threatening task. Many of the insiders are worried about the repercussions associated with exposing what some call “the largest money laundering scheme they’ve ever witnessed”. They’ve cited that most global advertising revenue originates in the United States. Similarly, they’ve cited that the US market has had limits placed on wage growth. Likewise, they’ve admitted the strategy is to move jobs offshore and cut wages while increasing the billable hours to US clients.
Offshore Holding Companies
Many advertising & media holding companies reported an increase in revenue from N. America clients over the past 2 decades while simultaneously showing a reduction in N. America headcount of full-time employees. Similarly, employees are rarely provided professional growth opportunities, profit-sharing packages, wage increases and other retention mechanisms. Insiders say “This is a strategic initiative to reduce headcount through attrition.”
Ironically, the C-Suite of most holding companies are not US citizens. Therefore, they have little incentive to support the US workforce. Likewise, their consolidated P&L and balance sheet obfuscates which nations their finances operate under. Ultimately, this results in money pools moving funds offshore to the detriment of the US economy.
Business Owners, What You Can Do?
If you are a business owner (or, a citizen) specify in the contract with your ad agency that no funds will be sent out of the nation that provided funds. Ask your advertising agency how much of your advertising (and media) budget is transferred to foreign banks. Ask if the owners of the holding companies are citizens of your country. Ask what percentage of employees will be working on your brand who don’t live in your country.
Holding the offshore corporations ethically responsible for where and how money is utilized in the nation’s they ‘legally’ operate within is an operational imperative that should be required but, unfortunately, is not questioned by the majority.
Where’s the Budget Going?
Below is a list of offshore advertising holding companies:
**Based on fiscal year 2021 data
IPG is an advertising holding company. Tax haven. The holding company owns: Carmichael Lynch, Campbell Ewald, Deutsch, Elephant, FCB, Golin, Hill Holiday, Huge, McCann, Mullen Lowe, R/GA, The Martin Agency, among others.
Publicis Groupe is an advertising holding company. The French holding company provides a range of marketing services through: Publicis Communications, Publicis Sapient, Publicis Media, Leo Burnett, Digitas, BBH, Fallon, and Saatchi & Saatchi, among others.
WPP is an advertising holding company. Tax haven. The holding company owns a number of agencies: Ogilvy, Wunderman Thompson, VMLY&R, AKQA, Grey, GroupM, Mindshare, Essence, Mediacom, BCE, Landor & Fitch, CMI Media, among others.
An article published by McKinsey & Company titled “Confronting Corruption” highlights several ways to inoculate the organization including investing in key functions and leadership matters. When leadership roles are moved offshore many employees believe the holding company doesn’t provide growth opportunities, which can lead to instances of quiet quitting, disenfranchised professionals, and loss of industry knowledge.
How Insiders Change the System
Come forward, speak up. Many of the people we spoke with are concerned about being ‘black-balled’ or ‘cancelled’ (ostracized from the workforce) if they speak up. Others cited a shift in operations, namely DEI and ESG, as the driving factors for siphoning funds and denying certain people employment based on immutable characteristics.
Coming forward is often an arduous, personal decision fraught with worries and concern of repercussion. However, it is a violation of EEOC laws and the Civil Rights Act for employers to retaliate against whistleblowers. Confronting corruption helps everyone. Come forward using anonymity and details. There are a number of actions insiders can take: SEC whistleblower award, Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (CAARA), Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), Taxpayer First Act (TFA), or approach news publications willing to expose corporate malfeasance. Contact us.
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