Britain's top twenty ad shops have agreed to greater transparency in their battle for favourable ranking in agency league tables. The sole criterion until now – billings – is generally adjudged misleading and easily inflated, especially with the decline of the commission system and the rise and rise of media specialists.

Under the agreement, brokered by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, agencies will instead declare their actual incomes as the basis both for their IPA membership fees and league table rankings. The deal is binding only on the top twenty agencies but IPA president Rupert Howell expects lesser lights to follow their lead. "There are hardly any countries left that still rank agencies by billings," he said.

The agency league table compiled by trade magazine Campaign will be published February 23 by which time, believes Howell, most shops will be able to furnish actual or closely estimated income figures for year 2000. Conceding that while the new system does not eliminate possible inflation of figures, Howell points out: "The more agencies puff themselves up, the more they pay."

The move from billings to income could have been a done deal twelve months ago but for the opposition of agency groups with media subsidiaries. Over the past year, however, several former offshoots such as as BBDO’s BMP OMD and Leo Burnett's Starcom Motive have independently joined the IPA. Howell expects these, and other media shops, to join the new income-based scheme even though billings remain a major indicator of their stature.

Publicis chief executive Richard Hytner probably speaks for many of his rivals, declaring: "As long as billings and income figures appear side by side, we are happy to participate."

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)