Search and media agencies are on alert as the end of Google's Best Practice Funding (BPF) programme creates a potential landgrab for major search accounts.
They have been spurred by the imminent end of Google's agency commission scheme, which rewards agencies for buying Google ads.
The ending of the scheme from next year means agencies that had previously used BPF to attract businesses by passing their commission on to clients will now have to renegotiate the terms of their client deals.
Search specialists have revealed to NMA that they're on alert as key brands within specific verticals put their accounts out to tender.
Paul Mead, MD of VCCP Search, confirmed talks were beginning to take place within the sector. "Best Practice Funding is the key factor. Anyone that's a significant spender in travel, finance and retail will be thinking about this," he said.
Gavin Ailes, deputy MD of The Search Works, said, "There will be a larger number of pitches; it's only natural in the circumstances."
The landgrab comes as search specialists grow concerned over speculation that Google will use the money saved from agency commission to incentivise brands to bypass agencies and work with it directly.
The concerns have spread widely within the sector and were put to the search giant's UK directors Matt Brittin and Mark Howe at a recent meeting with the IPA Search Group, which was attended by represen_tatives from search specialists including iCrossing, Golley Slater Digital and Isobar.
Mark Howe, Google UK country sales director, denied the rumour. "Google sees agencies as our partners. We have no desire to distort our search auction model by offering any kind of discounts to any kind of partner," he said.
Scott Gallacher, Sky's online and partner marketing director, said Best Practice Funding shouldn't be a major concern for either brands or advertisers if they have their houses in order.
"If people are worried about Google blindsiding them, there's almost certainly a problem either with that relationship or between agency and client," he said.
Google's tiered Best Practice Funding scheme was introduced in 2005 to drive growth and innovation within the search space.
Initial incentives included a 'kick-back' paid to the top 10% of qua_lifying agencies whose relative quarterly growth rate topped 5%.