Two industry groups are engaging in a public battle over transparency.
The dispute began when a joint task force was formed between the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) to produce a set of transparency principles for agencies, advertisers, and media vendors.
When the 4As released the Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct in January that addressed issues such as client/agency relationships for media planning and buying services and client/agency governance, they were published without ANA support.
The ANA said it withdrew support to wait for the results of a study. Released in June, that study concluded that non-transparent business practices (such as cash rebates to media agencies) are a serious problem in the ad-buying ecosystem. With the study results in hand, the ANA then published its Guidelines for Achieving Media Transparency, as part of a new report, “Media Transparency: Prescriptions, Principles, and Processes for Marketers.”
In addition to providing an agency agreement template for marketers to use, the ANA recommended that advertisers require their agencies to disclose “all potential conflicts of interest” and create a new chief media officer role tasked with ensuring full transparency by agencies and related companies.
“We outlined actions marketers should consider to diminish or eliminate non-transparent and non-disclosed agency activities and to ensure that their media management processes are optimized,” ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice said in a statement about the new guidance.
But the 4As reacted just as the ANA responded to its guidance, with a rejection.
“We have reviewed the recommendations in the [ANA guidance] and feel they are not all consistent with what many of our members have said their clients are asking for in their MSAs,” Nancy Hill, the President and CEO of the 4As, said in a statement. “As such, we continue to believe that contractual negotiations are best left between agencies and clients. We urge transparency and recommend agencies use as guidance the 4As’ Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct, which were designed to identify material media transparency questions and address them with constructive dialogue and pragmatic courses of action.”
To read the 4As’ Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct, click here.
To read the ANA’s Guidelines for Achieving Media Transparency, click here.
Why it matters: Although both organizations agree on the importance of media transparency, they have different opinions on which group’s guidance should be followed. A resolution may be possible, as the 4As has indicated its willingness to sit down with the ANA “to explore common ground and try to address important questions and concerns regarding media buying practices for both agencies and marketers.”