After a year of contentious industry debate, the 4A's is weighing in with media transparency guidelines covering business arrangements, agency remuneration practices and recommended guidelines for media market participants in the U.S.
"The most important thing here is that agencies have been operating under a code of transparency with clients, and now we're making it public," said Nancy Hill, president and CEO of the 4A's. "Agencies and clients now have a heightened awareness when looking at contracts. I don't think this issue has been undermining trust between agencies and clients, but I think [Procter & Gamble global marketing and brand building officer] Marc Pritchard said it best: 'Trust but verify.'"
Included in the new 4A's guidelines are principals addressing transparency in working relationships among marketers, agencies and media.The three specific areas covered are client and agency relationships for U.S. media planning and buying; separate commercial relationships among agencies, media vendors and other suppliers; and client and agency governance.
The principles were created with input from major advertisers—including L'Oréal, Bank of America, MasterCard, ConAgra, Boehringer Ingelheim, Target and Nestlé—and represent the views of the 4A's.
But while the 4A's and Association of National Advertisers, which represents the nation's top brands, formed a joint task force to address the issues together, they could not agree on a final document—so the 4A's issued its own guidelines. While ANA initially agreed to the principals, the group ultimately wanted to go deeper into contractual language, something the 4A's did not agree an industry association should get into.
"While that collaboration between marketing and agency leaders led to the development of these principles, ultimately the groups could not come to terms on language," according to a 4A's statement. "The advertiser group sought to go beyond developing guideline language into prescribing contract language; the 4A's believes that should be left for discussion between individual agencies and clients and does not believe that is the role of an industry trade association."
The ANA, however, was quick to respond, saying the 4As guidelines were "premature and conntinued attention is needed to address lack of industry transparency that the ANA has highlighlighted for the last four years. Unfortunately the guiding principals issued by the 4As fail to fully or adequately reflect the best interests of marketers."