- The American Association of Advertising Agencies, or the 4A's, is elevating its best practices around media buying and planning from a recommendation to a mandate for its members, with willful violators facing possible annulment of their membership, the group said in a blog post.
- Originally introduced in January, the 4A's Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct (TGPC) were unanimously elevated to a standard by the group’s board of directors.
- The news comes in the wake of a bombshell report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) that found the practice of taking media rebates and not disclosing them — or passing them along — to clients is widespread in the agency world.
As digital becomes a bigger portion of marketing spend and marketers face pressure to deliver a return on investment, brands want a clearer picture from ad agencies of where their dollars are going.
Several issues are blurring the picture, including click fraud, the growth in programmatic buying — which results in some ads winding up on low-quality sites — and how smartphones’ small screens cause some consumers to click on banners by mistake or ads to display incorrectly.
Adding urgency to the topic of transparency is a report released by the Association of National Advertisers earlier this year that found pervasive use of cash rebates and other incentives for steering agencies toward certain media, not necessarily with a client’s best interests in mind. Big brands have taken notice and are expressing concerns about the problem.
With its new standards, the 4As aims to mend the fences and strengthen the client/agency relationship. The group plans to hold a series of workshops around the country addressing transparency.
“It is our strong belief that transparency is a core principle and the cornerstone of the agency and client relationship,” 4As President and CEO Nancy Hill, who is scheduled to step down next year, wrote in a blog post. “The TGPC is based upon a belief that sound and ethical practice is good business. Trust and respect is indispensable to success in our business where relationships must be based on good faith.”
The role of the ad agency is transforming thanks to the growth of digital, with ad tech platforms and brands themselves assuming some responsibilities previously handled by agencies, meaning strong relationships with clients are more important than ever.
As the marketing landscape quickly evolves, agencies are coming under pressure to put clients on the latest platforms, sometimes before there is a deep understanding of them.
Transparency joins ad quality and ad blocking as some of the big picture issues facing marketers and advertisers right now.