Advertisers Group: Here’s Our Strategy to Boost Transparency

In a set of recommendations that follow up on a report critical of the lack of transparency in the ad world, the Association of National Advertisers outlined specific steps that should be taken to mend flawed relationships with industry stakeholders—including recommended contract guidelines. The ANA guidelines have a competing group that represents ad agencies looking for some common ground.

Last month, the Association of National Advertisers, report in hand, made some headline-grabbing claims about its industry—particularly, whether agencies and publishers were acting transparently.

Now ANA has a plan to build transparency back into the system. With the help of the marketing analytics firm Ebiquity and its subsidiary FirmDecisions, this week the group released a series of recommendations to its members to remove conflicts of interest in the industry and allow for wide-ranging industry audits. To go with the report, ANA also developed a contract template that its members can follow in their own dealings with agencies and media companies.

In a news release, ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice emphasized that the two reports were of a piece.

“The purpose of these guidelines is to provide marketers with prescriptions for addressing transparency issues specific to the K2 Intelligence study,” Liodice explained. “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.”

Looking for Common Ground

The K2 Intelligence study, released in June by ANA, caused waves in the advertising sector for its claims that rebates and kickbacks were common in agreements between ad agencies and media companies.

The report prompted strong reactions from other industry groups, such as the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), which had originally collaborated with the ANA in a joint task force but later broke off and released its own transparency guidelines earlier this year.

Nancy Hill, president and CEO of 4A’s, conceded that, despite its issues with the report, “there are important questions and concerns regarding media buying practices for both marketers and agencies. We have to confront those issues.”

As for the guideline-contract approach, 4A’s previously argued in January “that should be left for discussion between individual agencies and clients,” adding that it doesn’t believe that contract language strategies are “the role of an industry trade association.”

In response to the latest report and the contract guidelines released by ANA, however, 4A’s said it would seek to meet with the group.

“It’s a top priority of the 4A’s to review this report thoroughly and quickly as it could affect many of our member agencies. We plan to share specific steps and insights with you in the very near term,” Hill stated in a letter to the group’s members. “As we stated in an earlier letter, we will propose sitting 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.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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