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February 2, 2016
The ANA's Scathing Review of the 4A's
 
For some time now, we've been monitoring the debate between marketers and agencies about how transparent the relationship should be between them. How close is too close? Could this closeness or transparency creep on proprietary information? Who knows.

So when the 4A's, the organization positioned to represent advertising agencies in the U.S., released its guidelines for how agencies should work with brands, everything should have been worked out.

Right?
 
Not so much.

In fact, the opposite. The ANA sent out a media advisory that basically lambasted the 4A's report as "premature." It also requested that the 4A's remove names of ANA members from the report, since the organization does not agree entirely with the model the 4A's put forth. The ANA advisory also acknowledged that their version of transparency guidelines will come out in late spring, so it'll be interesting to see what the differences really are.

What's the point?

The point is, there still seems to be a disconnect between brands and agencies, to the point that the bodies representing them as advocates aren't agreeing on how things should be done. The ANA believes that the marketer should be privileged to see all the agency's costs and numbers when doing business with the client. The ANA advisory says that marketers "should be able to follow the money."

They probably have a point. But after reading the 4A's guiding principles, the ANA saying that they "fail to fully or adequately reflect the best interest of marketers" is a little overreaching.

Besides, the 4A's represent the agencies, and they are going to protect their own, like the ANA will come out with some outlandish proposal for account managers to open their spreadsheets and accounts to determine return of investment on a regular basis.

If each side believes that their way is totally right, no one is going to agree. Brands and agencies will have to compromise on this media transparency matter. No one will receive the perfect world, but a good, positive, working world isn't one we should count out.

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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