Statement by ANA CEO Bob Liodice in response to the rejection of Ebiquity report recommendations by the 4A’s

Last week, the 4A’s rejected the recommendations in the ANA/Ebiquity report on media transparency that we released on July 18.

Rather than offering new insights into the depth and magnitude of the transparency issue and offering positive suggestions on how the problem could be resolved, the 4A’s chose to dismiss the recommendations, and essentially called for a preservation of the status quo. They urged their members to adopt their own guidelines that were issued in January, which the ANA and its constituents deemed incomplete and not fully or adequately reflecting the best interests of marketers.

The 4A’s statement avoided acknowledgment of the facts presented in the K2 Intelligence assessment released in early June: that detrimental, non-transparent business practices by media agencies are widespread throughout the U.S. media ecosystem. These include rebates, equity stakes in media suppliers by agencies, and other pervasive examples of media agency conduct that may not be in advertisers’ best interests. Surprisingly, there were no real reasons provided as to why the ANA/Ebiquity recommendations and the proposed contract template were rejected, nor was there acknowledgment of any value contained in the documents.

The ANA/Ebiquity report recommendations, as well as the findings in the K2 Intelligence assessment, reflect the voice of marketers and the ANA’s Board of Directors in particular, which strongly endorsed both studies. We find it perplexing that the 4A’s decided to ignore those voices and default to a survey of its own members.

The ANA recognizes that the industry must change. That is why we made sure to offer prescriptions for marketers and agencies that we believe could lead to a shared stewardship of marketers’ media investments. This has been our position since we released the K2 Intelligence report.

The ANA also recognizes that every contract is unique, but contracts should be grounded in standards that can serve as a useful starting point for clients and agencies. This is the core reason we created the recommended contract template that was released in conjunction with the Ebiquity report: to serve as the foundation for every marketer to use in new contract development and existing contract review.

While we welcome a dialogue with the 4A’s, we can only do so with their acknowledgment that a transparency problem of consequence exists in the U.S. media marketplace. We ask that the 4A’s publicly clarify whether they accept or reject the findings of the K2 report — a report which reflects the unambiguous perspectives of current and former agency leaders and a cross-section of senior industry leaders. Without agreement that there is a common problem to address and solve, it will be difficult to engage in focused and meaningful discussions.

For now, the ANA will relentlessly remind its members that the transparency issues contained in the K2 Intelligence assessment are real, and that they should strongly consider the prescriptions contained in the ANA/Ebiquity report as important steps toward improving marketers’ ability to “follow the money” and overall media planning and management processes.

As we have done throughout this lengthy process, the ANA intends to honor its commitments. Since there continues to be profound disagreement as to the nature and extent of this obvious U.S. marketplace problem, we would like to invite the leaders of the 4A’s Board of Directors to confer with the ANA Board at our October 19 meeting at the Masters of Marketing national conference in Orlando, Fla. It is our sincere hope that the leadership of our industry can confer, have an open dialogue, and create a pathway that will lead to industry consensus and collaboration.