Transparency: ANA 2016 Marketing Word of the Year

December 12, 2016

By Bill Duggan

The issue of transparency was all over the advertising industry in 2016.

  • In June K2 Intelligence issued their report commissioned by the ANA, “An Independent Study of Media Transparency in the U.S. Advertising Industry.” This report concluded that non-transparent business practices, including cash rebates, were pervasive in the U.S. media ad-buying ecosystem.
  • Two media outlets in the U.K. – the Guardian and Daily Mail – have gone on record that they have paid media rebates.
  • In September Dentsu Inc. informed a number of clients in Japan of "irregularities" related to some digital media business transactions.
  • In December it was reported that the United States Department of Justice is investigating whether advertising agencies engaged in bid-rigging for production work. It’s noteworthy that in August ANA formed a Production Transparency Task Force to assess whether there are non-transparent advertising agency practices in production and to develop recommendations for improvement. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that ANA members voted “transparency” as the ANA 2016 Marketing Word of the Year.

Following the release of the K2 report, in July the ANA and Ebiquity/FirmDecisions released “Media Transparency: Prescriptions, Principles, and Processes for Advertisers,” which outlines recommended responsibilities for advertisers and agencies with the objective of moving purposefully to address the transpar­ency issues identified in the K2 Intelligence study.  That included a media agency Master Media Planning & Buying Services Agreement developed by ANA general counsel, Reed Smith, which can be used by advertisers in developing their own agency agreement.

Lack of transparency breaks down trust.  As we move into a new year, ANA is hopeful that 2017 will have more of a focus on solutions and best practices to address the industry’s transparency issues and to begin the process of rebuilding trust.

Note: All three reports are collected as a single volume entitled Media Transparency: Findings, Recommendations, and Agency Agreement Template.


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