Reflections from Tom Finneran of the 4A’s | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

Reflections from Tom Finneran of the 4A’s

March 25, 2019

By Bill Duggan


Tom Finneran is EVP at the 4A's and leads the agency management services team, which provides industry guidance, member consultation, and benchmark information in the areas of new business, agency compensation, agency management, and operations. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and is often cited in press articles on marketing industry topics such as agency search, intellectual property, patent trolling, and agency-client relations, as well as agency compensation and client service agreements. He will be a panelist at this year's ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference. ANA's group EVP Bill Duggan recently interviewed Finneran on a wide range of industry topics.


Q. You have had a distinguished and well-rounded career with experience on both the client and agency sides, and now the last 15 years at the 4A's. What are a few of the most significant trends you've witnessed that have changed the industry?

Fifty years ago, when I started my career at health and beauty marketer Richardson Vicks, it was a different world. Technology has intensified global competition, complexity, and proliferation of marketing opportunities. Fusion and confusion of categories have dramatically changed the landscape.

Back in the '70s and '80s, there was a genuine spirit in agency-advertiser partnerships. During my 17 years at RVI we took pride in and benefited from the strength and continuity of our agency relationships. We viewed our agencies as key strategic partners. We had a foundation belief in the power of advertising and an awesome respect for creativity.

But the unbundling of marketing services, the decline of the commission system, and the shift of privately-owned and entrepreneurially-led advertiser and agency organizations to publicly-traded companies driven by Wall Street and quarterly earnings targets has made it more difficult to align advertiser-agency economic interests.


Q. What 4A's initiative that you have worked on are you most proud of?

My involvement with the 4A's started more than 30 years ago when I switched from the client side to the agency side of the marketing industry. As an agency chief financial officer and chief operating officer, I found the 4A's to be an invaluable resource. By joining 4A's committees, participating in industry task groups and connecting with a host of really smart passionate people in the agency community I was able to become more effective, do more, do it better and do it faster and more efficiently.

Since joining the staff in the Agency Management Services group, I've endeavored to curate and evolve robust agency collaboration across agency management disciplines including executive, finance, new business, legal, production, and commercial practices. I'm proud of the role that the management team at the 4A's has played in helping agencies and the clients that our members serve succeed in a rapidly evolving landscape.


Q. You've worked in collaboration with ANA on various initiatives. Does one stand out?

The three-part series on agency search and selection that you and I worked on with our respective members contains significant, relevant guidance that provides enduring helpful suggestions that benefit both advertisers and agencies. It was a positive, respectful and enjoyable experience. It is a great example of the ANA's and 4A's' ability to collaborate in areas where our members' interests are aligned. That series consisted of Guidelines for Agency Search, Agency Selection Briefing Guidance, and Agency Reviews for Project Work.


Q. What advice do you have for marketing procurement?

Marketing procurement continues to be an evolving dynamic. There is a broad range of maturity within client procurement organizations and personnel. Best-in-class marketing procurement has begun to shift focus from efficiency to effectiveness. They've begun to shift KPIs to growth. I applaud the ANA for endeavoring to lead that transition through your learning and development programs, committees, and perhaps most significantly the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference.


Q. What advice do you have for agencies when working with marketing procurement?

Marketing procurement can be a friend or it can be an enemy. It's always better to work collaboratively with your friends on positive, mutually beneficial arrangements rather than to battle an enemy, which can destroy an agency-client relationship. Building relationships and fostering trust needs to start with self. Reach out. Declare your intent and set a goal of win-win rather than win-lose arrangements. Be clear on principles and expectations. Don't offer or accept unreasonable or unfair conditions. Treat procurement and their marketing colleagues the way that you want them to treat you and your agency.


Q. How many years have you attended the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference?

My first AFM conference was in 1980 when I was on the client side and I was a member of the ANA Finance Committee. While I have not attended every AFM conference since then, I have attended many of them. I've had the good fortune to be an AFM speaker or panelist many times in my client, agency and association roles. AFM has consistently been a helpful forum for exchanging ideas and building relationships. I'm looking forward to participating in AFM 2019 in Phoenix.


Thanks to MediaVillage for originally posting this blog.

Update, March 28, 2019: After this interview originally appeared in MediaVillage, the 4A's issued a bulletin announcing that Tom Finneran would be retiring at the end of June. Tom has spent more than 14 years at the 4A's during an impressive 50-year career, including leadership positions in finance on both the client and agency sides. The ANA is appreciative of the partnership and friendship we've had with Tom and wish him well in retirement!

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