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ANA advises brands to create ‘chief media officer’ role to police newly issued transparency guidelines

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The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has today (July 18) issued formal transparency guidelines to its membership, advising brands to create chief media officer roles to oversee any “potential conflicts of interest” among their agency rosters and third-party ad tech partners.

The publication of the transparency guidelines (contained in a report entitled “Media Transparency: Prescriptions, Principles, and Processes for Marketers") follows the trade body’s report issued last month, where it found that "non-transparent business practices", including cash rebates, were pervasive in the US media buying landscape.

The ANA has also released a recommended contract template and urged marketers to leverage it as the foundation for their master services agreements with agencies.

In total the ANA issued several recommendations, instructing all clients to require their agencies to disclose all potential conflicts of interest, plus implement audits of their agencies, its parent company, as well affiliates and subsidiaries.

Among the principle instructions are:

  • Establish overarching agency management principles that can be easily understood and executed
  • Establish primacy over the client/agency relationship, and regularly re-evaluate and upgrade internal processes
  • Create a uniform code of conduct between the advertisers and agencies

Additional recommendations:

  • The advertiser should have a disciplined and reliable process for managing conflicts of interest.
  • Ensure contracts with media agencies include robust language to deliver full transparency.
  • Advertisers should insist on thorough and far-reaching audit rights that include tracking contract compliance.
  • Marketers must implement disciplined internal processes to deliver contracts designed to ensure strict accountability, and senior management oversight.

Finally, the ANA cited the earlier report concluding that several important lessons were cited in the K2 assessment with the most recent recommendations designed to address:

  • Advertisers’ loss of trust in their media agencies.
  • The fact that agencies can no longer deny that the “rebate issue” exists in the United States.
  • The deterioration of accountability and oversight — particularly with respect to contracts — means the highlighted issues must be resolved.

Bob Liodice, ANA president and chief executive, said: “The purpose of these guidelines is to provide marketers with prescriptions for addressing transparency issues specific to the K2 Intelligence study."

“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.”

The guidelines should be considered an opportunity for advertisers and their agencies to reset their relationships, especially where these have been clouded by concerns over trust and transparency, according to consultants ID Comms.

"We welcome the publication of the long-awaited ANA Media Transparency guidelines. If advertisers adopt these guidelines then they will certainly be in a better position than they were 12 months ago. In that sense, the ANA have achieved their goal and done what they said they were going to do, the guidelines are sensible, reasonable, considered and fair," said Tom Dentford, chief strategy officer at ID Comms.

"Media is a powerful lever for growth for brands and they need reliable, trusted working relationships with their media agency partners. It is now down to each individual advertiser to define their own course of action to modernise their agency relationships and improve their own media governance capabilities and skills. The ANA's good work in this area will help us all start to redefine media as a race to the top for brands, not a race to the bottom for low cost and low quality."

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