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2013 Year In Review 

Click the photo above to watch a video message recapping 4A's accomplishments from President-CEO Nancy Hill and view the presentation here

The 4A's recognizes that the business environment for agencies is increasingly complex. Agency compensation, advertising deductibility, patenting trolling, talent recruitment and retention and data are just a few of the issues the 4A's addressed during 2013 for the benefit of its members.

Offering solid business thought leadership, guidance and advocacy, the 4A's planned and executed numerous programs, services and initiatives in 2013 aimed at helping agencies make smarter decisions and stay ahead of the curve. Looking ahead, we will continually seek and provide opportunities to bring the right people together in the right place at the right time to address the most important topics.

We're proud to share what we've done on your behalf during the past year.

2013 Highlights

For a complete recap of your membership offerings during 2013, please scroll to the bottom or click on the department name.

Agency Management Services

The 4A's Management Services team works with members and marketers to develop guidance and benchmarks to facilitate the effective and profitable management of agency operations.

Business Development
The 4A's identified an opportunity to improve agency search best practices adherence through expanded use of RFIs (Requests for Information) in the initial review phase, more efficient client RFPs (Requests for Proposal) and improved agency selection briefing guidance. To address these opportunities, an ANA-4A's task force developed Agency Selection Briefing Guidance, which provides briefing best practices for every phase of a review and suggests information that marketers should provide to agencies as a review progresses.
Best-in-class agencies recognize that they can improve new business performance by being more selective in the pursuit of client opportunities. The 4A's New Business Committee developed 4A's Opportunity Screening Criteria Guidance that advises agencies to develop and adhere to new business opportunity screening criteria because not all business is worth having.

When assessing agency resources, most marketers consider an agency's recent category expertise, relevant marketing services experience and efficiency capabilities. These agency screening and selection criteria are used because the marketer's interests are well-served by leveraging vendor expertise and scale. In 2013, the 4A's initiated preliminary discussions with the marketer community on the topic of Leveraging Expertise & Scale (aka Conflicts). The association is urging the client community to consider adopting less restrictive agency conflict policies.

Client Compensation
The impact of client procurement on marketing expenditures and vendor terms ratcheted up another notch in 2013. The focus of the association's client compensation initiatives is to equip members with information, guidance and tools that help agencies obtain fair remuneration and equitable terms of service in an uncertain economic environment that is increasingly subject to aggressive client procurement practices.

Agency Financial Management Toolkit:

  • Client Compensation Negotiation—Best Practices Do's and Don'ts. The guidance recommended that agency management review their compensation expectations and principles prior to every significant client compensation negotiation.
  • The association explored pricing strategies and negotiating in Lessons Learned from Other Professional Service Industries. Key findings noted the importance of having access to the client C-suite, documenting pricing policies and the need to establish push back and walk away thresholds.

The association also provided agencies with important benchmark information in 2013:

  • 4A's Media Services Compensation Survey provided information on client service arrangements that combine paid media planning and buying services. The report covered compensation methods and equivalent/effective commission rates for traditional, digital and full service (traditional & digital) arrangements.
  • There was extensive industry conversation triggered by a handful of marketers that publicized plans to consider changes to their vendor payment terms. In order to provide balanced, accurate and robust information on actual marketplace conditions, the association conducted the 4A's Agency Billing Practices and Client Payment Terms Survey Report. Summary findings from the survey noted: #1—the predominant practice is for clients to pay agency invoices within 30 days. #2—weighted payment terms are in the range of 32–36 days and #3—agencies pre-bill clients that operate with slower payment terms.

Operations Management
4A's provides members with the management tools needed to accommodate the changing dynamics of agency operations.
  • To assist 4A's members in addressing complexities related to assessing and structuring project assignments, the association issued Agency Best Practices: Project-Based Assignments Guidance to help agencies more effectively and efficiently manage the challenges associated with performing project work.
  • The association's member surveys provide agency operations benchmark information including:

    - 4A's Employee Compensation Survey, which captures data for 34,000 employees at over 270 agency offices

    - Analysis of Agency Costs Survey containing staffing and operating cost-ratio information for agencies

    -4A's About Employee Benefits Series, the initial phase of the Project Management Survey Series gathered information on project management organizational structures, departmental responsibilities, staffing resources and servicing ratios.

The management services team provides information, best practice suggestions and community discussion forums for agency managers across a broad range of topics such as sales and use taxes, client relationship management, media audits, mergers and acquisitions, commercial production, systems software, data security and more.

Government Relations

Washington emerged from the frenzy of the 2012 political season with a variety of policy issues in play from fundamental business concerns such as tax policy to quickly evolving, technology-driven issues like data privacy and patent trolling. Throughout the year, 4A's Washington successfully advanced the agenda of the agency community by working effectively with our members and other associations and by advocating directly at the state and federal levels of government.

Advertising Sales Taxes
Early in 2013, several states introduced proposals to tax the sale of advertising time/space and agency services as part of broader state budget reform packages. 4A's Washington quickly mobilized our local boards and councils in response and coordinated with peer associations in each state. 4A's members testified at key public hearings and wrote their local legislators. The result was successful defeats of all three ad sales tax efforts in Minnesota, Ohio and Louisiana. No further proposals emerged from the states once legislatures adjourned for the year.

Advertising Deductibility

The tax treatment of advertising as a fully deductible expense is a critical issue for the entire ad community, one which the 4A's has long fought to preserve. As a founding member of The Advertising Coalition, a cross-industry coalition, we organized multiple grassroots meetings in 2013 with our members and key lawmakers in their local district offices. When new corporate tax proposals emerged late in the year from both the House and Senate, we facilitated a written response from the 4A's board of directors to Congress, the first such leadership letter in the 4A's history on a policy matter. We continue to work vigorously in 2014 to ensure that the advertising deduction is not lost or changed.

Consumer Data Privacy
The 4A's and other founding members of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) kept industry pressure on efforts by browser companies, standards bodies and consumer advocates to remove or restrict the use of third party cookies and other targeted online advertising methods. Mozilla backed away from their proposed ad blocking changes in the Firefox browser and the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards group could not deliver a Do-Not-Track specification. DAA released its new mobile principles framework, fielded strong consumer response surveys and prepared to launch a massive public policy outreach campaign to promote the advertising-supported Internet.

Patent Trolling
4A's Washington formed the Stop Patent Abuse Now (SPAN) coalition in 2013, the first such group of advertising, marketing and commerce trades focused on reforming the abusive practices of patent trolls. We advocated for HR 3309, The Innovation Act, which passed the U.S. House in December. We began to urge the Senate to pass similar draft legislation and to get the FTC involved in combating the vague and deceptive patent demand letters that trolls use to extort usage fees from agencies and other businesses. It is our goal to end the destructive patent troll business model.

Strategic Initiatives

Strategic Initiatives continued its mission in 2013 to create and participate in industry-wide partnerships that provide thought leadership and have the potential to improve the best practices of the community, particularly 4A's member agencies.

Recognizing the importance of data and its impact on the marketing industry, in June 2013 the 4A's announced the creation of its Data Advisory Council, a stellar cross-section of industry thought leaders with expertise in data and analytics. The DAC was assembled to help the 4A's formulate education initiatives and guidance to educate, inform and elevate conversations around data usage to benefit its member agencies. One of the initial projects undertaken by the new advisory council was staging the first 4A's Data Summit, held in October.

In 2013, the 4A's launched its Agency 2020 initiative, focused on unleashing the value of agencies as idea-creating Intermediaries, as well as identifying how agencies can best align strategy, structure, and capability to support clients' business growth. Survey findings from agency and client-side communities, will be presented at Transformation LA: The Idea Effect on March 16-19, 2014. They will provide strategic guidance and practical insights on how to best focus their business and equip their teams for the future.

With an eye toward building the future of the industry and the next generation of leaders, the 4A's began efforts in 2013 to highlight and showcase the talents of millennials working in the industry with a Rising Stars panel at its annual Transformation conference. The successful effort resulted in an initiative to engage millennials on an ongoing basis.

The Rising Stars, a group of millennials from more than 20 member agencies, developed goals for the next year, which included providing 4A's senior management with ideas on best practices for recruiting and retaining millennials in advertising in the face of significant competition, especially from technology companies. They also began developing an event focused on social responsibility to be held in April 2014 in New York.

Conferences and Events

In 2013, the 4A's continued its efforts to program and execute world class events that offer professional development, strategic networking and strengthened its portfolio of conferences.

Nearly 1,100 attendees at Transformation: The Idea Effect held in New Orleans in March heard from a stellar line-up of speakers from big brand companies and agencies including Procter & Gamble, Campbell Soup, Mondelēz International, Geico, BBDO, Leo Burnett and 360i. In addition, the six media family heads shared insights on the future of media investment agencies.

The 4A's CreateTech, the premier conference, focused on the new role that technology plays in the creative process and overall brand experiences, saw a significant increase in attendance at its third annual event. More than 250 attendees heard speakers from the spectrum of creators and leaders in the field over a day and a half at an exciting venue, the Broooklyn Bowl in New York in October. Headliners included Wendy Clark from Coca-Cola and Ray Kurzweil from Google.

In October 2013, the 4A's held its inaugural Data Summit. The event was the first major undertaking of the new 4A's Data Advisory Council, comprised of a cross-section of industry thought leaders with expertise in data and analytics. The day-long Data Summit brought together business leaders who use big data in customer-facing businesses and featured data specialists from advertising agencies and data analytics companies that work with agencies. Among the noted speakers was Sir Martin Sorrell, Worldwide CEO of WPP, who gave the opening keynote.

Titled "Strategy &," the annual Strategy Festival in late October in Nashville, highlighted the future of strategy and its role in research, creativity, data, innovation, business goals and content. Among the featured speakers was a one-on-one interview with music industry insider, founder and CEO of Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta, who gave a fascinating look at the music label as content creator.

Agency Relations & Membership

The 4A's Agency Relations and Membership team keeps our 750+ member agencies connected to 4A's information and activities in the most relevant possible way. From updating members on industry initiatives to matching them to the right committees; getting them a seat on a local council board to visiting our agency partners; the ARM team is constantly seeking ways to increase the value of your 4A's membership.

In 2013, the 4A's ARM team visited more than 250 member agencies, facilitated over 60 local council board meetings and participated in 22 CEO Forum discussions. We also partnered with our members to create a number of unique programs tailored to meet the needs of individual markets across the country.

The New England Council sponsored two "Advertising Agency Diversity Day" events in Boston showcasing the agency business to multicultural university students. Seventy-five students from Emerson College and Boston University attended full-day Saturday sessions at the A&G and Jack Morton agencies.

The 4A's partnered with San Francisco law firm Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass on the Brilliant By Noon leadership speaking event that attracted 90 C-level executives.

Chicago 4A's agencies collaborated with Choose Chicago, the Chicago tourism group, on its first ever marketing campaign to promote the city and brand it in a way that enhances talent acquisition efforts. Chicago agencies also pooled resources to create an informational website for summer interns to enhance the experience of living in Chicago, along with training events, a resume workshop and a Facebook page.

The Atlanta Council reprised its annual senior management dinner in partnership with Google, featuring Abigail Posner as the evening keynote speaker.

Training and Education
4A's Training and Education initiatives help 4A's member agencies supplement their own in-house training efforts. While the subject matter range is wide, the emphasis is on relationship and leadership skills: from managing direct reports to mentoring, presentation skills to negotiation tactics. Our ever-evolving program content is based on member input and feedback.

In 2013, the 4A's training and development offerings included three delivery formats: webinars, full-day seminars and multi-day training programs. Our highly popular webinar program doubled with more than 3,600 people participating in 36 hour-long programs featuring everything from Measuring Social Engagement to Selling Creative Work, Metrics & Analytics to Progressive Agency Business Models.

The 4A's also offered 51 full-day seminars in 23 markets. Digital Strategy, Leadership Skills, New Business Pitch Strategy and Project Management were especially popular.

In addition, nine multi-week Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies (IAAS) programs were presented in Dallas, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with a program in Kansas City planned in 2014. Targeted to students with less than three years of advertising experience, IAAS programs build advertising leaders through team-based, hands-on, case study-centric new business pitch assignments.

The New York-based three-day Executive Leadership Program for newly promoted agency principals exploded in popularity, with twice annual sessions regularly exceeding capacity.

Diversity & Inclusion and Talent Development

Talent, diversity and inclusion are critical business fundamentals recognized by the advertising and media industry as key to agencies' relevancy and sustainability in the evolving global marketplace. In 2013, the 4A's amplified its commitment to provide our community with multiple opportunities to engage with highly qualified individuals from all sources of the talent pipeline.
IAM Advertising

Working with PBS through the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), IAM Advertising, an in-school advertising agency staffed entirely by students at The High School for Innovation Advertising and Media (IAM-HS), created and developed a social awareness campaign, IAMtheLight, to promote the PBS documentary, 180 Days: A Year Inside An American High School. Launched during the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, the campaign exceeded its target goal, receiving over 1.5 million impressions before the premiere of the documentary.

MAIP Turns 40

2013 was a pivotal moment in MAIP's (Multicultural Adverstising Intern Program) 40-year legacy. The introduction of a nationwide virtual training series for current MAIP interns, activation of alumni initiatives across the country and the renewed investment of chief agency supporters and alumni, all contributed to an exceptionally impressive year. The year culminated with the 40th anniversary celebration at The Face of Talent event in New York City. Since August 2013, over 90% of ready-to-hire 2013 MAIP graduates have accepted positions within our industry, further substantiating the value and impact of this program.

Re-Investing in the 4A's Foundation
In addition to the established scholarships funded in part by our member agencies and partners, the 4A's Foundation introduced a new fund, the Collective Media Fund. Underwritten by Collective, a data-driven advertising solutions provider, this fund provides support and financial assistance to students from accredited colleges pursuing careers in media.

Introduction of the Chief Talent Officer Council
The 4A's Chief Talent Officer Council was established in 2013 to serve as a collective thought-leadership and best-practice talent authority for the advertising and media community. The Council has been convened to identify, examine and discuss the most critical issues surrounding talent, devising reasonable standards and strategies to attract and retain the best possible talent for our community.

Research Services

4A's Research Services specializes in providing marketing insights and thought leadership to help members with their new business efforts and client growth strategies. This powerful resource offers customized research analysis, Research Insights white papers, topical webinars, online research content, and hands-on database access for member agencies.

Industries Trends and Profiles
In response to frequent requests by member agencies, 2013 saw the introduction of a new website section on vertical industries. Curated by Research Services professionals, it contains industry profiles, current research reports, rankings, statistics, consumer behavior and forecasts for nine broad categories: Banking & Financial, Travel, Food & CPG, Automotive, Healthcare, Retail, Restaurants, Home & Garden and Tech & Electronics. Category pages contain reports and insights extracted from hundreds of articles, along with infographics and staff-generated charts.

Social Media Monitoring and Reporting

In 2013, the 4A's conducted a survey of agency social media monitoring and reporting behavior, including tools and metrics used, budgets, location of the function in agencies, and frequency and method of reporting results to clients. The findings corroborated anecdotal evidence from Netvibes that this is a function agencies haven't completely figured out yet. A subsequent webinar on the topic in conjunction with Netvibes attracted a large number of attendees and was very well-received.

Fresh Press
Fresh Press is the popular digital dashboard of RSS feeds from more than 150 websites. It is organized into 16 continually updated marketing channels, making it a user-friendly current awareness tool. Newly added in 2013 was the ability for agency users to customize the dashboard to their own preferences, adding personalized channels tailored to their own interests.

Customized Research Analysis
Research Services conducted over 10,000 research projects in 2013 on topics related to agency trends, the changing American demographic profile, consumer behavior and hundreds of prospect and client categories.

Member agencies credited 4A's Research with being their secret weapon behind successful new business pitches in 2013. In addition, 85% of member agencies relied on Research Services as an extension of internal agency staff for essential information to give them a competitive edge.

4A's Benefits

4A's Benefits designs and manages insurance and benefits programs exclusively for 4A's members.

2013 proved to be a successful year for members enrolled in 4A's Benefits' programs. During the last year, significant advantages to our offerings came as a result of actions out of Washington, DC.

Health Insurance
4A's Benefits, in conjunction with partner National General Insurance, provided an alternative health insurance program to many member agencies who were seeing significant rate increases with their current carrier. It wasn't unusual to see an agency with a 100% renewal increase coming to 4A's Benefits seeking help. And in many cases, we were able to succeed in getting them better insurance at a lower cost.

Retirement Plan Services
With the Department of Labor's regulation requiring disclosures of fee and expenses in full effect, 4A's Benefits was able to provide agencies not in our program with free analysis of their current retirement plan costs. In most circumstances, agencies were able to benefit from significant savings by moving over to the 4A's Retirement Plan – and many did.

Workers' Compensation Insurance
Member agencies enrolled in the Workers' Compensation Program enjoyed a dividend equal to 61% of premium cost. Unlike insurance carriers who keep policy profits, the 4A's program returns the profit to policy holders in the form of a dividend. This is one reason why the program has over a 70% market share.

For a complete report of all of the Association's 2013 programs and initiatives, click the links below:

    The 4A's Management Services team works with members and marketers to develop guidance and benchmarks to facilitate the effective and profitable management of agency operations.
    The 4A's agency relations team visited more than 250 member agencies, facilitated over 60 local council board meetings, and participated in 22 CEO Forum discussion.
    In 2013, the 4A's continued its efforts to program and execute world class events that offer professional development, strategic networking and strengthened its portfolio of conferences.
    In the past year, the 4A's amplified its commitment to provide our community with multiple opportunities to engage with highly qualified individuals from all sources of the talent pipeline.
    Throughout 2013, 4A's Washington successfully advanced the agenda of the agency community by working effectively with our members and other associations, and by advocating directly at the state and Federal levels of government.
    After more than 7 weeks of intense negotiations in 2013, the JPC and SAG-AFTRA successfully concluded negotiations for new 3-year collective bargaining contracts.
    The 4A's Research Services division continued to specialize in providing marketing insights and thought leadership to help members with their new business efforts and client growth strategies.
    The 4A's began efforts in 2013 to highlight and showcase the talents of millennials working in the industry with a Rising Stars panel at the its annual Transformation conference.
    2013 proved to be a successful year for members enrolled in 4A's Benefits' programs with significant advantages to offerings that were a result of actions that came out of Washington, DC.

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