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Qualifications for Membership 

First adopted July 19, 1920 - Most recently revised September 19, 2000.

Membership in the American Association of Advertising Agencies is by application and election after the applicant meets the following 4A's Qualifications for Membership:


These qualifications for membership are intended as a definition of the kinds of advertising agencies and other marketing communications organizations most likely to succeed for their clients. They are based on the premise that the organization should be independent, unbiased, and objective; should offer adequate staff and experience; should be ethically operated; and should be soundly financed.

1. Type of Business

Applicants should be an advertising agency or other organization that creates and/or places advertising or marketing communications. A minimum of 50 percent of the applicant's gross income must result from payment for services usually performed by advertising or marketing communications organizations.

2. Size of Applicant

The size of any applicant shall not be a factor in determining qualification for membership, except that an applicant inadequately equipped to service its business shall not be considered eligible.

3. Age of Applicant

No applicant shall be considered for election unless its principal owners have been doing business as an advertising or marketing communications organization for at least two years. This qualification may be waived by the Board of Directors only in exceptional circumstances.

4. Location of Applicant

Only applicants maintaining an office(s) in the United States, its territories, and possessions shall be considered for membership.

5. Ownership, Control, and Bias

a. No applicant shall be eligible unless the persons who exercise operating control of it are employees of the applicant.

b. No applicant shall be eligible if 20% or more of the agency is owned by an advertiser that is also a client of the applicant.

c. In the interest of objectivity, where an applicant owns an interest in a medium or supplier or where a medium or supplier owns an interest in the applicant, it is required that such interest be disclosed to the Association, to the applicant's clients, and, in the case of media ownership, to other media as well. Where there is substantial ownership of such interest by one or more officers or employees of the applicant, similar disclosure is required.

d. An applicant must disclose all facts necessary to determine its eligibility with respect to ownership, control, and possible bias and must agree that, if elected to membership, it will notify the Association promptly of any change that might affect its continued eligibility under these provisions.

6. Service Standards

Only applicants that are committed to provide an adequate quantity and quality of advertising or other marketing communications at a high level of professional and ethical standards shall be eligible for membership. Such services relate to communications to the public, or to desired segments of the public, or to the media, regarding business entities and their legally marketed products and services. An individual applicant is, of course, free to determine with its clients what services it will perform, but it must be committed to the best practices of its area of specialization.

7. Character

Applicants will be evaluated regarding their business record, policies and principles, ethical practices, reputation for honesty, integrity, and sincerity of purpose.

Only applicants who give reasonable assurance of their readiness and ability to uphold the highest ethical standards of the business will be received into membership.

8. Ability

a. Advertising and marketing communications ability varies with individual talent and need; it is difficult to standardize. Nevertheless, sound judgment regarding the applicant's ability can and should be formed by a proper study of:

1. Its staff and facilities
2. Its past service and work produced for clients.

b. The applicant is required to furnish a representative list of its present clients, indicating the nature of the work handled for them, how long it has held each listed account, and, where applicable, a representative list of media with whom it has done business.

9. Financial Responsibility

a. Financial stability, indicated by a satisfactory balance sheet, is important in determining the applicant's qualification. Such statement should either be verified by a Certified Public Accountant, or, if this is not available, sworn to by the applicant.

b. Each applicant is required not only to fill out the balance sheet accompanying the application blank but also to give other such evidence of its financial condition as may be required.

c. The applicant shall be required to furnish as financial references its banking connections and six suppliers with whom it has done business.

d. No applicant shall be admitted to membership until its balance sheet has been approved in accordance with sound banking and accounting standards, except that an applicant whose financial condition does not fully meet the Association's requirement may, in event of unusual merit or desirability in other respects, be admitted by the Board of Directors.

10. Method of Application/Election

Each applicant shall be required to fill out completely the printed form known as "Application for Membership." No application can be referred to a Region for investigation or to the Board of Directors for election unless this form has been properly filled out with all supplementary information and approved as complete by Headquarters.

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