The 4A’s Member Code of Conduct

The 4A’s Member Code of Conduct sets forth core principles, best practices and guidelines to which 4A’s members agree and adhere.

The 4A’s Code of Conduct stems from the belief that sound, ethical and transparent business practices act as an assurance to clients, and the brands they represent, that 4A’s member agencies can be trusted and valued partners.

The 4A’s acknowledges that keen and vigorous competition, ethically conducted, is necessary to the growth and health of American business. Additionally, we acknowledge that unethical competitive practices in the advertising business lead to false representations; dilution of service; diversion and erosion of talent; loss of prestige; and a weakening of public confidence, both in marketing messages and the institutions of marketing and advertising.

Importantly, the 4A’s believes that it has a role within the marketing and advertising industry to help develop and support industry-wide initiatives and operational standards that promote the highest level of responsible behavior possible with regard to business practices and processes.

When the industry collaborates on issues of importance to the general public, government intervention is minimized, and self-regulatory measures can be adopted that ensure an unencumbered ecosystem that upholds the belief that citizen rights are observed and protected.

Further, we believe that 4A’s marketing communications agencies should recognize an obligation not only to their clients, but also to one another, the media they employ, and the public at large.

Therefore, the 4A’s Code of Conduct sets forth the following operating principles designed to achieve best practices and guidelines:

  1. We hold that members shall not share or use any non-public, confidential, “members only” or other proprietary information, regardless of source, with other members, affiliate groups, business units or companies for the benefit of gaining a competitive edge. Similarly, 4A’s members shall not solicit, accept or use non-public or confidential information obtained by an affiliate or business unit.
  2. In the interest of objectivity where a member is owned by an entity, in part or whole, regardless of the company’s primary business or where a member owns an interest in a medium or supplier, it is to be disclosed to the 4A’s, to the member’s clients and, in the case of media ownership, to other media as well. This also applies to ownership of media-related technology platforms.
  3. The 4A’s expects members to be active within the marketing communications business to foster the health and well-being of the industry and the clients it serves.
  4. We hold that the marketing communications agency should compete on merit and not by attempts to discredit or disparage a competitor, directly or by inference, or by circulating harmful rumors. 4A’s members should also work to promote the integrity of the industry and refrain from disparaging the broader industry, as well as individual competitors.
  5. In addition to supporting and obeying the predominant laws and legal regulations pertaining to advertising, members agree to extend and broaden the application of high ethical standards that benefit the public, the advertiser, the media and 4A’s members themselves. Specifically, 4A’s members will not knowingly create, place or distribute:

1) Statements, suggestions or pictures offensive to public decency or minority segments of the population.

2) Marketing messages that are intentionally discriminatory, offensive, false or stereotypical.

Comparative messaging shall be governed by the same standards of truthfulness, claim substantiation, etc. that apply to other forms of advertising.

  1. Members must take reasonable steps to employ third-party vendors who abide by the 4A’s Member Code of Conduct. In addition, 4A’s members must strive to engage only with reputable supplier and media platforms, as found in the guidelines set forth by the Trustworthy Accountability Group.
  2. Furthermore, members are called upon to avoid employing known advertising formats that are particularly annoying, interruptive or obstructive to consumers as outlined by the Coalition for Better Ads. Members should also prioritize businesses that comply with 4A’s-supported 3MS Standards in media measurement.
  3. We also hold that where marketing messages are placed in a medium that is able to identify a consumer’s personal behavior for the purpose of maximizing engagement, the consumer shall be provided an opportunity to “opt out” or decline the messaging, as established by the Digital Advertising Alliance.
  4. In addition to the preceding stated operating principles, it is our strong conviction that trust and transparency are the cornerstones of the agency and client relationship. To underscore and reinforce that belief, the 4A’s created Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct to distill and clarify the standards of conduct that should inform and guide all client and agency relationships. It is imperative that member agencies collaborate with their clients to ensure that contractual provisions regarding media buying and issues related to transparency are mutually understood.
  5. 4A’s members understand that a diverse environment helps achieve strong business results and growth. Therefore, in addition to not discriminating against groups in employment, 4A’s members will actively seek to diversify their workforce at all levels across race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, disability status and nationality, leveraging the 4A’s Creating a Sustainable Culture of Difference framework.

Finally, we hold that by signing the 4A’s Code of Conduct, our member agencies commit to adhere to these principles, as they are not only in our industry’s best interests but those of the clients and brands they serve as well.


4A’s Antitrust Policy