4A’s Standards of Practice

(First adopted October 16, 1924; most recently revised October 14, 2016)

We hold that a responsibility of advertising agencies is to be a constructive force in business. This statement of Standards of Practice sets forth core principles that must guide all members of the 4A’s.

We hold that, to discharge this responsibility, advertising agencies must recognize an obligation, not only to their clients, but to the public, the media they employ, and to each other. As a business, the advertising agency must operate within the framework of competition. Keen and vigorous competition, honestly conducted, is necessary to the growth and the health of American business. However, unethical competitive practices in the advertising agency business lead to financial waste, dilution of service, diversion of manpower, loss of prestige, and tend to weaken public confidence both in advertisements and in the institution of advertising.

We hold that transparency and contract compliance are core principles that must exist between an agency and its clients. Trust is the cornerstone of the agency and client relationship. To further these ends, the 4A’s Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct distill and clarify standards of conduct that should inform client and agency relationships.

We hold that the advertising agency should compete on merit and not by attempts at discrediting or disparaging a competitor agency, or its work, directly or by inference, or by circulating harmful rumors about another agency, or by making unwarranted claims of particular skill in judging or prejudging advertising copy.

In addition, the 4A’s has adopted the following creative standards of conduct as being in the best interests of the public, the advertisers, the media, and the agencies themselves. The 4A’s believes these provisions serve as a guide to the kind of agency conduct that experience has shown to be wise, foresighted, and constructive. In accepting membership, the agency agrees to follow it.

We, the members of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, in addition to the supporting and obeying the laws and legal regulations pertaining to advertising, undertake to extend and broaden the application of high ethical standards. Specifically, we will not knowingly create advertising that contains:

a) False or misleading statement’s or exaggerations, visual or verbal

b) Testimonials that do not reflect the real option of the individual(s) involved

c) Price claims that are misleading

d) Claims insufficiently supported or that distort the true meaning or practicable application of statements made by professional or scientific authority

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

We recognize that there are areas that are subject to honestly different interpretations and judgement. Nevertheless, we agree not to recommend to an advertiser, and to discourage the use of advertising that is in poor or questionable taste or that is deliberately irritating though aural or visual content or presentation.

Comparative advertising shall be governed by the same standards of truthfulness, claim substantiation, tastefulness, etc., and apply to other types of advertising.

We also agree that where advertising is 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 with an opportunity to decline the advertising.

These Standards of Practice of the 4A’s come from the belief that sound and ethical practice is good business. Confidence and respect are indispensable to success in a business embracing the many intangibles of agency service and involving relationships so dependent upon good faith.

Clear and willful violations of these Standards of Practice may be referred to the Board of Directors of the 4A’s for appropriate action, including possible annulment of membership as provided by Article IV, Section 5, of the Constitution and By-Laws.