As the representative of ad professionals, AAF’s principal mission is to protect and promote the reputation of the advertising profession. It also performs an extensive local education and networking function through both its professional and college chapters.
Nationally, AAF is the outlet for its local members to set standards for truthful and responsible advertising and to take a stance on advertising issues and legislation.
The organization, formed in 1967 through the merger of the Advertising Federation of America and the Advertising Association of the West, in 1984 adopted "The Advertising Principles of American Business" to define standards for truthful and responsible advertising.
AAF has also been heavily involved in efforts to promote diversity in the ad business, including encouraging the recruitment of people of diverse cultures. The AAF Foundation awards the Crain Diversity Grants, sponsored by Crain Communications Inc., publisher of Advertising Age, recognizing and funding exemplary cultural diversity initiatives undertaken by affiliated AAF local clubs. In recent years, AAF has also adopted diversity guidelines for marketers and ad agencies, the Mosaic Principles & Recommended Practices.
AAF also uses the talents of its members to help solve community problems. In addition, it is involved in the Alliance for Youth, which furthers the AAF's goal of bringing more young people into the advertising industry.
AAF has been heavily involved in industry self-regulatory activities. It is a partner with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Council of Better Business Bureaus in the National Advertising Review Council, which resolves complaints about advertising.
AAF also supports a self-regulating system to protect consumer privacy on the Internet. To that end, it joined the Online Privacy Alliance. The alliance provides extensive guidelines for maintaining online privacy, particularly emphasizing ways to safeguard the privacy of children.
In 1999, the organization surveyed 1,800 top managers and found that most executives placed a lower priority on advertising than on product development, strategic planning or public relations when it came to increasing sales. In light of that, the AAF selected Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, to create a continuing integrated campaign to stress the significance of advertising to business leaders.
The AAF annually sponsors the AAF National Conference for corporate members, local federation members, college students and professors in the field of advertising, corporate recruiters, exhibitors and media representatives; the AAF Government Affairs Conference and the AAF Marketing Conference.
The AAF's ADDY Awards, honoring advertising excellence, are the biggest creative advertising competition in the U.S. Other AAF awards include the Advertising Hall of Achievement, the National Student Advertising Competition, the AAF Club Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Advertising Educator award. Perhaps the most prestigious industry award of all is election to the Advertising Hall of Fame, created in 1948 by the Advertising Federation of America to recognize lifetime achievement in the industry. Candidates are judged on their advertising careers, contributions to the betterment of advertising and its reputation, and volunteer efforts outside the workplace.
Members of the AAF Hall of Fame include such advertising luminaries as David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett and J. Walter Thompson, as well as notable personalities such as Benjamin Franklin, whose General magazine featured the first known U.S. advertisement in 1741.
The main office of the AAF is located in Washington; and its Web site is at www.aaf.org. In 2004, AAF had 130 corporate members, 210 local advertising associations, 210 college chapters and more than 50,000 individual members.