AAF asks Clinton to lend support on new ad code

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The American Advertising Federation is calling on the White House to unveil a new industry ad code endorsed by major ad agencies and blue-chip marketers including Procter & Gamble Co., DaimlerChrysler, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft Foods.

AAF is asking President Clinton to introduce the code, called "Principles for Effective Advertising in the American Multicultural Marketplace," in a ceremony next month. The move comes as the industry tries to answer allegations that it has not devoted sufficient resources to minority media.

HIRING, BUYING INCLUDED

The three principles state that the signatories "commit to identify and take advantage of growth opportunities in multicultural markets" and agree to promote "inclusiveness and fairness" throughout the advertising and marketing process, including hiring and media buying. By signing, they also commit to provide anonymous statistics to increase the ad industry's accountability on minority issues.

AAF officials said the principles offer few specific requirements for company action, but they would be accompanied by a set of "recommended practices," and their adoption could have a profound effect on the ad industry.

The White House said it has no event related to the code scheduled at this time.

"It is very historic," said AAF President Wally Snyder. "We feel this type of document will have real impact. It is a commitment at the highest levels of the companies to maximize multicultural activities. The [companies'] commitment is to communicate these principles not only within their companies but also to their vendors and business partners."

The three principles also are intended to respond to criticism of the marketing industry by minority media, ad agencies, some civil rights leaders and the Federal Communications Commission.

Critics contend minority media haven't received a fair share of ad dollars from marketers given minorities' importance as customers. Other complaints are that media agencies pay less for similar ratings and demographics of minorities, and that marketers have in some cases issued dictates against buying Hispanic media.

Ad groups said they believed the principles would promote use of minority media and agencies. John Sarsen, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, said his organization's board is endorsing the code. "Given the players -- some significant marketers, ad agencies and media companies and associations -- it's another step in the right direction," he said, though he conceded, "I don't think anything will be a panacea."

More than a dozen agencies have already endorsed the code, including Campbell-Ewald, Dailey & Associates; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles; Grey Worldwide; Leo Burnett USA; Saatchi & Saatchi and True North Communications. Media company Gruner & Jahr USA also has signed.

FOUR A'S TO ENDORSE

The board of the American Association of Advertising Agencies is expected to endorse the principles at next month's meeting.

The code's first principle pledges "to understand our markets and the communities we serve. . . .Our commitment includes investing sufficient financial resources commensurate with opportunities in all market segments and necessary to bring about the desired results."

The second principle commits companies to promote inclusiveness "from employment and career advancement within our organizations to competition and compensation for creative services and media buys. Collaboration between the general market agency, multicultural specialist agency and client team at the beginning of the overall planning process enhances our effectiveness and the likelihood of achieving our goals."

The final principle addresses development of a standard industry measure to track compliance.

One minority ad agency executive last week questioned whether the principles go far enough.

Caroline Jones, president-creative director of Caroline Jones Inc., New York, warned that part of the second principle regarding "collaboration between the general market agency, multicultural specialist and client," rather than directing use of a minority agency, could increase the amount of money going to minority media but cut out minority agencies from the gains.

"Follow the money," she said. "The question is who is going to get it. Instead of collaborate, it should be `employ' [minority agencies]. Otherwise, you will have the same old greed-grabbing for the money that exists today."

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