4A's Leadership Conference

No More Remembering What All Those A's Stand For

4A's Rebrands, Makes Other Changes in Bid to Stay Relevant in Changing Industry

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Nancy Hill
Nancy Hill Credit: Art Beaulieu

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Change is in the air at the 4A's Leadership Conference, which kicked off in San Francisco today with a rebranding of the organization -- and a possible nod to the real changes the advertising industry faces.

President-CEO Nancy Hill told attendees that the group, for years known as the American Association of Advertising Agencies, has officially traded its name for its more commonly used acronym, the 4A's. This year's Leadership Conference also marks the last time the event will be held as a stand-alone confab; going forward the event will be merged with the 4A's Media Conference. The joint Leadership and Media Conference is slated to be held next year in Austin, Texas -- a location that organizers called another signal of change, as the trade group is committed to holding important events in cities the ad business calls home, rather than at fancy resorts with golf courses.

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Tom Carroll, president-CEO of TBWA Worldwide and outgoing chairman of the 4A's, said this morning that the ad business has become too splintered, and media agencies and creative agencies must reconvene at the same table.

"We should all be in the same place, in the same room, because it's all the same issue," he said. Mr. Carroll added that consolidation of industry conferences and seminars is a must, given the economic pressures agencies face today, as sheer volume isn't sustainable anymore from a cost perspective.

Tom Carroll
Tom Carroll Credit: Art Beaulieu
Ms. Hill criticized the group's former name, saying aside from being a mouthful, it reflected the organization's history of focusing solely on the business of American ad agencies. She announced that the 4A's is opening up membership to international agencies effective this year, and will also offer membership to educational institutions for the first time so they can take part in the group and access 4A's materials.

These moves come as the 4A's -- under the leadership of Ms. Hill, who took the helm last year -- attempts to transform from a stodgy organization into a group that's relevant to the rapidly changing agency landscape.

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