Disagreements over terminology and what depth of detail around contractual agreements should/should not be included in the guidelines allegedly led to a breakdown in communication between the two groups.
The groups reached an "impasse" in December, when the ANA and 4A's disagreed over whether to push forth with a preliminary draft of guidelines or to wait until spring when independent auditors hired by the ANA had concrete data and findings to share.
“Even if you’re getting down to the ‘ofs, ifs, ands’ in guidelines, you do it with such great precision and care that the principles are clear, forceful and understood by all parties forevermore,” Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA, told AdExchanger. “We didn’t feel like it was clear enough, bold enough or robust enough, especially around audit rights so that marketers knew what they needed to do to follow their money or investments.”
But the writing had been on the wall since October when the ANA, seemingly on its own accord, hired K2 Intelligence and Ebiquity/FirmDecisions to probe key industry constituents – from agencies to publishers and advertisers.
While these efforts were supposed to buttress the transparency task force’s joint effort, some say the 4A's didn't have much input. The ANA simply noted at the time that it “looked forward to sharing K2’s findings with our colleagues at the American Association of Advertising Agencies.”
“Because we didn’t want to get into fistfights over anything that didn’t have any grounding at this point, we wanted to simply wait for the report in the spring,” Liodice said of the 4A's early guideline release. “We did try to work with the 4A's, but as far as what the industry needs to know – we said early on that we would find out in late spring whether everything is clean and fine or we’ve got problems as an industry."
Hill countered: “Our members have been waiting for this guidance for a very long time and, we didn't feel we could hold off any longer.”