4A's unveils non-discrimination vendor recommendations


As we detailed days ago, The 4A’s and its Media Policy Committee is recommending standardized best practices in non-discrimination vendor policies and procedures. The framework also includes consideration of a vendor complaint review process. The new policy extends to all media advertising — including broadcast, print, cable, and online. Discriminatory dictates have been estimated to cost minority broadcasters some $200 million every year in revenue.

Said 4A’s CEO Nancy Hill: “The 4A’s keeps a keen and insightful eye on the needs and interests of our members that could have a direct impact on the advertising business. Much of what we learn comes from the collaborative spirit of our committees. There has been recent discussion pertaining to vendor non-discrimination policies and practices in the advertising industry. I’m pleased to inform you that the 4A’s Media Policy Committee, chaired by Bill Koenigsberg, President/Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Media, has developed standardized best practices for non-discrimination vendor policies and procedures. As most of you know, it is my firm belief that advertising works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate – whether that’s the people working in our industry or those doing business with the industry. Best practice recommendations serve to strengthen our industry as a whole.”

“Many of our members have made it a goal to provide equal opportunity for all media vendors, supplier and agents,” said Koenigsberg.  “We want to make sure all members have the same information to work with and continue to expand their outreach including but not limited to proper training, education and internal guidelines that provide a forum for open discussions. Access to all makes for better advertising.”

Said Koenigsberg to all 4A’s members:
“There has been recent discussion pertaining to vendor non-discrimination policies and practices in the advertising industry. Consistent with industry best practice, the 4A’s Media Policy Committee recommends that agencies establish non-discrimination vendor policies and procedures.

The 4A’s Media Policy Committee has developed an illustrative vendor non-discrimination policy framework that might be incorporated in an agency’s policy manual and employee training materials. The illustrative policy framework includes consideration of a vendor complaint review process.

In developing a vendor non-discrimination policy, agencies should evaluate the firm’s service offering and vendor selection practices prior to developing their agency’s vendor non-discrimination agency procedures. 4A’s also recommends that: (1) agency vendor nondiscrimination policy and employee training initiatives re-enforce non-discrimination statutory requirements and (2) that agencies involve legal counsel in the design and implementation of any vendor non-discrimination policy.”

As we reported before, here is the recommended policy and complaint review process:
[Insert here name of agency: hereafter Agency] is dedicated to a policy of equal opportunity for all media vendors, suppliers and agents (“Vendors”).

Subject to the protection of Agency’s and its clients’ confidential information, Agency will clearly communicate selection criteria to all appropriately qualified Vendors. Consistent with each Agency client’s marketing communications strategies, effective media target audience planning, and efficient media buying practices, Agency policy is to grant equal opportunity to all such Vendors.

Complaint Review Process
A Vendor that feels it has been the victim of discriminatory buying practices by Agency shall be provided the opportunity to voice its dissatisfaction through Agency’s complaint review process. For purposes of this review process, discriminatory buying practices shall be defined as any buying policy that is in conflict with FCC media regulations, and thereby negates equal opportunity.

Agency will provide each of its Vendors with the opportunity to present in writing the basis of its dissatisfaction to Agency’s Discrimination Complaint Review Committee. Based on its findings, the committee may request a meeting with the Vendor to discuss all pertinent information related to the complaint.

“Working with the 4A’s and its Media Policy Committee in the adoption of non-discrimination media vendor policy and establishing a process to address these issues represents a historic moment,” said Sherman Kizart, Managing Director of Kizart Media Partners.  “I look forward to expanding our current discussions on how committee members can help bridge the gap in opportunities afforded to all minority-owned and minority-targeted media platforms for their clients.”

Listen to Kizart’s comments to RBR-TVBR here

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell was happy with the move: “This is yet another example of the private sector resolving an industry-wide concern without a government mandate to do so. I have been working on this issue since arriving at the Commission in 2006. Shortly thereafter, I was deeply troubled to learn that discriminatory advertising practices – namely ‘no urban’ and ‘no Hispanic’ dictates – existed. Such conduct unjustly harms not only minority-owned broadcasting outlets, but minority consumers as well.  Advertisers deserve credit for their thoughtful efforts in implementing policies to eliminate unjustified bias in advertising and provide complaint mechanisms for victimized vendors.”

As was David Honig, President and Executive Director of the The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC): “MMTC commends the 4A’s for today’s announcement that it has adopted a non-discrimination media vendor policy and complaint review process. This historic achievement will directly combat the invidious “No Urban” and “No Spanish Dictates” that cost minority broadcasters millions of dollars annually…Historically, MMTC has served as both a watchdog of industry practices and a conduit by which whistleblowers anonymously reported advertisers that appeared to be discriminating against minority media because of the race of their audiences. MMTC will continue to serve in these capacities and the new Media Vendor Policy will not change MMTC’s roles. We look forward to the success of the 4A’s policy, and hope that in time it will be expanded to encompass other market distorting practices, such as racial discrimination that manifests itself in rates and contract terms.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We have to agree with McDowell: This is the way all industries should resolve unfair issues such as non-Urban dictates. This is a prime example of broadcasters, agencies and watchdog groups sitting down together and fixing a problem without forcing government intervention. Sure, marketers have the right to market their products to whomever they wish, but throwing out broad brush-stroke no-buy dictates is not the way to do it. If a media outlet reaches a demo the marketer wishes to reach, there is no reason that outlet should be barred anywhere along the line from offering up proposals and negotiating before the game even starts.