The 4A’s Media Policy Committee recommends that agencies establish non-discrimination vendor policies and procedures. To that end the committee developed what they call “an illustrative vendor non-discrimination policy framework that might be incorporated in an agency’s policy manual and employee training materials.”
According to the guidelines, each agency should evaluate their vendor selection practices prior to developing a vendor non-discrimination policy. In addition, this process should be a part of employee training initiatives to make sure that all employees are made aware of best practices. Since 2006, employees of IPG have participated in diversity training through our code of conduct which we are asked to review and sign each year. The company’s supplier code of conduct, which took effect in July, can be found at IPGVendorPolicy.
The minority media selection issue was raised back in 2007 when the FCC’s Minority Media and Telecom Council created a non-discrimination rule aimed at eliminating the practice of “No Urban Dictates” and “No Spanish Dictates” in which advertisers exclude African American and Hispanic radio stations and other media from being considered for advertising buys. In 2009, BMW’s Mini division canceled urban media plans because their ad agency presumed minorities couldn’t be tempted to buy the cars. That recommendation got the agency fired.
An important part of the 4A’s best practice guidelines gives minority vendors a complaint review process if they feel excluded by the agency. The guidelines state, 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.”
Adonis Hoffman, Adjunct Professor of Marketing, Advertising and Public Policy at Georgetown University and former general counsel of the 4A’s, called the new guidelines a “starting point” but warned, “There are questions as to whether the agency itself has the capacity to conduct a fair and credible review. Self-regulation in that instance can only go so far. There should be some insurance for retaliation against a minority vendor who raises a red flag. It is human nature to foreclose opportunities on anyone who says you are not playing fair. Ultimately, resolving this problem will hinge on two very simple principles: (1) the decision by agency CEOs to make sure that their down-the-line junior staffers abide by the spirit of the rules, not just the letter, and (2) the decision by agency CEOs to buy minority media, not just tolerate them.”
The FCC’s Minority Media and Telecommunications Council commended the 4A’s for the announcement. “This historic achievement will directly combat the invidious ‘No Urban’ and ‘No Spanish Dictates’ that cost minority broadcasters millions of dollars annually. MMTC understands that 4A’s new policy will extend to all media, including broadcast, print, cable, and online advertising.”
More information can be found at aaaa.org/vendor