Look Ahead

2024 Look Ahead

CEO Message

The new year always brings excitement around what lies ahead and continued advancements to elevate the value of creativity. Technological innovations are transforming the way we work and how we come together to unleash the business-building potential for industry growth. At the same time, there is understandable concern regarding the applications and implications of new technology.

Gearing Up for Change…and Driving It When Needed

In some areas of our industry, like DEIB and federal data privacy legislation, change is moving too slowly. Here, we must accelerate advocacy efforts and be even more proactive. Then there are areas where an open-minded yet cautious approach is imperative given the rapid pace of change and far-reaching impact. (Hello, GenAI!) We strive to equip members with the right tools to make informed decisions. Transformative opportunities such as mergers and acquisitions warrant unique, tailored strategies and highly specialized expertise. While change is a certainty, the type, scale and impact are often unforeseeable.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to champion and advocate on behalf of our valued members to help empower your success and identify opportunities to move the industry forward. Our wish is for members to thrive and experience positive momentum, growth and impact. We’re focused on a breadth of initiatives to support your ongoing business transformation and talent needs through moments of stability and flux, fully recognizing that one approach does not fit all. From guidance, surveys, and advocacy to individualized consultation and training, our offerings are designed to address our members’ unique needs, challenges and opportunities within the larger landscape of factors that impact the industry as a whole.

As we reflect on recent, key developments, let’s also look ahead at the exciting opportunities and potential challenges for 2024. We’re tuned in across the broader areas of impact, advocacy and talent, and are ready to support our members and the industry through what we anticipate will be a defining year for the advertising and marketing industry.

– Marla Kaplowitz

portrait of 4A's CEO, Marla Kaplowitz

Government Relations & Sustainability

2023 Developments – New Healthcare Privacy Guardrails Emerge

  • Federal regulatory agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Health and Human Services (HHS) are taking steps to establish new rules around privacy, specifically with a renewed focus on establishing guardrails around healthcare privacy.
  • The traditional paradigm of HIPAA-covered information and non-HIPAA covered information has eroded a bit, as both the FTC and the HHS seek to establish more protections around any data that could be considered healthcare data.
  • In addition to new rules and enforcement by federal regulatory agencies, Washington state became the first state in 2023 to pass a privacy bill solely dedicated to healthcare privacy. Nevada passed a similar, although less restrictive law.

2024 Forecast

  • Despite repeated calls for Congress to pass comprehensive and preemptive federal privacy legislation, it still appears that states and federal regulatory agencies will take the lead on privacy in 2024. Expected proposed FTC regulations on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security will shake up the privacy conversation in the year ahead.
  • With thirteen comprehensive state privacy laws and counting, it’s likely that 2024 will see that total grow as more states seek to pass their own privacy legislation. States will start considering standalone healthcare privacy bills next year or amending their existing state data privacy laws to add new protections for consumer health data.
  • While the thirteen laws passed thus far have preserved opt-out (vs. opt-in consent) and have no or very limited private rights of action, it’s not clear that future privacy bills in new states will maintain this current course.

4A’s Initiatives

The 4A’s continues to work through various coalitions to address privacy issues that arise at all levels of government. In late 2023, the 4A’s joined the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) to begin a new effort – Responsible Privacy in Advertising Initiative – intended to help companies bridge the gap between state privacy laws and developing Congressional preferences.

2023 Developments

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed new climate disclosure that would require companies to report Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
  • The White House issued new Scope 1, 2, and 3 reporting requirements for federal contractors.
  • California became the first state to pass legislation mandating Scope 1, 2, and 3 reporting for companies doing business in California.

2024 Forecast

  • With uncertainty around some of these efforts, California’s legislation will likely have a broad impact as the state currently represents the world’s fourth-largest economy.
  • It’s also likely that other states will seek to emulate California’s legislation in 2024 and introduce new carbon emissions reporting requirements.
  • Currently, California’s approach has a fairly high threshold of applicability—an organization has to have over a billion in annual revenue for the law to apply. Should other states seek to follow California’s lead in 2024, it’s likely they’ll lower the threshold of applicability to expand the reporting requirement to more companies.

4A’s Initiatives

In September 2023, the 4A’s announced a partnership with London-based climate success platform 51 to Carbon Zero (51-0) to help 4A’s member agencies establish their carbon footprint. 51-0 helps companies measure, analyze and report their carbon footprint and create accountable transition plans to accelerate their journey to achieve net zero.

51-0 logo

2023 Developments

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) started a process to update its guidance around environmental claims in marketing, also known as the “Green Guides.” These Guides exist to help companies understand the extent and legitimacy of claims that can be made concerning environmental attributes of products and services. As these Guides are only updated every ten years, it’s important that companies weigh in with the FTC during this process.

4A’s Initiatives

The 4A’s submitted comments in April of 2023. The FTC is expected to release updated Green Guides in 2024.

2023 Developments

  • The Department of Labor (DOL) began the process of updating their overtime rule for executive, administrative, and overtime professionals. Significantly, the new rule calls for changing the eligibility threshold for overtime pay from $35,568 to $60,209, an almost 70% increase. The new rule also calls for automatic increases to the overtime eligibility threshold every three years.
  • While some states and cities already have higher thresholds than the proposed $60,209, many do not, particularly in areas with lower living costs. Many industries have expressed concerns to the DOL that this almost 70% increase in the overtime threshold would impose an unsustainable financial burden on companies and would result in reduced levels of hiring at the entry and mid-career levels.

4A’s Initiatives

The 4A’s has partnered with a coalition (Partnership To Protect Workplace Opportunity or PPWO) composed of hundreds of organizations with similar concerns in advocacy against the new proposed overtime rule.

Moreover, the 4A’s submitted comments to the DOL on the proposed overtime rule in late 2023. The DOL is expected to issue a final rule in 2024.

Business Transformation

2023 Developments – Fluctuating Levels of New Business Activity

  • Business development activity levels fluctuated both by time of year, size of agency and size of account.
  • An industry report noted a disappointing level of activity for some, although 4A’s member agencies seemed to fare better.
  • Some large accounts changed hands, while others are still in the midst of the review process.

4A’s Initiatives

Guidance, Recommendations, Surveys, Standards
Building upon the 4A’s/ANA Agency Search Simplification Report, our partnership with the ANA continued with the publication of the The Cost of The Pitch Report. This research was conducted by Advertiser Perceptions and for the first time ever, quantified the cost of a pitch to a client organization.

The total average cost of a new pitch, to the agency and client combined, is over one million dollars.
I wish I had seen this report three months ago. I don't think I would have called a review. A marketer reacted to The Cost of the Pitch.

The 4A’s and the ANA believe two areas require further investigation:

  • Cost/Price was the top factor considered when selecting a new agency (62%)
  • ‘Emphasizing a commitment to developing long-term relationships’ was the top factor for clients and agencies in reducing the need for incumbent reviews

Phase II of The Cost of The Pitch will offer a deep dive into these two subjects.

  • We aim to uncover the relationship between cost/price and value, and which is ultimately more important to clients.
  • We also want to understand the expected actions and behaviors associated with the commitment to long-term relationships.

The 4A’s and the ANA plan to present the findings of this second phase at the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference in May 2024.

Simplified RFI Template For Agency Reviews

  • The 4A’s and the ANA are evaluating the opportunity to develop an RFI template to help simplify and bring consistency to what is typically the initial phase of an agency review.
  • Given the overall complexity of the current agency search process, combined with the new data indicating how expensive it is for both marketers and agencies, there is growing interest in a process overhaul. Assessing the real appetite for change, and the willingness to undertake it will be top of mind this year.

2024 Business Development Recommendations

Regardless of economic trends, marketers must continue to focus on building and growing their business while planning for, and anticipating working with fewer resources.

4A’s Recommendations for Retaining and Winning Clients

  • Strengthen Retention Strategies: Continue to build trust and loyalty with your current clients and deliver excellence consistently. Be proactive. Bring new ideas to the table. Offer solutions to their problems. And never, ever grow complacent.
    During an Advertising Week panel discussion, an agency search consultant raised complacency as a key reason for a client to call a review. Like every relationship, the client/agency relationship warrants constant TLC. Remember to “love the one you’re with.”
  • Prioritize Positioning: Develop and reiterate a crystal clear agency positioning that is relevant to your prospects and conveys authentic differentiation.
  • Focus, Focus, Focus: Invest time and energy in prospects and new business opportunities your agency has the right to win.
  • Establish Expertise: Create and sustain effective and consistent outreach with original, thought leadership content. Position yourself as an expert in the fields in which your prospects operate.

4A’s Initiatives

​​If disruption and transformation are the twin forces impacting our industry, then operations are the lifeblood of an agency, determining its ability to adapt and compete effectively.

The 4A’s and the Agency Operations & Business Transformation committee, a cross-discipline group of finance, HR, operations, technology and project management professionals, is focused on helping agencies navigate the accelerated pace of change across people, process and technology.

Thanks to the leadership of 4A’s member executives, the committee will publish in early 2024 an Agency Operations/Business Transformation Standards Playbook focused on five key areas:

  • scope of work management
  • resources management/billability
  • change management/business transformation
  • technology strategy/investment
  • finance/operations collaboration strategies.

2024 Forecast

No conversation about transformation is complete without recognizing the explosive entry and rise of Generative AI this past year. Generative AI is poised to be one of the most disruptive technologies in recent history. In 2024, the committee will focus on helping agencies tap into the tremendous potential of Generative AI and automation, adopting it into their culture, policies, operations and work product.

While agencies and advertisers are adapting and evolving in response to industry demands, compensation structures have lagged behind. Recognizing this disparity, the 4A’s is committed to continue addressing compensation and providing guidance around alternative compensation models, especially given AI’s accelerating impact on the industry.

4A’s Initiatives

We continue to collaborate actively with our valued members and the ANA to provide insights, engage stakeholders, and advocate for the exploration of innovative compensation approaches. 

Our goal is to propel compensation practices into the future, fostering stronger relationships that yield positive impacts on business outcomes for both agencies and marketers.

Our upcoming guidance paper on alternative compensation models will help agencies and advertisers consider a broader spectrum of options and make informed decisions that are favorable to all stakeholders.

2023 Developments – Extended Payment Terms Guidance

Our paper, The Ripple Effect of Extending Payment Terms, highlighted the far-reaching impact unfair and longer-than-standard payment terms can have on the industry. Such terms lead to negative consequences that cascade through the system, resulting in strained relationships with clients and vendors, reduced flexibility, and higher costs. Furthermore, extended terms can pose a threat to the business models and livelihoods of smaller players including diverse suppliers in the marketing supply chain. We are committed to continuing this important conversation and helping our members navigate these complexities in 2024.

4A’s Initiatives

Surveys Provide Insight and Perspective
In the ever-evolving landscape of the agency world, the 4A’s has been a source of insight and guidance for decades. 2024 promises to be no different. With the advent of hybrid work models, shifting salary expectations, and technological advancements, the 4A’s is gearing up to continue providing a wealth of essential surveys and benchmarks to its members. These surveys serve as powerful tools for agency leaders, enabling them to make informed decisions that foster growth and keep them competitive. Here’s what you can you expect this year:

  • an updated Analysis of Agency Costs
  • a deep dive into the ever-changing landscape of technology
  • a benchmark survey for operational decision making

Media, Tech & Data

Recent Developments

The TV marketplace is changing rapidly due to a number of factors including:

  • changing consumer preferences
  • new data sets
  • distribution channels
  • monetization approaches
  • advertising models

TV measurement and currency have also evolved, but at a slower pace, resulting in an incomplete picture of even basic, unduplicated delivery and reach & frequency of ad campaigns. The pandemic and “streaming wars” altered the landscape and hastened change leaving the industry once again in a moment of transition.

The sell-side appears to be deliberately intermingling media measurement and media currency. Unlike media owners who see a revenue benefit by adopting multiple currencies, agencies are revenue-neutral in this process. The effort and resources involved in customizing tools and systems to different currencies, incorporating data points into specific research, analysis on audience trends, client competitive benchmarking and prepping for the upfronts add up to increased overhead costs for agencies and marketers.

Currency and measurement are two distinct concepts in the context of advertising:

Currency: the form of payment used to buy ad space or time.

Measurement: the process of evaluating the performance and success of an ad campaign using various metrics.

Both currency and measurement are crucial but distinct elements to ensure effective and successful marketing efforts.

4A’s Initiatives

The 4A’s published a simplified guide outlining the differences between video measurement and video currency.

We also published guidance for the 2023 upfronts that our members found useful.

Measurability and Privacy: Two Sides of the Coin

TV has become more addressable and measurable in ways that would not have seemed possible a decade ago. On the other hand, increasingly complex privacy regulations are starting to affect existing and emerging TV buying and measurement practices. The impact is broader than compliance and cost. It is structural, impeding the ability of the ad ecosystem participants (programmers, distributors, brands, agencies, and vendors) to access and use data in ways that they have come to expect. 

4A’s Initiatives

The 4A’s and CIMM launched a study with consulting firms ThinkMedium and Shullman Advisory to explore the impact of an ever-growing roster of state-level privacy laws and platform requirements, their impact on the future of TV measurement and advanced TV advertising, and potential solutions that will work for the advertising ecosystem. The results of this market leading study were published in December 2023 and can be found here: Privacy and the Future of TV Advertising.

4A’s Recommendations

Privacy regulations and platform policies are creating significant uncertainties for the advertising industry and its data practices. With the rise of connected TV (CTV) alongside broadcast/linear, planning, activation, and measurement solutions have been iterating for a number of years, and privacy changes are only adding to the state of flux. When considering the optimal, privacy-forward approach to TV advertising, we recommend the following structure and provocations:

  1. The move towards privacy is about people. The advertising ecosystem depends on a fair value exchange between people (consumers) and businesses, and regulators, consumers, and their advocates are demanding privacy rights and protections as a part of that exchange. Individual US states and platforms controlling devices and operating systems have been developing privacy-motivated policies, and their impact creates another layer of complexity.
    The 4A’s perspective: Unless a more complex approach is justified by revenue, strategy, or your business model, do not get distracted by the details of state-by-state legislation. Create an approach that meets the highest bar required for compliance and build towards that across your practices and solutions.
  2. Channels and formats matter. Legacy TV planning/activation and measurement solutions are relatively resilient to privacy concerns, as they generally rely less on people-based signals.
    The 4A’s perspective: Long-form video is a more established, standardized media format and has corresponding advertising solutions with resilient foundations. However, cross-media advertising will require newer techniques if more granular planning/activation and measurement are desired.
  3. Innovate with emerging solutions. Certain CTV use cases cannot be served by established solutions alone and require newer tools. However, emerging solutions have more nuanced privacy considerations given the use cases they support and the data they require – especially while corresponding regulatory and industry consensus is still forming.
    The 4A’s perspective: Test and learn with new solutions. Consider ease of implementation, fragmentation or interoperability, and the ability to scale with more or less granular data. Priority of investment depends on the scale of the participants and data you are measuring, as well as signals of emerging standards. Adopting privacy-enhancing technologies as enablers will be advantageous over time.

Applying the Study’s Findings: Capitalize On Opportunities, Embrace Privacy, Mitigate Risks

Television, once dominated by traditional TV programming, has joined the digital revolution with the rise of CTV, mobile, and on-demand streaming. Advertisers are now able to capitalize on linear and Advanced TV offerings. Alongside these shifts, privacy-forward regulations and platform policies have arisen to address consumers’ demands for privacy. Embracing privacy is not only crucial for compliance, but also for ensuring continued business success which is dependent on meeting the needs of customers. Businesses have a strategic opportunity to proactively mitigate the impact of future privacy changes by identifying areas of potential risk and adjusting their current planning, activation, and measurement practices accordingly.

We urge our members to review the heat maps in the report, create their own risk tolerance heat maps and use those to help guide their business initiatives.

Recent Developments

The advertising industry has begun to recommend ways in which agencies and marketers can adjust their media practices to make them more sustainable through a combination of tactical measures, as well as implementing systemic transformations to address the environmental challenges. A growing number of clients also now expect agencies to adhere to ESG frameworks and/or reporting platforms.

4A’s Environmental Social Governance Paper provides support for agencies looking to better understand the proliferation of reporting platforms and options to determine the right approach given evolving client preferences.

4A’s Initiatives

The 4A’s (in partnership with our Sustainability Committee and the industry at large) created Sustainable Performance Guidance, which includes tactics that agencies can deploy to make their media practices more sustainable, as well as a set of RFP questions to consider while engaging with vendors in this space.

One of the key sustainability tactics is to discontinue support of MFA (Made For Arbitrage) sites. The 4A’s worked closely with the ANA and other industry bodies to clearly define MFA placements/sites and ways that agencies can identify and minimize spend on MFA sites.

Corporate America’s primary approach to DEIB as a compulsory course correction or nice-to-have option has devalued its role as an overall business imperative.

Unlike sales, marketing, technology, finance and other areas that seldom have their business value questioned, DE&I has not been seen as an essential strategy and growth driver.”

4A’s Recommendations

  • Start and/or continue conversations about how diverse suppliers and diverse audiences will be included in campaigns. This isn’t a conversation solely for strategists, media planners or creative developers, but one that requires all levels across the agency and advertiser to be in sync.
  • Establish clear goals to determine what KPIs will be used to gauge success. Then, evaluate which channels will be used and how you will build authentic creative that resonates with audiences. Finally, build relationships with diverse audiences through purposeful messaging.

2024 Forecast

  • We anticipate advertisers rethinking creative development to incorporate multiple messages and concepts creating more relevant messaging for the desired audiences. Multi-language formats, different creative messaging and culturally relevant talent are aspects of this approach. 
  • We expect more fragmented and customized campaigns that reach smaller subsets of consumers where they are. This ongoing media fragmentation continues to challenge the ability to achieve  “mass” appeal.

4A’s Initiatives

Get our latest guidance on working with diverse suppliers here.
Look for our upcoming webinar series featuring interviews and case studies from agencies and advertisers who have successfully diversified their supplier network. We hope such case studies will give you a clear blueprint as you embark on a similar journey.

Advancing Talent

The emphasis on talent remains steady as the industry rebounds and resets from the Great Resignation and shifts towards the Great Compromise with the evolution of return-to-office policies. One thing that’s been a constant throughout these shifts is the continuous refining of the way we view, manage and train talent in the workplace.

Where organizations once invested in responsive approaches to address individual talent needs, this now requires a strategic focus on creating pathways to advance all talent. This represents a paradigm shift centered around career-focused opportunities that provide expanded talent experiences and skills-designed learning that drives productivity and inspires inclusive agency communities. From non-traditional and emerging talent to high potential and experienced professionals, the 4A’s Talent, Equity & Learning Solutions team continues to identify and create pathways that build people and grow agency careers.

Common Ground Talent Solutions

While 2023 continued to highlight concerns around navigating hybrid workspaces, evolving agency culture, and finding ways to engage and develop talent, 2024 will demand a common ground approach rooted in establishing trust between agencies and their employees. Unifying talent solutions will dismantle boundaries and forge connections that transcend team, title, or role. As agencies rethink the value propositions of how to attract, nurture, and keep top talent, there’s an opportunity to rewrite the rulebook on achieving a more inclusive and imaginative future of work.

4A’s Initiatives

Guidance, Resources, Training and Sourcing
We’re focused on equipping member agencies with guidance and deployable solutions that meet the needs of an evolving talent workforce including these efforts in 2024:

  • Future of Work Guidance: Evolving agency culture best practices, hybrid work updates, employee engagement and wellbeing support.
  • DEIB Resources: Open-sourced member content, best practices and guidance focused on operationalizing DEIB as a business imperative.
  • Career Design: “Total Rewards” career mapping guidance and agency support.
  • Workforce Transformation: Understanding new agency roles, job titles and evolving workforce models including ongoing guidance on labor laws impacting talent.
  • Talent Sourcing: Best practices designed to attract, retain, and develop diverse agency talent. Expanded talent cohorts through our partnership with Catalyte providing skilled talent through apprenticeships addressing digital media and programmatic training while expanding to add account management and project management skills.

Momentum in the Middle: Helping Managers Drive Performance and Belonging

Managers sit at the nexus of performance and belonging. We all know the cliché: “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” But managers leave companies that don’t support them. Or worse—they stay and take it out on their teams.

4A’s Initiatives: Preparing Managers to Lead

Strengthening managers is key to organizational health and one of the needs we hear loud and clear from our members. In 2023, the 4A’s Learning Institute provided several free customized courses and certifications for managers that emphasized the vital relationship between performance and belonging. In 2024, we’ll expand these offerings through support for managers and leaders via coaching groups, free content resources, additional training programs, and white papers.

Resources for Emerging Professionals

As agencies diversify their talent pipelines by expanding their acquisition strategies, the need to provide context and support for emerging talent grows even stronger. Tearing paper floors and breaking glass ceilings takes trampolines, helmets, and pointy shoes. The Learning Institute’s Agency Accelerator certificate programs provide emerging professionals with the context, perspective, and strategies they need to apply their skills to agency work quickly and with maximum impact. These include certifications in Agency Fundamentals, Marketing Essentials, Media Essentials, and Strategic and Creative Thinking.

  • This year we will launch new programs focused on Agency Communications, Business Skills, Writing with AI, and more.

Free Content to Support Member Success

Member agencies always receive free consultation and guidance as well as significant discounts on Learning Institute training programs. Last year, the Learning Institute provided 4A’s member agencies with free content for managers, emerging professionals, account leads and strategists, including content entire teams could benefit from.

What type of free content would you like in 2024? Let us know!
While we had over 10,000 registrations across our training programs in 2023, this year we plan to share even more free resources and want to hear from you on how to deliver the most value. Click here to let us know which free content would have the most impact for your agency.

4A’s Initiatives

The 4A’s Foundation exists to advocate for and connect diverse talent to the marketing industry. We celebrate a community that fosters a culture of curiosity, creativity and craft to fuel a more ​equitable future. By investing in and developing them, we believe that possibilities are endless.​

This year, we’re excited to launch the 4A’s Foundation’s Alliance for an Equitable Future Funding Consortium, inviting organizations to pledge an investment to support diverse talent with an annual commitment over the next two years. The 4A’s is offering the industry an opportunity to rise to the challenge and match our pledge of $100,000 ($50K per year). By joining the consortium you will be part of a visible and transformative platform, playing a lead role in giving emerging professionals access to the equitable pathway they deserve. Your investment will play a key role in diversifying and strengthening our industry by aligning with programs that stand out to brands, consumers and your teams. Is your organization up for the challenge? If so, please reach out to [email protected] for more information.

Attracting Young Talent Via Education Partnerships

The 4A’s Foundation equips and prepares young, non-traditional talent to enter our industry through two advertising high schools in NYC: The High School of Innovation in Advertising and Media (iAM) and The Manhattan Early College School for Advertising (MECA). These schools and their advertising programs are geared toward ensuring diverse talent has a pipeline into the industry from the inception of their higher education. As of 2023, both schools are now P-Tech (Pathways in Technology) accredited, extending through sophomore year of college as students graduate with an Associates degree. Students receive cost-free intensive academic support and workplace learning that prepares them and educates their families on careers in our industry.

Continuing in 2024, agencies, partners and brands are invited to actively participate in these programs that offer meaningful engagement with students and teachers through immersion and professional development days, career days and our meaningful ReACT pitch competition for students.

Going Beyond: MAIP – The Next 50

Our premier program, MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Intern Program), continues to identify stellar diverse college students and prepare them for a career in advertising and marketing through an immersive program and internship. We were inspired and encouraged by strong support from members, partners, and the broader industry community for MAIPs Golden Gala fundraiser in honor of the 50th Anniversary in October 2023. We expect an increased commitment and investment in the MAIP Fellowship program this year. Our interns will once again be ready for opportunities in your organizations on day one, a fact borne out by our permanent hire average of above 80% post MAIP Fellowship. 

With a renewed resolve to collectively create the future industry we want to see, we’re expanding our signature MAIP Alumni Summit into a broader offering for mid-level professionals to connect, grow and accelerate their industry career. Stay tuned for our Talent Summit in Fall ’24.


The VANGUARD Program has supported and championed high-potential and mid-senior level Black professionals (and their organizations, including leadership) for the past three years with over 179 fellows graduating. We are excited to expand the Vanguard franchise with a program created for the LatinX community kicking off in early 2024. VANGUARD LatinX is a targeted approach to retain LatinX talent in the advertising and marketing industry. The program will support talent identified by their organization as a rising star/future transformative leader to not only address the specific needs of the LatinX community, but to help create a professional environment centered around growth, exposure and impact.

I started off in the program as an Integrated Media Strategist and I am ending the program as an Integrated Media Strategy Supervisor. So, I am a true testament to how the learnings and practices can be implemented and impact you at work. The VANGUARD program has benefited my career by giving me tangible leadership practices and by showing me how to be a leader who is balanced, well-versed and efficient. It’s taught me to show my human side.

Myself and so many others in the industry appreciate the 4A's for continuing to welcome diverse voices, push boundaries on challenging topics, and for acting as the north star guiding best practices, policies and changes evolving agencies and advertising as a whole forward.

Mergers, Acquisitions & Succession Planning

Today, our members find themselves at a critical juncture, evaluating the ‘partner, build or buy‘ decision amidst a climate of economic unpredictability and heightened risks. This period is further characterized by the imperative to attract and retain top-tier talent while simultaneously addressing the succession challenges prompted by the retirement of baby boomer leaders. This dynamic is anticipated to drive an emphasis on succession planning preparedness this year.

Recent Developments – Building Value Through Pre-Close Planning Activities

  • In response to the evolving landscape and macro economic pressures, many members are recalibrating their strategies, temporarily pushing out long-term M&A deal execution to prioritize near-term internal transformation and strategic readiness.
  • This shift is deeply rooted in leveraging data-driven business planning and operational efficiency to effectively navigate—and possibly overcome—the current period of unpredictability.
  • By focusing inward, agencies are exploring new growth opportunities and process improvements as well as undertaking internal restructuring.
  • These efforts are seen as crucial for building a foundation of lean and efficient operations that can withstand and thrive in turbulent times​​​​.

The Growing Importance of Post-Deal Integration

  • Companies are recognizing that successfully closing a deal is just the beginning of a new set of challenges.
  • Achieving the desired outcomes from M&A transactions depends significantly on transformation efforts initiated well before and during the deal execution process.
  • There is a deeper understanding that the key to successful M&A lies not only in the transaction itself but also in the thorough preparation and associated follow-through.

4A’s Initiatives

A notable surge in 4A’s Mergers, Acquisitions and Succession inquiries, particularly in areas such as strengthening internal capabilities, broadening competencies, and conducting valuation services – with a focus on how to best value intangible assets – witnessed a remarkable 400% increase in 2023. This trend is not just a fleeting occurrence; it indicates a continuing trajectory that we expect to extend into 2024.

Planning ahead and ensuring support for the agency talent is paramount for any consideration of M&A and succession planning. The 4A’s guide Elevating Talent Management: Navigating Mergers, Acquisitions, Successions, and Divestitures with Employee Retention Strategies, provides an overview of how to assess options to align with your business strategy.

2024 Forecast – The Emerging Role of Intangible Assets & Technology Enhancements

  • Acquirers are expected to carefully focus on targets closer to home, ensuring a strong cultural fit and thoroughly executing pre-close planning, due diligence, and valuation activities.
  • Intangible asset evaluation ensures a more holistic reflection of an agency’s true worth. This blend of financial acumen and industry-specific knowledge leads to a more balanced, nuanced, and ultimately more accurate assessment of an agency’s value.
  • The importance of Technology and Analytics capabilities, particularly the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) expertise, will play an important role in enhancing multiples within the agency M&A sector. AI’s advanced analytical capabilities, predictive modeling, and ability to process vast amounts of data at unprecedented speeds will become key drivers of value.

In summary, these emerging trends signal a shift towards a more cautious, technology-centric, and introspective approach in M&A activities for 2024.

Research: Services & Resources

4A’s Initiatives

Research On Demand
Throughout 2023, 4A’s Research Services continued to serve as an extension of our members’ new business, account management and strategy teams by delivering about 4,000 in-depth secondary research reports in support of new business opportunities, client inquiries, brand reviews, business concepts and preparation of white papers and presentations.

As part of our comprehensive offerings, we will continue to provide custom research services and identify opportunities to enhance the offering. To support your 2024 new business opportunities and ongoing client relationships our Information Specialists are readily available to provide prompt research by tapping into our wide range of resources. This includes industry and company focused databases and reports, consumer research sources covering demographics, psychographics, brand discovery behavior, media habits and more. To find out how other members have successfully leveraged Research Services, check out our member case studies.

In addition to our custom research service, we also offer commercial databases on our website, allowing members to conduct their own research at any time. Our offerings include:

  • BLAST: A tool to create local ad spending reports in every U.S. market across 17 media channels and across online formats.
  • Creative Ad Library: A library featuring over 200,000 global ads in dozens of media formats and industries.
  • ProQuest: A full-text database that includes magazines, press releases, newspapers, academic journals, and reports covering a wide range of topics and industries.
  • BUDDY: A demographics and consumer expenditures database that utilizes Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Users can look at detailed demographics of populations in the total U.S., states, counties, metro areas, and zip codes.

On The Minds of Consumers

4A’s Research conducted numerous primary consumer research surveys last year to provide topical trend reports in a range of industries and topics. We looked at attitudes toward the use of AI in advertising, Super Bowl advertising perceptions, travel planning, travel booking trends, financial goals, and inflation and grocery shopping habits. 

Let Us Know Your Research Topics of Interest

Would you like us to work on a research request for you?
Please contact us at [email protected]

I want to thank your team at the 4A’s for all the support you all have given me as I have put in innumerable research requests recently! Your diligence, patience, and responsiveness is always appreciated.”

4A’s Benefits Delivers

2024 Forecast

In an unpredictable economy, the normal pressure Insurers feel to prove the value of their offerings takes on extra importance as there is a need to demonstrate that their policies provide a robust and comprehensive Insurance safety net. Overall, we are seeing a spike in all lines of Insurance including Medical with the average employer-sponsored health insurance premium for U.S. families rising 7% this year – the biggest jump reported since 2011.

With 2024 capable of dictating economic and political upheaval and unpredictable change, we expect further large Insurance rate increases in trends and losses. The 4A’s Benefits team is ready to provide you with a refreshed, more rewarding and personalized Insurance buying experience for your agency.

4A’s Initiatives

Partnering with 4A’s Benefits allows agencies of all sizes to access a menu of bespoke solutions specifically built for today’s agency landscape. We remain acutely tuned into what agencies, and their employees need in the Benefits arena. As we enter 2024, we are eager to continue discovering new and emerging solutions, and delivering the high quality, customer-centric, cost competitive programs for our 4A’s member agencies.

Workers’ Compensation Captive

In 2023, the Workers’ Comp Captive declared the highest dividend percentage in its history, net of surcharges. The dividend equaled 50% of policy cost and an astonishing 77% of premium cost. The performance along with its sheer size (150,000+ participants), again proves the program remains the dominant player in our industry. Maximizing on the low levels of claims in our Industry and harnessing group buying power, claims and costs continue to outperform.

Production Wrap-Up Insurance

Though only four years old, the program’s growth and adoption has equated to a 78% year-over-year average growth rate from the program’s inception. We anticipate a projected total production insured amount of $175 million as we enter the fifth year of the program.

4A’s Benefits is the only wrap-up program provider for small and mid-sized agencies. The ease of job declaration will continue to be a key element of the program. An average savings of between 30%–40% is achieved by removing the insurance line from the Production Company contract and may be passed along to clients. The broader, more comprehensive Insurance protection is a clear benefit to all participating 4A’s member agencies.

Our Production Wrap-Up insurance solution and supporting desk of insurance professionals remains a premier product offering, and is still an invaluable tool for production advice and insurance coverage

Group Dental / Vision, Life / Disability

Our Delta Dental & Delta Vision Partnership is growing in popularity with our member agencies. This partnership has resulted in significant Dental & Vision savings for agencies and their employees, by guaranteeing savings over current pricing for two years. It also allows for the current Dental plan design to be matched.

4A’s member agencies who are not participating may request competitive bids for the 2024 policy year for Group Dental, Vision, Life & Disability Insurance coverages.

Retirement Program

In the past twenty-five years, there have been three recessions recorded in the U.S.  When the stock market turns negative, some investors may think of “getting out,” but this is the precise time to stay in the market and buy quality funds at lower costs. This “dollar cost averaging” method can be extremely powerful in bear markets or recessions.

In 2023, the 4A’s 401(k) retirement plan continued to deliver a strong performance against its market peers. Investing in these times, 4A’s member agencies and their employees can be fully confident that our investment line-up continually ranks in the top performing funds in their categories and are considered best-in-breed.

Now is the time to engage 4A’s Benefits in a conversation about retirement plans as Plan Sponsors seek to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility through benchmarking. This has always been a free service for 4A’s members and is a necessary exercise to comply with DOL/IRS regulations.

Group Medical Programs: Re-evaluate Your Current Plan and Consider Alternatives

4A’s Benefits is continually evaluating the Group Medical Insurance environment seeking the best solutions for member agencies. As a 4A’s member, your agency – regardless of size – can obtain a free analysis of your current plan as well as a potential alternative solution if your current Medical Insurance does not meet your evolving needs.

4A’s Medical Insurance Solutions features:

  • Tailored for small to mid-sized groups, we offer a BlueCross BlueShield solution through a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) provider that includes payroll administration, and HR support/compliance.
  • Captive Medical solutions to regain cost transparency as well as control of their spiraling Group Medical spend, and win back the opportunity to retain profits that fully insured carriers retain.
  • Fully Insured solutions for agencies of all sizes.

4A’s Events: Bringing the Industry Together

4A’s events are an opportunity for members to showcase their best and brightest talent on stage as well as a way to  motivate and educate high performers by enabling attendance at key industry events. It is a way for members to come together as a community to address the most pressing issues impacting our industry, to learn from experts and leaders and to stay on top of our evolving industry.   

4A’s events focus on identifying current trends, sharpening competitive tools, and gaining insight into emerging technologies that are reshaping the future of advertising and marketing. 

Whether you are an agency owner/leader or in Strategy, Media, Communications, Creative – we have something that will enable you and your team to engage in content, community, networking, tools, education and growth.

Please join us at these 2024 events:

Decisions: Building for Sustained Growth

Los Angeles, February 7; Kansas City, March 20
Unlock future-ready media, tech and data strategies.

Advancing Talent: Breaking Barriers

Virtual, March 28
Uncover ways to tap into your most important resource–the human potential.

Management Practitioners Forum (MPF)

Chicago, June 5–6
Mission-critical topics for agency leaders.

Jay Chiat Awards: Celebrating Strategic Excellence

New York City, Date TBD (early Fall ’24)
Recognizing our industry’s most impactful strategies across categories.

StratFest: The Only Event for Strategists by Strategists

New York City, Date TBD (early Fall ’24)
Unpacking strategy that drives impact.

4A's Agency Comms in Focus

Agency Comms in Focus

New York City, Date TBD (late Fall ’24)
Connecting Agency Communications Leaders and the critical topics for the community.

CEO Closing Remarks

The 4A’s team continues to be energized and focused on supporting members during another year of ongoing business transformation and talent needs while identifying options to empower the success of the agency community. We are committed to addressing critical challenges and opportunities including those around AI (automation and generative), DEIB, sustainability, measurement, data privacy and the value of creativity to deliver business building solutions. 

As your trusted partners in business, you can rely on us to continually assess and expand our capabilities and offerings to support your evolving business needs. Whether you need help navigating change or to drive it, we’re here to deliver. We hope that 2024 is a year of renewed growth and optimism.

– Marla Kaplowitz 

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