'Transparency' Voted 2016's Word Of The Year

“Transparency” was voted the “word of the year” for 2016 by members of the Association of National Advertisers.

The finding, which is the third consecutive year the ANA has polled its members to name a single, defining word representing the industry zeitgeist for a year, follows “content marketing” in 2015 and “programmatic” in 2014.

The selection of “transparency” should not be a surprise, given the amount of action and discussion surrounding the subject in 2016, including the ANA’s release of a landmark transparency study conducted by K2 Intelligence, as well as its own set of recommendations and some pushback by its agency counterpart, the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Transparency has also been a central topic during numerous other industry developments, panel discussions and publications, including how it relates to everything from advertising and media-buying fraud to the Presidential election.



The ANA surveyed its members the week of Nov. 28th and received 267 responses. It said “transparency” got the most votes, but did not disclose how many.

It said the other top choices for “Marketing Word of the Year” included: “customer experience,” “content marketing,” “influencer” and “programmatic.”

The ANA provided the following verbatim, but anonymous, comments from respondents who selected the word “transparency.”

  • “[Transparency] is the single most important issue in marketing and has the greatest potential benefit in terms of improving marketing ROI.”

  • “Transparency, or lack of transparency, defines all media agency relationships and provides a new perspective to consider these relationships.”

  • “The K2 findings have served as a milestone encouraging change in how clients and agencies partner on media deals.”

  • “Fraud and lack of transparency are killing the digital ecosystem for advertisers.”

  • “Because of the important K2 report and the light it shed on the broken agency/client model, coming to a common ground that works for marketers is crucial to the future of this relationship.”

  • “Transparency affects everything we communicate in marketing, from our product formulations and labels to how we communicate in all channels to our internal culture.”

  • “Consumers want to do business with brands they can trust. That goes to the heart of transparency.”

  • “Trust between agencies and clients has never seemed worse, especially in the world of programmatic and data.”
3 comments about "'Transparency' Voted 2016's Word Of The Year".
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  1. Seth Ulinski from Independent Analyst and Consultant, December 12, 2016 at 10:18 a.m.

    I'd argue that education is paramount. A contract can provide transparency, but clients still need to understand moving pieces within a contract and the business impact. Clear definitions around principal and agent are critical as agencies mash up services and platforms. In this vein, agency holding co's represent a labyrinth of pure-play services firms and hybrid "platforms" that combine marketing services with (sometimes) proprietary technology. The latter shifts an agency to vendor status, clients need to invest time and resources to be educated here. Despite the smoke/fire from recent industry reports, many brands I speak with are still behind the curve. 

  2. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, December 12, 2016 at 1:38 p.m.

    Regarding one comment in particular, coming to common ground that works for only one party in the arrangement is not common ground. 

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, December 12, 2016 at 6:41 p.m.

    I have serious problems with the term "transparency". One person's transparency is another person's inability to conduct the business they need. And transparency carries a moral imperative that makes it nearly impossible for anyone to speak the truth:  "If you put that in place it will hurt your ability to get the most for your money".

    Honesty in agency/client relationships is critical. But many things clients do encourage agencies to violate that trust. And many things agencies do suggest to client's they are being taken advantage of.

    The new word should be "Honesty". And it shouldn't be part of a bureaucratic program - but a human way of relating.

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