October 20, 2015

The ANA Masters of Marketing Conference

Held at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida, the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference is a gathering of the nation’s chief marketing officers and leaders from the marketing industry. The conference offers opportunities to learn and engage with people who have built brands, leveraged an expanding array of media and emerging technologies, and improved the quality of marketing organizations across the board.

Some of the highlighted speakers at #ANAMasters included the CMOs from General Mills, Target, T-Mobile, Walmart, Cisco and Microsoft. Among the variety of events that took place during the conference was a forum called “Things I Wish I’d Known Then,” during which Microsoft’s GM of Global Advertising Kathleen Hall discussed why bigger isn’t better, the importance of building relationships, and why chasing the “new” isn’t always the right move. Other forums scheduled included “Putting Brand Champions at the Center of Everything You Do,” as well as more market-focused panels such as “Bringing Humanity Back to Air Travel.” Each of these aforementioned events took place over the course of one morning, which goes to show us just how happening this conference was.

In fact, board members who attended the conference spent an entire day “behind closed doors,” according to Adweek, discussing a number of issues that have been riddling the marketing industry, including whether agencies are receiving large rebates or kickbacks from media outlets in exchange for buying ads in large amounts. Among the considered solutions to this concern is whether the organization should hire a “fact-finding” firm to look into certain allegations of media agency fraud. Adweek contributor Lisa Granatstein (who covered the conference for the online publication) goes on to suggest that “the rebates controversy” affects marketers and agency executives alike. And with only a small number of agency execs at the conference, some “observers,” as Granatstein mentions, say this lack in representation may have to do with the divisive issue at hand. All in all, the daylong discussion speaks to a collaborative effort on the part of attending board members to find a common ground.

On a more inspiring note, Bob Liodice, the president and CEO of the ANA, initiated the conference by giving a speech on the industry’s efforts this year to transform the marketing landscape by leveraging emerging technologies. According to Adweek, Liodice spoke of “exploding gains in technology,” and how it affects innovative media platforms and generates creativity. Among topics discussed by Liodice during his opening remarks were “advances in multi-screen platforms and integrated programs, efficient programmatic media strategies, real-time marketing, outdoor digitally-based placed media and connected TV.”

Liodice even mentioned the second annual Marketing Disruption Study, a collaboration of the ANA and McKinsey & Co. Most notably, however, was that Liodice emphasized the need for the industry to come together to fight ad blocking, which he believes “represents consumers outrage over substantially diminished user experience.” Liodice, a self-proclaimed “true believer” that “marketing can make a difference,” denounced, among the list of industry grievances, “page clutter, lengthy video pre-rolls and long load times.”

In light of these deficiencies, Ad Exchanger claims marketers are relinquishing their strict control over messages in order to better associate their brand with positivity. Be it a quick laugh or paying it forward by buying a stranger a meal, marketers are increasingly switching out that firm ground of data and measurement in favor of risk-taking and experiential efforts that leverage the emotions of the consumer through, for example, empathy. Arby’s Chief Marketing Officer Robert Lynch calls this marketing behavior “being authentic to a fault”, because although it’s a risk to not rely on metrics, experiential marketing provides more opportunities to reinforce a brand’s core beliefs, which makes for better marketing and a more satisfying consumer experience.

No matter the challenges the marketing industry has had to face (or continues to face), to return to the concerns of the president and CEO of the ANA, Liodice boldly closed his opening statement at the conference with an acknowledgement of real opportunities for positive change. Ultimately, Liodice highlighted a shift in marketing that began with the tried-and-true metrics, and has moved toward the more unchartered waters of consumer experience and service-oriented marketing.

This post was written by current Renegade intern Sam Oriach. You can follow him on Twitter @samoriach.