The conference officially started on Thursday with energising, thought-provoking and fascinating talks.
The conference officially starts
As we described in our blog post from the first day, the ANA Masters of Marketing conference started with a bang with some thought-provoking and fascinating pre-conference sessions, followed by dinner and a performance by Train. If delegates were a little bleary-eyed after that, the official start to the conference at 8am this morning ensured that they were fully alert!
Opening remarks from ANA CEO Bob Leodice
The CEO of the ANA, Bob Leodice, opened the conference with remarks on the critical importance of growth. More than half of Fortune 500 companies have suffered a decline in growth and it is the responsibility of marketers – many of whom were in the room – to lead a drive to recover that growth. The ANA supports its members in many ways, including with playbooks that they have created for ‘distinct and direct action’. These playbooks cover many hot topics such as data and technology, transparency, measurement and accountability, and talent development. Bob also showcased several particularly touching and effective campaigns from the last 12 months, including the #seeher campaign which is fighting the conscious and unconscious bias against women and girls in advertising.
Bob concluded his session by reminding his audience that the opportunity to elevate growth is within their grasp – and, if they do that, that there is so much progress to be achieved. Marketing can, and should, be a force for good and for growth.
Taking smart risks to drive growth
Bob was replaced on stage by Jeff Charney, the extraordinarily charismatic CMO of insurance-firm-with-a-difference Progressive. He exploded onto the stage to talk to the audience about risk and how we as marketers are not taking enough of it. He claimed that driving growth is fuelled in part by a willingness to take smart, insight-led risk because in this day and age you can’t just stand still and hope that growth will find you. He defined the right way to take risks with a clever acrostic: Relevance not Recklessness, Information not Impulsiveness, Speed not Siloes and striKe out, not Know-it-all. Jeff even took what could have been a huge risk during his talk – persuading nearly 3000 delegates to sing Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ acapella…
Jeff also explained his unique network philosophy, where great characters create great content that is placed in the right content – and have control: Progressive has taken a significant portion of their agency activity in-house, with huge success. If that’s something you are considering, we have a list of the top ten things to consider.
Building a brand the WNBA way
If attendees thought that the session following Jeff’s would be lower energy and they’d be able to relax a bit, they were mistaken. The WNBA’s equally charismatic Lisa Borders talked to us about how the WNBA grew to become a major entertainment – not just sports – brands in a little over 20 years. Their focus has always been to remain relevant by focusing on their greatest asset – their players, using their own authentic voice, embracing who they are and leveraging that in their communications and brand identity.
A second stage for more choice and intimacy
After Lisa’s session, ECI moved over to the second stage. The second stage is a new feature for 2018, in response to delegate feedback that they wanted some choice in the agenda and some more intimacy. The experiment is evidently a huge success, with people standing around the edges of the room to see some big names from Unilever, Bank of America, eMarketer and others give inspiring and insightful talks.
What marketers can learn from D2C brands
First up was Luma’s Terry Kawaja: an investment banker isn’t the obvious choice for speaker at a marketing conference, but, being as he is at the intersection of media, marketing and technology, Terry’s insights were of course highly relevant to his audience. He explained what marketers could learn from the new generation of ‘D2C’ (direct to consumer) brands that are proliferating in an age when so many traditional, incumbent brands are facing declining growth. We discovered that the tactics of D2C brands – who are often essentially marketing companies with a product to sell – are so good that they even sell bad products! So what are these tactics? They include focusing on the consumer, recommitting to product design, adopting performance media, deploying content marketing and even making select acquisitions of D2C companies.
Trust: the basis of eBay’s interaction with consumers
Returning to the main stage, we were lucky enough to see eBay Americas CMO Suzy Deering talk about her company’s focus on trust: her brand – a ‘human platform’ – is very aware that consumers want to trust and will support brands that are purpose-driven. That basic tenet of trust is the basis of the three principles that are the foundation upon which
eBay’s approach to consumer engagement is based. The first – built on trust. The second – powered by purpose. And the third – using data to connect to buyers and sellers in meaningful, authentic ways. With these in mind, eBay leans into culture in a way that feels true to consumers’ wishes, using data to understand what consumers want and how they behave – and respond accordingly.
How to market successfully in the age of assistance
Over a delicious lunch, Google’s President of the Americas Allan Thygesen spoke to delegates about marketing in the age of assistance – where empowered consumers are more curious, demanding and impatient than ever thanks to the ability to effortlessly navigate life and make decisions. In this intent-driven world, the opportunity for marketers to lead their companies’ growth has never been greater: brands must grab with both hands the opportunities that are arising from the fact that intent is redefining the traditional funnel, the new shapes of today’s dynamic consumer journeys and the new formula for success. Allan explained that successful marketers are making three fundamental shifts to drive growth in this new world: focusing on business outcomes, not media metrics; stopping marketing to the average; and automating everything. Brands need to earn the trust of their consumers – the takeaway phrase from this presentation was that when people can count on brands, brands can count on growth.
A crash course in the hottest emerging trends
Suitably refreshed and ready to absorb whatever the afternoon’s speakers could throw at us, ECI headed to the second stage for ‘a crash course on the hottest emerging trends in marketing’, courtesy of eMarketer’s Geoff Ramsey. He managed to fit an extraordinary amount of content into a mere 30 minutes, including media spend, the colliding worlds of TV and digital video, how AI will change everything, the rise of voice search and how AR is moving into the mainstream. We were particularly interested to hear him talk about the rise of Amazon as a media company – not just a retailer: he expected to see them double their media dollar growth over the next few years, making them a serious competitor for the Google-Facebook duopoly, as we discussed in a blog post from a few weeks ago.
The shift of viewers from pay TV to streaming providers such as Netflix was an important topic – and how that presents a major challenge for advertisers: a key reason that people are moving is to minimise their exposure to ads. We’ve written about this topic in the past – you can read more in our blogs on the battle for the future of entertainment and how video streaming services are forcing the TV industry to transform.
Geoff also explained how newer technology – AI, voice search and AR – are all major trends that we will be seeing much more of in the coming years. Each will fundamentally change how consumers behave and therefore how brands interact with them. He was particularly surprised by the rise of voice search, driven by the proliferation of voice-activated devices such as Alexa and Google Home. It could have major implications for smaller and challenger brands as there is often only one single answer to a voice search query: in the future, this benefit could be sold to the highest bidder.
In the end, it’s all about data
We ended day two with a session on how to turn your data into an emotional connection courtesy of Bank of America’s Lou Paskalis. He stressed how in the future, marketing will be data-driven, connections-based and customer-obsessed. People buy with their hearts and then rationalise their purchases with their brains: if your brand can connect with their hearts, you win. Lou also made the pithy observation that data is the new oil: in its raw form it’s just a material, but if you refine it in the right way, it will inform your marketing vision.
The consumer: front and centre of all marketing strategies
In our two days at the Masters of Marketing so far there has been no escaping that, in order to drive growth and ‘win’ at marketing, a marketer’s focus must always, always be on the consumer. Putting the consumer at the heart of your marketing strategy and really understanding what they want from your brand – and then giving it to them – is the surest way to drive growth for your company and, in turn, make marketing a highly valued department in your organisation. We’re sure that this theme will continue on day three of the conference – we will of course be covering the sessions in real time on LinkedIn using the hashtag #ECIatANAMasters, and we will release a blog post summarising the day tomorrow evening. As always, if there is anything you’d like to discuss with us in more detail, you can contact us at .
Thumbnail image: Alexandra Matthews
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