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By Tom Denford
Humanity, leadership, infrastructure and consciousness dominated the agenda at the 11th annual ANA Media Conference. Tom Denford, CEO of ID Comms Group, rounds up the key messages.
A Wake Up Call
“Get the job done. Take care of your people”
Nine words in the closing session of the ANA Media Conference perfectly summed up the whole three-day event for me: “Get the job done. Take care of your people.”
Spoken by Maria Givens, Global Head of Media & Digital for Logitech in Orlando, the words come not from a marketing textbook, but adapted from the famous Westpoint military academy mantra ‘Mission First. People Always’.
“Get the job done. Take care of your people” is a fitting wake-up call in 2023 for an industry dogged over the last decade by unfettered waste, opaque practices, unnecessary complexity and loss of trust.
The sentiment appeared across the agenda; where we frequently heard phrases such as ‘building bridges’, ‘recognize humanity’, ‘greater understanding’…but this wasn’t fluffy tick-box, feel good sentimental stuff, it was recognizing that the industry is turning a corner.
Collectively we need to get back to the sensible, simple basic principles of growth and we need to understand each other better, with respect, to work together more productively.
And there couldn’t be a better audience for that sentiment.
I’ve attended this event every year for nearly a decade now and regard it as one of the most important media stages. It certainly sets the tone for the media industry in the US – ANA Members are collectively responsible for over $300bn of annual media investment – and has proven to wield huge influence on media markets around the world.
This year I identified four themes, drawn from both the main stage and the networking in between: Humanity, leadership, infrastructure and consciousness. Whatever branch of the media, advertising or marketing tree you sit on, these themes matter as you consider how to navigate success in the years ahead.
The industry is in good hands
After three days in Orlando, the 300+ delegates will have left with an optimism that the media industry is in good hands. Firstly, there was a distinct lack of testosterone on this stage, literally and figuratively, as we saw the very best leadership from our industry represented on stage this week.
Notable were Shenan Reed (L’Oréal) who was a brilliant conference host, Marla Skiko (Ford), Erin Vitellaro (Molson Coors), Katherine Freeley (Novartis), Tracy-Ann Lim (JP Morgan Chase), Marie Casimir Fallon (Bimbo), DJ Perera (Boeringer Ingelheim), Jill Kelly (Essence Mediacom), Christine Guilfoyle (#SeeHer) and Maria Givens (Logitech).
These are not only our best women leaders, they are our industry’s best leaders. Period.
Conference stages set the agenda and tone for the industry. What gets said and by whom matters. The best conference agendas have speakers able to engage people who may have differing views, they can challenge conventional wisdom and encourage collective understanding, usually with human stories.
The few men that did appear on stage were what we might call the more ’emotionally intelligent’, starting with P&G’s Marc Pritchard, still on a mission to reduce waste and maximize media reach by investing into diverse audiences. They also included Adam Benaroya sharing J&J’s impressive new ‘Best Practice Index’ model for media and Jerry Daykin from Beam Suntory, sharing the firm’s ‘socially conscious’ media planning framework.
Humanity matters for growth
Over the years the media industry has become too siloed, losing any sense of common purpose and the need for collaboration. Many of this year’s speakers highlighted the need to bring people together to foster common understanding, to invest in education, take time to listen and become more familiar with each other.
In his opening remarks at this year’s conference, ANA CEO Bob Liodice shared this view, quoting a couple of senior ANA members; “we need to take a recovery break and reflect on what the world needs now” and “the world is ripe for more purpose and positivity”.
“The most highly branded companies perform better, and these companies execute media strategies that are aligned towards driving and building that brand awareness,” he said. “As we continue to drive for business and brand growth, let’s also remember that it has that touch of humanity, through a philosophy of humanity for growth.”
Marla Skiko, Global Head of Consumer Connection at Ford, shared a delightful story about the new Ford Maverick truck, which she called “a truck for people that don’t buy trucks” after insights showed that the Ford brand was alienating more diverse audiences that Ford needed to engage for growth. Ford specifically used TikTok to position the Maverick as a distinct sub-brand.
It created such demand that waiting lists now extend more than six months, resulting in a new marketing initiative called “Delight the Wait”, a new CRM approach designed to maintain excitement during that wait, which the company sees as a valuable opportunity to bring new diverse Ford buyers closer to the master brand.
Marc Pritchard delivered his 8th keynote appearance in the 11 years of the ANA Media conference, this year his theme was ‘Reset the Bar’, calling for improvements in ‘back-to-basics’ media performance measures such as capping excess frequency, identifying incremental reach into diverse audience, more intelligent creative testing so that media money goes behind creative that works hardest.
Changing the industry infrastructure
There was lots of talk of tearing down walls, removing barriers and building bridges. Mark Prince, EVP Economic Empowerment at Dentsu, and Andy Anderson, the CRO of American Urban Radio Networks, kicked this off, calling for advertisers to prioritize media investment with diverse media suppliers and remove the administrative barriers that can hinder a small publisher selling media inventory to a giant advertiser or their agency.
They highlighted a significant gap between the sentiment expressed by advertisers around supporting diverse media compared with the actual money being spent.
More than in any other year, in 2023 we saw commitments to collaboration from all sides, with more openness to listen and more constructive dialogue than we’ve had in a decade.
One session particularly illustrated this sentiment Katherine Freeley, Global Head of Media & Digital Procurement at Novartis, and Adam Gerhart, Global CEO of Mindshare, set out a joint framework for better understanding and collaboration between procurement and agency leadership. This felt like a landmark moment to have agency and procurement on stage together, demonstrating to the industry that better understanding of each other’s business aims leads to more productive partnerships.
We’ve come a long way from the historic tensions between agencies and procurement, which probably hit a low point in 2015 when GroupM chairman Irwin Gotlieb took to an ANA stage to blame the loss of trust and transparency in that relationship on procurement’s lack of understanding of media.
A wider consciousness
Much of the conversation on stage and off was around the responsibility of the $400bn US media industry to consider its wider impact and therefore the importance of our conscious actions.
In fact the ANA devoted a whole afternoon to an agenda theme they called ‘Media For Good’ inviting us all to consider the implications beyond the media campaign; from energy usage, representation, ad-funded content and so on. The media industry can make an over-sized impact and be a force for good with greater collective action.
Christine Guilfoyle, President of #SeeHer the ANA’s movement to eliminate gender bias in advertising and entertainment, illustrated a perfect example of how, by collaborating together, the world’s leading advertisers could have an over-sized impact to change the entertainment industry’s portrayal of women and avoid gender stereotypes.
Jerry Daykin, Head of Global Media from Beam Suntory, shared his team’s approach to a media planning process with consciousness built in called ‘Liquid and Looped’, which features inclusive audience planning to find the culturally relevant media moments that can be strong sales opportunities; showing that media can be good for business and good for the world.
What you should do now
With these themes in mind, it’s pretty obvious what client-side marketers and media directors need to do: Educate yourself, get out of your trenches, reach out to people across the industry and ask better questions.
If we can all do that then the industry will gather in 2024 in even better heart that it did this year.