In our industry, the largest trade association is the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). It brings together 25,000 brands that collectively spend $400 billion in marketing and advertising annually. That’s big brains coupled with big budgets. They also happen to be our clients and prospective clients, and when and where they gather, we go.
Recently, I attended the ANA Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando with our Managing Director for North America, Ross McNab, to listen and to learn. Several themes emerged from the presentations and conversations at the conference that match up well with and will inform our own effort at MediaMath to deliver marketing everyone loves and enable our clients to reach, respect and engage consumers at scale programmatically.
The CMOs that gathered in Orlando have two jobs to do for their firms—contribute to growth and protect the brand. How do you do that? The presentations and discussions highlighted several key steps in the formula: identify your purpose, put the consumer first, take control of your data and act as a force for good.
As ANA’s CEO Bob Liodice put it in stark terms, while there are marketers successfully executing on that formula—many of whom shared their experiences in Orlando—the industry as a whole is not delivering the growth their employers demand and that the American economy needs to thrive.
The Fortune 500 brands in America have now gone three years running with declining after-tax profits. “This is an indictment on our industry,” he said. “It’s also a wake-up call for the leadership in our industry to enact the necessary change to drive better business and brand performance. Even small changes can make a powerful and lasting difference. A one-percent change in the underlying growth rate is worth, minimally, $500 billion over a three-year period for our industry.”
If the CMOs in the audience, in concert with companies like ours that put technology at their service, can take from the best of what they heard in Orlando and apply it to their operations, a one-percent change in the underlying growth rate is well within reach.
Trend 1: Purpose
Susan Deering, eBay CMO, spoke about the purpose of her company and how it drives everything they do. And though intuitively, you would think eBay’s purpose was to make technology available for people to use as a platform to sell and buy things, it isn’t. She made clear that eBay’s purpose is to build trust between sellers and buyers. Doing that and doing it well is what keeps people coming back. Speakers from other companies, including Ancestry.com, talked about the importance of authenticity and leveraging the delight their consumers received from using their product for its intended purpose of enabling a journey of personal discovery to drive a message that no actor could drive in a commercial.
This applies in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business contexts. Here at MediaMath, as both a marketer and a platform developer, we concentrate every day on our purpose to deliver marketing that everyone loves, and by everyone, we mean consumers, advertisers and all the contributors in between—agencies, publishers and technology providers.
Trend 2: Putting the Consumer First
Lou Paskalis from Bank of America put it best when he said, “Stop optimizing the ad. Optimize the experience. You only have so many opportunities. First and foremost, make sure it’s a brand-safe environment, but understand the mindset of the consumer.” When we hear that at MediaMath, what we hear is a desire from marketers to be able to put the consumer and his or her needs first and to build relationships with those consumers. Marketers are not simply seeking impressions, they are seeking meaningful interactions.
Trend 3: Taking Control of Your Data
Terry Kawaja of LUMA Partners took to the stage to tell the tale of what direct-to-consumer brands are getting right that more traditional marketers are missing. At the core is an enhanced ability to understand the consumer, an ability to identify him or her from point of contact to point of sale and beyond and the ability to build a relationship with them based on authentic engagement. At MediaMath, we believe that a fundamental enabler to facilitate this kind of engagement at scale is a reimagined identity solution and we will be talking more about our approach on this front soon enough. Together, we can deliver this by creating an open approach to identity across the digital economy, but it will only work if brands treat customers the way these direct-to-consumer brands are treating them, as members of a community.
Trend 4: Act as a Force for Good
P&G Chief Brand Officer Mark Pritchard brought to this year’s Masters of Marketing his persistent call for making marketing a force for good. He is calling on the industry to engage and promote equality in diversity in hiring, opportunities and messaging. And he is calling for the industry to promote environmentally-sustainable production. And the industry is listening. At MediaMath, through MediaMath.org, we are doing our best to contribute as well, encouraging financial donations to causes, pro-bono marketing work for non-profits and encouraging our folks to engage in the communities where they live to act as a force for good.
In short, what we heard in Orlando is that the industry is ready to shape change, treat consumers like people, use data in responsible ways and engage the world outside of marketing in positive ways. Good news all around—and we can’t wait to see and be part of the progress in the coming year and take stock of the change when the ANA Masters reconvenes next fall.