1. It was bigger and more 'global' than ever
2. A big focus on measuring outputs not inputs
3. Marc Pritchard is back and he's still not happy
4. Gary Vaynerchuk versus Steve King
5. The industry's collaborative spirit alive and well
It was bigger and more 'global' than ever
With now over 650 delegates, the ANA's annual Media Conference grows each year, which indicates the increased attention that media has within corporations these days and the common challenges that unite most US media directors. The most noticeable difference this year was the amount of global media directors in attendance. This year's conference attracted global media leaders from giant advertisers like Coca-Cola, J&J, Colgate, Mars, GSK, P&G, Hershey's, General Motors and Mastercard (4 of them were presenting on stage as part of the agenda). This shows us the influence the ANA is having on setting an agenda for media which stretches way beyond the geographic borders of the USA.
"Measuring outputs not inputs"
This sentiment represents a shift in conventional media wisdom and was the overriding message from two great sessions, the first by Sasha Wolfe from Taco Bell and the second by Charlie Chappell from Hershey's who each shared how they were making their media budgets seen as investments in business growth rather than seen as a cost to their respective businesses. Linking media budget to a business outcome (by measuring its output) automatically makes that media budget a sizeable company investment in growth. With that change, comes greater responsibility for the Media Director, greater management attention (especially from a CFO) to how media works and what it does and then sequential accountability for the media agency and other external partners. I was very happy to see this narrative taking center stage and articulated so clearly by Sasha and Charlie.
Sasha Peters Wolfe, Head of Media at Taco Bell explained that by linking media investments to the tracking data of store footfall and average order values, she had succeeded in making media a "profit center" for the company.
Pritchard is back. And he's still not happy with the media supply chain.
The ANA Media Conference wouldn't be the same without another barn-storming, rallying speech from the world's most influential marketer. This year Marc Pritchard, P&G's Global Chief Brand Officer (and Chairman of the ANA Board) was back, reinforcing his message that marketers should take back control of their media decisions and contracts. This year his laser focus was on 'Re-inventing the Media Supply Chain' - the full transcript is really worth reading, its a well crafted, well considered and very intentional message - which involves all advertisers, not just P&G, demanding higher standards from the vendors they work with. There were some thinly veiled threats made to large advertising platforms who clearly have not been moving quickly or far enough for P&G's liking. The most striking two words in Marc's speech which you will see he repeated again and again are "preferred providers", those vendors and publishers who can demonstrate to P&G that they can aspire to better standards of quality, civility, fairness, privacy and control. The message was pretty clear, we are voting with our dollars and those that cannot meet these standards will get less of P&G's money. Oh, they've also been busy building their own in-house media buying operations.
Vaynerchuk calls out Steve King
GaryVee was on stage again, but hang on don't roll your eyes, something actually rather interesting happened. The first 20 minutes of his allotted 40 was basically a rinse and repeat of the GaryVee show we have all seen before but.....when Gary shifted into Q&A mode (which is where his quick brain and curse-mouth flourish) some valuable stuff came out. The Q&A was being moderated by the venerable Ben Jankowski from Mastercard who, following a thought about trust and transparency, reminded Gary that the day previously the Global CEO of Publicis Media Steve King had stood on that very stage and said:
"If you don't trust your agency partner you simply should not be working with them" - Steve King, CEO Publicis Media
"Totally not true, if Steve really believes that then he should stop making his clients sign contracts which make it impossible to fire them" - Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO VaynerMedia
If there has never been a standing ovation at an ANA Media Conference, this was the closest we may have come. The cheering response from the assembled audience indicated that Gary had touched a raw nerve somewhere. Expect a Round Two....
Collaborative spirit everywhere
I find there is a strong, happy and positive energy at ANA Conferences, for me its a great place to meet with clients, collaborators, even a few fierce competitors and engage in constructive and fun conversation. I made a bunch of new friends and potential partners as we grow the ID Comms business in the US, many I simply would not have met without the conference bringing these like-minded people together for a few days in Orlando, helped hugely by some wonderful networking events like Deborah Malone's famous dinner for The Internationalist where everyone changes seats between courses to promote good conversation.
Finally, thank you to Bob Liodice, Bill Duggan, Marni Gordon and the whole ANA team for putting on another hugely productive and constructive ANA Media Conference. Your continued strong leadership in these challenging times is priceless and your platform for GROWTH continues to inspire us all.