2019 ANA Media Conference: It’s All About the Consumer

In 2018, 51 percent of Fortune 500 companies had declining profits, which has forced marketers to question which decisions are optimizing growth. Many say the blame falls on “shiny new objects,” such as social media and artificial intelligence. The 2019 ANA Media Conference, held last week in Orlando, focused on the need to make business and brand growth the new “shiny object,” because a one percent point growth in US sales can add $500 billion to the economy in three years.

Another major theme was the failure of agencies and brands to generally keep up with how consumers are using media. The key to driving brand growth is building stronger consumer connections. A change in mindset from media planning to meaningful communications planning can help lead to efficiency and growth.

Build the Brand

The top job of the marketing industry is to build brands, and the brands growing fastest today are those that intuitively understand their customers. These brands are willing to make brave, iconic moves that delight and deliver in new ways to face the future. Examples discussed at the conference include Gillette’s controversial #MeToo ad, IHOP’s temporary switch to IHOB, and P&G’s array of ads focused on diversity.

Steve King, COO, Publicis Groupe, and CEO, Publicis Media, shared a survey that identified gaps in expectations between brand and consumers:

  • 87% of brands reported they were meeting consumer expectations, but only 65% of consumers concurred.
  • 74% of consumers trust brands, yet only 57% of consumers think brands handle their privacy and security well.
  • Only 51% of consumers are willing to provide personal data in order to improve their brand experience.

Brands Need to Take More Ownership

A banner quoting Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard hangs at the P&G headquarters, “be a force for good, and be a force for growth.” In his conference keynote address, Pritchard said brands are on the edge of the next great revolution in using technology to improve people’s lives. However, he cautioned about pitfalls like data misuse, privacy breaches, transparency lapses, fraud, and brand safety issues.

Pritchard suggested brands build a new media supply chain on the elements of control, quality, civility, transparency, and privacy. Marketing partners who embrace this new model will be the preferred vendors for P&G, and they will vote for these vendors with their marketing dollars.

Changes in Competitive Media

Connecting with consumers continues to be a major challenge in the age of media disruption. Amazon is now number three in digital ad spend in the US. eMarketer projects Amazon will hit $9 billion in ad revenue in 2019, which is larger than the entire US OOH spend.

Voice (such as Amazon Alexa) is the next progression in human engagement with computer interfaces. In 2018, Google reported half of the conversations with its assistant devices include voice and touch, and there are now one billion Google assistant devices, up from 500 million last May.

Rob Rakowitz, director of global media for Mars, said media channels don’t die off, rather the method of delivery changes. Marketers need to be focused on audiences, not channels. He recommended a focus on the four C’s of marketing – customer value, cost, convenience, communication – to narrow the gap between consumer behavior and media innovations.

Viewing Media as an Investment

Brands continue to focus on the link between business outcomes and media metrics, like ad exposure and consumer response. Media metrics are a trading currency, but not a measure of success. Because brands now have access to so much data (sales, footfall, customer profiles), there is a need to connect these data points back to media. Marketing mix models can provide valuable insights, but today’s media choices need to be based on readily-available data on consumer behavior and journeys, and prove media investments are driving growth.

Challenger brands tend to rely on data and technology to precisely buy targeted reach, while legacy brands are more inclined to use scale and awareness to efficiently buy mass reach. The most successful marketers will master both of these approaches.


Agency Disintermediation

An ANA survey in October 2018 revealed the continued rise of in-house agencies. However, it’s important to note that 90 percent of the respondents report they continue to work with external agencies. The most significant in-house function, by employee count, is creative at 49 percent, while media only represents six percent. The primary benefits brands note for bringing traditional agency operations in-house are:

  1. Cost efficiencies
  2. Better knowledge of the brand
  3. Speed, nimbleness
  4. Institutional knowledge
  5. Creative expertise
  6. Greater control

Wayfair shared its corporate vision for winning customers by providing the best experience. They do this by fostering a culture that is:

  1. Innovative
  2. Data-driven
  3. Collaborative
  4. Results-oriented
  5. Always put the customer first!

It’s a great vision for the entire marketing ecosystem. While change is inevitable, the ability to grow is a choice.