The ANA held its annual ANA Digital & Social Media Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado this past week. I continue to be impressed with the quality of the content and programming from this organization. The staff is smart and energetic. And hats off to Michael Donnelly, Global Head of Digital Marketing at Mastercard. He has played host at these events and earnestly looks for opportunities to strengthen the experience for members.
There were some important lessons or reminders from this year's event. here are 4 of them:
The ANA initiative around media transparency is a powerful call-to-action for advertisers (us)
Bob Liodice and Bill Duggan, ANA leaders, held a session that profiled the June report ANA produced in partnership with research company K2 on Media Transparency. They then segued into the just-released set of recommendations for brands.
The net takeaway is that the rise of complex ad trading desks and technology has led to practices that are not transparent to the buying brands including, but not limited to, rebates being paid that do not make their way to the actual advertiser and a ‘layer cake’ of fees from 3 or more providers involved in serving ads. Interestingly, new ad tech startups are springing up that promise to deliver greater transparency and direct service to advertisers (minus the agency trading desk) and remedy some of the ‘black box’ practices that have developed.
Interests not aligned: allegiance to outdated contracts
Bill and Bob make a powerful case that the business priorities of the agencies (in service to their shareholders) and the marketers they serve are not aligned. Agencies hide behind ‘contract compliance’ but fall short of serving the best interests of their clients. Contracts are outdated and not well understood inside the client and they lack the necessary transparency and audit clauses.
Rebates are widespread and often don’t get delivered to the advertiser
The research and conversations with ex-media company leaders reveal that rebates from publishers often track back no further upstream than the agency. Without transparency, there is no way for the advertiser to know that their money is going ‘elsewhere.’
Advertisers must take a more active role in managing media
Many advertisers have not supervised the media practices of their agencies with enough care. Many do not have contemporary contracts in place. The ANA has packaged a set of recommendations as well as a ‘best-practice’ media contract that features the clauses we all need to be looking for.
Big brands like Gatorade are auditing their media to understand viewability, effective-targeting, and fraud
Kenny Mitchell, Head of Consumer Engagement for Gatorade, shared terrific creative work including a Snapchat filter that allowed people to superimpose their own head shot with a super-realistic video of the Gatorade “dunk”, the ritual wherein the winning team coach gets doused with a cooler of Gatorade.
But more importantly, he shared the media audit they performed on their 2015 digital media. This was very timely based upon Bob Liodice’s call-to-action around media transparency. Kent reported that 50% of their digital ads were viewable. 24% were delivered against their targets and they suffered about 3% of fraud. The audience was quiet and no doubt brand marketing leaders are torn about doing their own audit with the prospects of revealing poorer performance than one of the world’s largest advertisers (Pepsico). I believe we all want to know which part of our advertising is even being seen by the right people.
See a video of the Gatorade Dunk re: clever, native use of Snapchat
Brands w/purpose like American Greetings can “punch above their weight”
Alex Ho, Executive Director of Marketing at American Greetings (and formerly at Progressive Insurance), shared a powerful POV about having a purpose-driven brand and how leveraging cultural tensions allows him to achieve great marketing results with highly creative, 360 programs. Alex shared 3 programs, none of which had big media TV support but had great impact (e.g. mid-journey work driving sales lift). He works in a 360 fashion with Mullen making sure that PR and marketing are working in service of the Idea.
American Greetings is all about helping people make connections. Their core business – greeting cards – has not receded despite the media-driven death knell (“print is dead,” “greeting cards are dead,” etc…). He focuses on identifying the cultural tension via research that he can then address in marketing programs. The hunger millennials have for authentic experiences and a way to connect to their true friends beyond the throngs of Facebook friends led them to their “Analog” pop-up at SXSW. Alex is a great reminder that powerful communications still starts with the idea (born from a cultural tension, born from insight).
See this powerful activation at SXSW re: cultural tension of digital and hand-crafted, personal
See this inspiring video re: gratitude for moms #worldstoughestjob
Established brands can learn a tremendous amount from the disruptors in the collaborative economy
Jeremiah Owyang, a seasoned analyst, formed Crowd Companies two years ago to track and report on the rise of disruptive businesses from AirBNB to TaskRabbit to Lemonade and so many more. He devised a framework to better understand who they were and what their actual disruption was. Then he formed the Innovation Council which pulled together the world’s biggest brands from Mastercard to Allianz to Nestle and many more. These brands wanted to be exposed to relevant startups and, more importantly, they wanted to share experiences and ideas for innovation with other brands.
Jeremiah suggests that brands don’t have to merely innovate by waiting to buy Dollar Shave Club for $1b. And he recognizes the challenges of brands establishing innovation centers or outposts in Silicon Valley (ironically, he was on his way to the opening of Henri@Nestlé in San Francisco, a digital platform that will allow startups and entrepreneurs to pitch projects to the company in response to "innovation challenges" that Nestlé is looking to solve).
Brands can innovate in three ways:
- Transform their product brand into a service (as Dollar Shave Club did; as BMW did with their Drive Now, cars as service in Europe)
- Create a marketplace (imagine an insurance carrier providing a network of home contractors to help make homes safer)
- Establish a platform (as U-Haul did with the U-Haul Investors Club which allows individuals to invest in U-Haul vehicles thus expanding their fleet and, more importantly, establishing the most effective way to drive loyalty