‘Masters Of Marketing’ Gathering Takes Place Amid Stormy Conditions

With mother nature wreaking havoc in the U.S. from coast to coast, a challenging environment of a different kind greeted the attendees of the Association of National Advertisers annual confab last week in Orlando. Brands, their agency partners and the media publishers that rely on their spending shared a series of frank insights on the state of the advertising industry terrain and potential pathways for leadership moving forward. What follows are several of what I found to be the most compelling takeaways.

Lots Of Love, But Some Of It Tough

Industry gatherings are usually opportunities to rally the troops and share optimistic visions of the future. But Bob Liodice, the longtime president of the ANA, scrambled the template a bit, pulling few punches in his kickoff remarks. Liodice noted very simply and directly that when it comes to the business of major global brands, “growth sucks.” The industry’s own leader referred to the current state of marketing decision-making as “unproductive, unsustainable, undesirable and untenable.” Not much ambiguity there, folks.

For the ANA, the solution is much more direct and assertive leadership from CMOs as an engine of growth. This won’t be easy in a world in which the average CMO’s tenure, which has been in decline for years, is less than half of that of the average CEO.

One CMO with a significant tenure and (perhaps not coincidentally) a consistently frank message for his marketing brethren is Mark Pritchard, CMO of Procter & Gamble. Pritchard asked the crowd the rhetorical question: “Why don’t people watch ads?” And his quick response: “Because ads are annoying!”

Pritchard wasn’t simply calling out the lack of creativity or effectiveness of traditional TV commercials, and in fact had praise for the extraordinary quality and engagement of TV as a platform. Rather, he seconded Liodice in finding the “byzantine” and “unmanageable abyss” of digital ad spending – in which only 25% of marketer money reaches the actual consumer – as unsustainable. With the domination of Facebook and Google on one hand, and the growing (OK, now full-grown) frustration of marketers with digital media advertising transparency and trust on the other, we should be way past the “warning signs” stage for this space.

Read more from Howard Homonoff on Forbes.

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