Whether it’s trust between marketers and their agencies, agencies and media owners, or marketing teams and their procurement counterparts, trust is clearly on everyone’s minds.  As a first-timer to the annual ANA Financial Conference, I was struck by how often the word “trust” was uttered.  The reasons became clear over the course of the 3-day confab where marketing, media, technology, and finance gurus gathered to network. The conference was certainly a rollercoaster with the topics ranging from digital viewability and ad fraud to Barbie’s resurgence and terrorism.

Ad Fraud & Terrorism

The conference opening by Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the ANA, set the stage by focusing on the ‘big four” issues of grave concern to marketers in the digital space:  ad fraud, viewability, transparency, and ad blocking.  Ad fraud alone costs marketers $7 billion per year, he noted, yet most marketers who are aware of the issue have not yet taken decisive action.  The mood became particularly serious when Mr. Liodice posed the question (paraphrasing) “Where do you think this money is going?”  The answer, sadly, is into the hands of criminals around the world, the implication being that this includes terrorists. That was definitely an attention-grabbing statement that attendees talked about throughout the rest of the day. The bottom line is that the industry must take these issues very seriously and act decisively.  The excessive complexity of digital business models is costing countless dollars to brands and also having repercussions outside of the business world. Marketers and agencies have a responsibility to act on this.

Meaningful Agency/Client Connections

On a lighter note, presenters throughout the conference gave examples of how they’re evolving the role of procurement from one of savings to one of value creation.  By unlocking hidden media costs, marketers invest more in innovation and making meaningful connections with consumers.  Brands from Coca-Cola to Barbie were celebrated for deeply understanding consumers, leading to innovation and value creation. In the case of Mattel and BBDO, their common culture and views helped further and grow their relationship leading to a positive shift to the Barbie brand. This was one of many examples displayed at the conference of how agencies and brands need each other and can benefit from a strong relationship. Jim Lesser of BBDO said it best: “When you align on values, you go so much further together.”

This being my first conference with the ANA, I was very pleased with the level and depth of discussion that was present. I think there are a lot of exciting conversations going on in our industry, and I look forward to see what is to come.