Key themes from the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference 2023

As brands around the world come to terms with the next normal – post-pandemic, with geopolitical uncertainty, and in an age of high interest rates and inflation – the ANA’s 2023 Advertising Financial Management conference earlier this month came at a most opportune moment. The event in Phoenix, Arizona, attracted more than 500 advertising industry finance and procurement professionals, and for the Ebiquity and FirmDecisions teams who attended the conference, there were three, powerful, emerging themes. These are three areas where we believe advertisers should invest time and resources – to capitalize on current industry trends and best practice, to embrace the change that’s still sweeping through the industry, and to thrive rather than just survive in the ever-evolving media landscape.

The cost/benefit of agency reviews

One of the hot topics at the conference was the cost/benefit of agency reviews. Procurement professionals from the world’s biggest brands discussed how to optimize the value they receive from their agency partners and weighed in on the importance of transparency in the agency-client relationship, aligning incentives, and setting clear expectations.

Speakers also emphasized the need for consistency in agency reviews and the importance of understanding the real cost of an RFP process. This is true for both clients and agencies, with reviews typically costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and yet often resulting in the incumbent retaining the account. Discussions on- and off-stage highlighted the growing complexity of agency-client relationships and the need for ongoing evaluation and optimization, and at the same time a recognition of value of the people and ideas over cost.

Enhancing DE&I as a core business strategy

A second, dominant theme of the conference was the critical importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and ways in which brands can leverage it – authentically – as a core business strategy. Industry leaders shared their experiences and best practices for improving DE&I in their organizations.

Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the ANA, highlighted just how much material business growth a properly-embedded DE&I strategy can drive. He cited evidence that demonstrates that “the accurate portrayal of women in ads drives growth”. In other words, it’s not just the right thing to do – it’s net positive for both top and bottom line. In the mantra of corporations that have embraced DE&I to the heart of their business model, it really is possible to ‘do well by doing good’.

In several other sessions, speakers emphasized the importance of creating a culture of inclusion, measuring progress, and holding leaders and industry partners accountable. Delegates also discussed how DE&I initiatives can drive innovation, improve customer experience, and grow revenue by billions of dollars. A panel highlighted the significant impact that DE&I can have on business outcomes and how walking the talk on DE&I is becoming increasingly critical to attract and retain top talent, particularly among younger employees.

Defining and measuring value

As ever, this particular ANA Conference focused keen attention on the importance of measuring value rather than relying solely on cutting costs. Participants discussed how to set clear objectives and ensure data quality, with several recommending the win-win approach of aligning partner incentives with the client’s own business KPIs. Speakers shared their experiences and best practices for measuring the value of marketing investments. These included the smart use of attribution and marketing mix modeling, as well as a number of initiatives underway for cross-media measurement. A panel emphasized the importance of understanding the trade-offs between short-term and long-term value and the need to communicate value to stakeholders effectively being a key skill set.

Summing up

The Advertising Financial Management Conference provided something for everyone. The range of speakers provided perspectives from all points across the marketing supply chain – from creative to media and beyond – and attendees had the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking content sessions and networking. What’s more, by learning from those who are at the cutting edge of data-driven action today, they walked away with both immediate activations as well as that all-important bigger-picture inspiration.

If you’d like to know more about the topics covered in the ANA Financial Management Conference, do get in touch. Our expert team can help you navigate the complex world of marketing procurement and provide valuable insights to drive growth and success.

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