Conference Talk – The Future of Advertising Debated at ANA

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There were a few surprises at the 2005 Association of National Advertisers Annual Conference held this weekend in Phoenix – Procter & Gamble global marketing officer Jim Stengel's knack for comedy was one –but the decidedly unsurprising themes running through the speeches and chatter here were audience engagement and the importance of technology for marketers and the agencies that love them. "Technology has made our industry transparent," said Bob Greenberg in a presentation on the future of advertising at the annual marketers' mecca. Greenberg joined a line-up of big ticket advertisers like Stengel, Verizon's Jerri DeVard, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Motorola’s Geoffrey Frost and others in discussing the future directions of the industry.

Greenberg's talk was dubbed no less than "The Future of Advertising, Marketing and Brand Building," but the R/GA chief said that the discussion should be about more than possible models for the agency or the production company or the client of the future. "It's about customer engagement," said Greenberg.

The future of the ad agency business is, he said, "problematic." Those problems are mainly due to a long held focus on the TV spot, on passive, outbound communications and brand narrative while what's needed is big idea creativity with the full media and consumer landscape in mind. "The ad agency business has not started the transformation yet," he said.

Greenberg cited two of the hallmarks of the new marketing formula as collaboration and efficient production but noted that "collaboration is against the ad agency nature, and I think clients as well." And while media neutrality has been the aspirational state for forward thinking companies, said Greenberg, the future is about "engagement neutrality."

Verizon's Devard showcased that company's efforts in broadband and mobile entertainment and marketing and said, "The future belongs to the brands best able to travel where the consumer is moving." Citing the mobile and multitasking proclivities of those consumers, DeVard noted stats that indicate that the average 18-24 year old is typically managing 4.3 platforms simultaneously (for the average 35 year old, it's more like 1.5 at a time). For more insight on the future, said DeVard, a crystal ball is unnecessary. "Just empty your pockets." (TI)

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