The nation's top marketers will gather near Disney World this week for one of the ad industry's biggest gatherings of the year. But given issues plaguing the ad industry, the happiest place on earth seems an ironic locale to host the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing conference.
Then again, there may be a bit of imagineering ahead as the group aims to put its best spin on marketing. "The stories that are dominating are all negative -- ad blocking, digital ad fraud and viewability issues," said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. "My God, is anything going right? This is a business about creativity and brand building. That's what I want the conference to be about."
Mr. Liodice said he will address those thorny issues in his remarks and outline progress the industry is making to correct them. But largely, attendees can expect a parade of success stories to be presented by brand marketers from the stage.
"Transparency," or suspected lack thereof about rebates from media sellers to media agencies in the U.S., has been a hot topic at prior ANA conferences. While the ANA will talk about its efforts in the area soon, Mr. Liodice said that won't be a focus of this conference. A joint ANA-4As task force of marketers and media agency executives won't be issuing any reports during the conference either. "We don't want the conference bogged down with a lot of external noise," Mr. Liodice said.
The formal agenda, as usual, will include presentations from some of the nation's biggest-spending marketers. This year's docket includes marketing executives from Progressive, PepsiCo, Google, Arby's and AT&T Mobility, as well as a discussion on data-driven insights that includes McDonald's USA CMO Deborah Wahl.
Mondelez International CMO Dana Anderson, who wowed the ANA crowd in 2011 with a talk about taking "leaps," is back this year with a presentation about "organizing for growth." Also speaking will be Loren Angelo, marketing director for Audi of America. He is scheduled to discuss the "challenger approach he has taken with Audi in building the brand in America." Looming in the background, though, is parent company Volkswagen's developing emissions-rigging scandal.
The four-day event -- which begins Wednesday and will be held at a new venue for ANA, the Orlando World Center Marriott -- is expected to draw at least 2,700 people representing marketers, agencies and other vendors with a hand in the $407 billion ad industry. That would fall short of last year's record 2,800 attendance at Orlando's Rosen Shingle Creek resort, and according to ANA, it is the first time in recent memory that attendance has declined. Masters of Marketing has emerged as a top draw in recent years, luring Fortune 500 chief marketing officers and plenty of high-level agency execs seeking to woo them over drinks, meals and poolside meetings.
After the Florida sun goes down, the ANA has lined up its usual array of musical acts for sponsored dinners each night. This year's performances include Seal and Joe Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers, who first won fame on the Disney Channel -- so he will probably feel at home in Orlando.