ANA Annual Meeting

Adobe's Message to ANA: Digital Can be Measured

Ann Lewnes Tries to Dispel Myth That Digital is 'Least Measurable'

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While most presenters at the Association of National Advertisers annual meeting in Phoenix took the opportunity to tout their brands to the hundreds of marketers and vendors, Adobe SVP-Global Marketing Ann Lewnes aimed her pitch directly at one man -- the guy hosting the show.

That would be ANA CEO Bob Liodice, who after introducing Ms. Lewnes watched her throw up on the big screen a recent quote in which he cast doubts about the ability of marketers to measure digital advertising. "Digital, which we always thought was going to be the most measurable medium, turned out to be the least measurable," he told Ad Age last month. "It's bad for the digital industry because marketers are gun shy from not understanding the rate of return."

Then Ms. Lewnes set out to prove him wrong, or as she said: "The goal of this presentation is to convert Bob Liodice."

Adobe -- which sells digital media creation and web development tools -- has gone through its own conversion since Ms. Lewnes came on board in 2006, ramping up its digital spending to the point where it now commands 74% of Adobe's marketing budget, far more than most other marketers. And part of the company's new strategy is to measure every one of those dollars, using sophisticated econometric modeling that forecasts future spending needs based on three years of historical outlays. "I kid you not, you are able to forecast how much marketing you will need in terms of your budget to reach a given revenue goal," Ms. Lewnes said. Adobe has been at it for several quarters and gotten within five percentage points of the margin of error, she said.

"Data is the digital revolution's gift to marketing," she said. "Intuition is always going to be important to us as marketers, but in today's economy, there is simply no room for guesswork."

Still, most marketers remain skeptical about the potential return on digital, at least judging by their marketing budgets. Ms. Lewnes cited a study stating that CMOs are planning to spend just 11% of their budgets on digital in 2012. And while 62% of marketers said they use social media, only 12% said they think it works.

"I don't think we've done enough in our industry to move the needle," Ms. Lewnes said. "We should be trailblazing. We should be the pioneers in this industry and I feel like we haven't made that shift."

She also had a message for agencies, saying that Adobe has moved some digital functions in-house because digital shops don't respond quickly enough. "We've insourced a bunch of stuff," she said, including display ad production. "And the basis of that is not just cost, it's the ability to act very quickly," she added. "We need things to be 'boom, boom, boom.' And a lot of time we are not able to get that level for urgency from our agencies." (Although she noted that Adobe's agency-of -record, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, has "completely embraced" the company's digital moves.)

Adobe's recent digital efforts have included an "all-virtual" launch for its new Creative Suite 5 in which it promoted the products during an online-only event featuring tips and tricks and testimonials that drew 250,000 people from 221 countries. Meantime, on its web site, Adobe has begun posting "sneaks," which are behind-the-scenes looks at new features and technologies it is working on. The company got the idea after someone posted a bootleg video of a recent conference in which Adobe showed off new technology that "deblurs" digital photos. The video drew 1.5 million views in one week.

"This is an example of the community asking you do to do something and you needing to respond," Ms. Lewnes said.

But did she convince Mr. Liodice? Apparently so: At the end of the presentation he jokingly asked her if Adobe might do a campaign for the ANA. "I would be happy to," she said.

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