It was a marketing conference where, oddly, there seemed to be a little annoyance over marketing. Of the 1,700 attendees at the ANA Annual Masters of Marketing conference, 800 were marketers, with the remaining 900 were vying for their attention and their budget.
Guest rooms were laden with sponsored cookies, T-shirts and, from Tremor Video, oversized bed pillows with its logo and enormous posters pasted onto their oversize hotel room TV screens. (The most sought after prizes were Android plush toys provided by Google.)
Noted Terracyle's Albe Zakes to great bellylaughs from the podium: "What is garbage? The cards slipped under your door this week." Sponsored cocktails (even at breakfast on Sunday where there were mimosas courtesy of UM) and coffee breaks are one thing but undisguised sales pitches were quite another. There was much hallway grumbling that Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg presentation was too blatant a discussion of how great Facebook is for marketing, a fact that did not win her many friends.
At least she showed up, though. Pepsi's A. Salman Amin, exec VP-global sales and marketing, was a no-show, forcing Bolthouse Farms' Byran Reese's presentation up a day early. His was a crowd pleaser, especially the ads from CP&B, which he praised from the podium while failing to note that the agency is no longer working for the company. His only hint as to why was a remark that "if you don't think CP&B's creative is world class, I promise you their fees are world class." When queried about it afterward, he said "we didn't feel like we could afford such a big agency."
While Mr. Reese wasn't too forthcoming with that information, a panelist in a CMO Roundtable conducted by Ad Age 's Abbey Klaassen perhaps said too much. Best Buy CMO Barry Judge was asked by Ms. Klaassen what they future of TV would look like in five years and answered that he wouldn't be there in five years. When prodded, he responded that it was time to do "something different." Later, when asked privately by Ad Age about the comment, he said he was just joking, he has no plans to leave.
The presenters that got the most positive reception were Kraft's Dana Anderson and the New York Times' Thomas Friedman. At last year's ANA the Times sent columnist Paul Krugman with a dour talk on the "Dire Strait of the Economy." Mr. Friedman's talk at times seemed equally depressing -- it emphasized America was falling behind the rest of the world -- but it was delivered with a lot more zest. He called for the country to get back on its feet by investing in infrastructure, embracing immigrants and other calls to action. He waxed almost poetically about how America needs to get its mojo back, noting that flying from Hong Kong to LAX is like "flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones."
The other talked-about talk was from Ms. Anderson who strolled out in what looked like a lab coat and wowed the audience with her over-the-top funny and direct delivery about how to encourage creativity in the marketing organization. But the person who may have been bum-rushed the most wasn't a speaker at all, but Martha Stewart, who was mobbed at an MSLO booth on the floor.
The 150 or so diehards who stayed to the end of the conference were rewarded with two of the best presentations -- one by Radio Shack's Lee Applbaum, who explained in a frank and informative session how the company erred in leaving behind its core DIYers and how it won them back.
The other was from Laura Miele, group VP at EA Games, who discussed how the company used analytics to decide how to market Battlefield 3, which is going up against the "biggest intellectual property in the world," Call of Duty. She said the company used analytics devised by its "Jedi" team and Marketshare Partners to switch its buy from 83% TV and 18% digital for Battlefield 2 to 53% TV and 39% digital for Battlefield 3.
The company also discovered that perception of an upcoming game can make a huge difference -- if a player rates his perception of a game at 7.6 on a scale of 1 to 10 rather than 7.1 "it can mean a million units to us." So the company set about telling its story on Facebook and getting gamers to talk it up prior to launch. It also targeted so-called "cutthroat cowboys" and tailored the ads, from Wieden & Kennedy, directly to them, using music from Jay -Z and things they relate to, such as accolades from game magazines and influencers, explosions and the tagline "Above and Beyond the Call."