Insights from ANA annual conference

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At last month's Association of National Advertisers annual conference in Orlando, Fla., ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice ended several Q&A sessions with speakers by asking what they hoped attendees would take away from the just-completed session when they returned to their offices the following Monday. So it seemed a fair question to ask Liodice what he himself had brought back from the event. “I brought back a couple of things,” he said in an interview during the week following 100-year-old organization's Masters of Marketing conference. “The first is the growing respect and growing reliance on a broad, diverse media set.” He said it was particularly striking to see the greater emphasis placed this year on digital and social marketing, while there was comparatively little mention of TV advertising. This goes to show that when it comes to marketing, “there's more than one way to skin a cat,” he said. “The second thing was purposeful branding set the tone throughout,” Liodice said. This trend—emphasized in session after session, including those that featured b-to-b marketers Cisco Systems (“The human network”) and Dell Inc. (“The power to do more”)—shows marketers are becoming more holistic in their approach, he said. “It's about becoming a friend and a partner—being a responsible citizen as well as a responsible marketer,” he said. Liodice said he was also struck by the “genuine optimism” that marked the conference—despite the genuinely downbeat economic forecast from Paul Krugman. In an address titled “The (Dire) State of the Economy,” Krugman, a New York Times columnist, Princeton University economics and international affairs professor, and Nobel laureate, said, “This is going to be a long, hard slog.” “Krugman grounded us in the reality that we have difficult times ahead,” Liodice said, adding that even though unemployment remains high and income growth modest, the opportunity is still there for marketers to achieve solid results in the current environment. Liodice said the conference's emphasis on growth contributed to its achieving a record 1,650 registrants, up from the previous record of 1,200. “It's a message people want to listen to,” he said. “It's about driving results.” Asked specifically about the outlook for b-to-b marketers, Liodice noted how aggressively they've moved into digital and social marketing over the past two years and how they've been able to successfully leverage one-to-one marketing. “I've been impressed by their courage to try new things,” he said. “I'm very encouraged by the state b-to-b marketing.” John Obrecht is editor of BtoB and Media Business. He can be reached at [email protected]
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