ANA attendance gets a lift

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An inconvenience to some is a welcome problem for Association of National Advertisers President-CEO Bob Liodice-strong turnout for this week's annual conference forced the organization to make arrangements with a second hotel after the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, Calif., sold out.

That's good news for the ANA and its members, who appeared to suffer a bout of apathy last year. Just 270 attendees were at the 2002 conference, and most were vendors. Only a few dozen marketing executives made the trip to Florida.

This year, nearly 550 people are expected for the conference, which runs Oct. 16 to 19. That includes more than 200 ANA members.

Mr. Liodice, who succeeded John Sarsen as president-CEO of the association 10 months ago, said he knows why the numbers were down last year.

struggle for nuggets

"Economy was one reason," he said, "but we had gone off-track from using a well-entrenched formula for conference success: Give them content and they will come. Last year, we were all over the place. We were not themed. We had an array of interesting speakers, but if you asked yourself what you truly walked away with, you would struggle to come up with a couple of nuggets."

The ANA had also been criticized in recent years for letting media sponsors program the conference, which often resulted in thinly veiled sales pitches from the stage and could have had an impact on attendance in 2002. Persuading members to return to the event was a key priority for Mr. Liodice in his first year at the group's helm.

The 2003 ANA Conference carries the umbrella theme "Masters of Marketing." The first day will focus on brand building, the second on marketing innovation/creativity and the third on return on investment and marketing accountability.

"We conducted a survey earlier this year of, simply, what was the most important things our members wanted more insight and perspective on," Mr. Liodice said. "There were 15 to 20 choices, as well as a write-in area, and these three areas came back as the top choices."

Jim Stengel, chief global marketing officer, Procter & Gamble Co., is a keynote speaker. He will talk about "how P&G communicates with consumers throughout the day and makes sure it's cutting through the clutter," a spokeswoman said. Dawn Hudson, president, Pepsi-Cola North America, will address the power of high-impact marketing programs. Robert A. Lutz, vice chairman-product development, General Motors Corp., and chairman, GM-North America, will address how brand strategy begins with product design, as well as the automaker's "road to redemption" campaign.

Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," will serve as master of ceremonies.

Mr. Liodice said this year's speakers were chosen specifically to address marketing in a difficult climate. "If you're talking about a tough environment, marketers, particularly the senior individuals who are looking to train and develop their constituents, really need to share their thoughts," he said. "The key here is that they will walk away with some golden nuggets that will make sense to them."

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