Economy Surges, but Innovation Remains ANA's Top Priority

Group Opens Annual Conference Stressing Need for Change

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ORLANDO, Fla. ( -- The Dow is at a record, attendance at the ANA's annual conference will break a record, the economy is growing and consumers still are spending. Time to kick back? Not exactly. Starting today the ANA will spend the next four days pressing the conference theme of "reinvention and innovation."
Robert Liodice, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, emphasized that the conference is focused on the reinvention of the industry.
Robert Liodice, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, emphasized that the conference is focused on the reinvention of the industry.

Massive change
Robert Liodice, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, contends the amount of change in marketing over the past three to five years -- demands for accountability, reordering of media new and old -- "probably equals the amount of change over the past 30" years.

But there is good news: Marketers get the drill. "I think the mood is one of 'we're getting this,'" Mr. Liodice said. "[And] I think we're reaching a point where not only are we getting it, but we're doing it."

New confidence
Mr. Liodice said he sees "a growing level of confidence" among marketers. "I won't say it's confident, but increasing confidence," he said.

Mr. Liodice said conference content will focus on four pillars of reinvention: brand building; integrated marketing communications; marketing accountability; and the marketing organization.

The ANA's innovation theme plays off a hot topic. "Innovation" over the past decade has become a buzzword in marketing and is on track this year to get well over 200 mentions in Ad Age.

All arms of the industry
The ANA expects the conference to draw record attendance of nearly 1,000 to the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes in Florida. Attendance will include about 425 people from ANA member companies; agencies, media, consultants and vendors account for the rest.

The conference marks the end of a two-year term as ANA chairman for Jim Stengel, global marketing officer at Procter & Gamble Co.

Steve Sullivan, senior VP-communications at Liberty Mutual and ANA vice chairman-treasurer, will succeed Mr. Stengel as chairman. Board member Becky Saeger, exec VP-CMO at Charles Schwab Corp., will begin a two-year term as vice chairman; board member Eric Leininger, senior VP-global consumer and business insights, McDonald's Corp., will be treasurer.

Mr. Sullivan brings an interesting perspective: Before joining Liberty Mutual 11 years ago, he spent 17 years at an ad agency, serving as president of the Boston office of Mintz & Hoke, a regional agency in New England.

Building extra value
Mr. Sullivan said he wants to continue on the path set by his two immediate predecessors. He said Jim Speros, chairman from 2002-04, helped restore the vitality of the organization while Mr. Stengel helped crystallize a vision. "What I hope to do," he said, is build on that, giving those who belong to the organization reasons to "value the ANA for its utility, but also for the extra value that they might not expect."

This year's meeting will be keynoted by P&G Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley and feature presentations on innovation and reinvention by Schwab's Ms. Saeger and by marketing leaders behind such brands as BMW's Mini, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Wal-Mart.

"It's a pretty star-studded agenda," said Mr. Sullivan. "Bob [Liodice] and the staff and certainly the board are deeply involved in setting the agenda. This is our largest professional development offering of the year, and it has to be the very best."

Pointers from P&G
Mr. Lafley will keynote the conference with an Oct. 6 presentation, "The P&G Brand Marketing Powerhouse," chronicling the turnaround he's led since taking over in 2000. Among other points, Mr. Lafley is expected to talk about how P&G's massive investment in R&D translates to product innovation. P&G, the No. 1 advertiser, spent $6.8 billion on worldwide advertising and $2.1 billion on R&D in fiscal 2006.

P&G results speak for themselves: P&G reported record sales, profits and earnings per share in its recently ended fiscal year, and the stock yesterday reached an all-time high. P&G's market cap: $201 billion -- up $127 billion on Mr. Lafley's watch.

What a difference five years makes for P&G -- and the ANA. The trade group canceled its 2001 convention after Sept. 11. The 2002 conference in Naples, Fla., drew just 55 members and 270 attendees, and the mood could hardly have been more subdued. A day before that conference opened, the stock market hit what would be its post-bubble nadir, with the overall market down 50.2% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 38% from 2000 peaks.

Oldies lead surge
Flash forward: The ANA's 96th conference opens tonight just one day after the Dow passed its 2000 peak to set a new record (11,851). Marketer stocks are doing well: 23 of 26 marketers have seen year-to-date gains on the Advertising Age/Bloomberg AdMarket 50. Biggest winners are three of the oldest brands: General Motors (+72%), Sears (+42%) and AT&T (+34%).

Since its October 2002 low point, the Dow has surged 63%; the AdMarket 50 is up 32%.

The ANA annual conference has grown even more from its 2002 nadir. Mr. Liodice, who took over as CEO in late '02, has worked closely with the board over the past four years to reinvent and revitalize the trade association and improve its conferences.

In an e-mail interview, Schwab's Ms. Saeger said: "The ANA's annual conference has become a very important event in the marketing community as it has more and more attracted and featured leading marketers who are grappling with the issues and challenges that face all of us."

Not all good news
To be sure, not all sectors of the AdMarket are doing well. Eleven of 18 media stocks on the AdMarket 50 are down year to date, an indication of the challenges faced by old media -- and new media. Worst performer: Yahoo, down 36%. On the plus side, four of six AdMarket agency stocks are up this year; ad holding companies have diversified beyond advertising into other marketing services, giving them a chance to sell services even when marketers pull back on media.

As ANA members convene, there are warning signs in the economy, including indications of weaker growth in consumer spending and slower overall economic growth. This business cycle is getting long in the tooth: The average economic expansion since 1950 has lasted 59 months before heading into recession; the current expansion reaches the 59-month mark this month. Still, economists are not predicting a recession any time soon.

The confab is drawing both ANA annual conference veterans and newcomers. Rebecca Johnson, promoted in April to chief marketing and branding officer at restaurant operator Brinker International, is attending her first ANA annual and speaking as a panelist. "There's a lot of challenges in the marketplace today," she said, "and to be able to get a bunch of smart, capable, experienced senior professionals together to talk about [issues], we can all learn from each other.

"There's no CMO training ground," Ms. Johnson continued. So "development and keeping current and keeping your thinking sharp has to come from the outside."
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