ANA: right steps at the right time

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Under President-CEO Bob Liodice, the Association of National Advertisers has undergone an impressive transformation, becoming an effective, relevant organization that is playing a key role in helping its marketer members-and many other players in the marketing and media business-navigate the myriad challenges they face.

The opportunity for the ANA to be a forceful organization has always been there: This is a horizontal collection of marketers, most of which do not directly compete. It is not, therefore, hamstrung by rivalries in the way that, for example, an association representing a vertical group of vendors might be.

Nevertheless, in the past, as with many associations, it had tended toward navel-gazing and defensiveness, and had failed to corral its core membership.

As demonstrated by the recent excellent annual ANA conference in Naples, Fla.-which was attended by around 700 and was acknowledged by most to be one of the best marketing conferences they had ever attended-the ANA has staked out a strong leadership position.

Not least among its achievements: Persuading senior executives at many of the world's top companies to give up their time and share their biggest concerns and best practices; commissioning valuable research on the role of the CMO and on marketing accountability; and taking a strong stance on legal and regulatory issues on behalf of its membership.

As Mr. Liodice will admit, achieving relevance for the ANA wasn't neuroscience. It was a case of asking the membership which issues they'd like to see addressed, finding experts who could tackle those issues and programming the projects and conferences around those questions and those people.

Still, with marketers frantically trying to adapt to a new media environment and a corporate environment in which they are considered more important-but have not yet been afforded the attendant respect-the ANA is stepping up to the plate at just the right time.

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