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Volume 21 No. 34
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As marketers spend more, ‘It’s time for digital media to grow up’


he tone at the recent ANA conference was decidedly mixed. CMOs from America’s top brands concurred that something was broken, but there wasn’t the same unanimity on what it was or how to fix it.

For a conference with growth as its theme, there was the admission that many of the brands represented here weren’t growing.

As has been the case at brand marketing’s top conference in recent years, the incursion of technology on the marketing business was both welcomed and dismissed. Sure, the acceptance of analytics, big data and the like is near complete.

“When I became a marketer, it was part art and part science,” MGM Resorts CMO Lili Tomovich said. “Now, it’s art, science and technology, and the technology part is getting bigger.”

Still, to many marketers, the new landscape looks not just unfamiliar but hazardous. A multiplicity of media distribution changes, and variations in media consumption, are confounding many. To some, old media seemed as perplexing as the digital variety.

“There’s a challenge for all of us to find out what a consistent measurement is.” - Kristin Lemkau, JPMorgan chase
Photos by: ANA (3)
“Brands are trying to fly through a Bermuda Triangle,” said Scott Hagedorn, CEO of Omnicom media agency Hearts & Science, noting a 20 percent to 30 percent TV ratings erosion over the past four years, especially pronounced among millennials and Gen-Xers. Nonetheless, as ratings have declined, pricing for television adverting has increased. The TV reality: “It’s been getting more expensive to reach fewer eyeballs,” Hagedorn said.

Content was still the word most heard at the conference, but outside of sports, the content game has dramatically realigned. As more than one speaker noted, more Emmys were awarded to networks that do not accept advertising than to those that are advertiser supported. With the content, distribution and shifting consumption landscapes, complaints about measurement have grown. ‘We’re missing nearly 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Xers,” Hagedorn said. “Why aren’t brands growing? We don’t have the coverage to talk to the entire audience.”

Added JPMorgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau, “There’s a challenge for all of us to find out what a consistent measurement is.”

Even as marketers spend more on digital advertising, that advertising medium has never been more in question. A lack of transparency, and even fraud, in the digital supply chain has amplified concerns, even as digital advertising now surpasses TV spending.

“It’s time for digital media to grow up,” cautioned Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, which announced digital advertising cuts of $100 million earlier this year, terming those eliminated “largely ineffective.”

So while growth was the theme, change was the reality. “You’ve got to evolve or perish,” said Walmart CMO Tony Rogers, noting the graveyard of large American retailers that failed to do so. “Not only does your business need to evolve, your brand does, too.”

[Marketing is] art, science and technology, and the technology part is getting bigger.” - Lili Tomovich, MGM Resorts
“Brand Safety” was another principal concern with marketers fearful that their ever-increasing supply of digital ads would end up adjacent to offensive web content, such as hate speech or fake news. There are, however, all kinds of digital imperatives.

“If you’re in a company today with a decent-sized marketing budget, you’ve got a board focused on how fast you’re becoming digital marketing experts,” said Andy England, the former MillerCoors CMO who’s now CEO of National CineMedia, an ad network across 1,700 theaters. “You can tell them, ‘I’m worried about brand safety and actual views being tampered with by bots. But their imperative is still, ‘How fast can you get us into more digital?’”

After about 20 years of digital advertising, marketers were calling for advancements, so that the dream of “mass one-to-one marketing” might be achieved. Instead, Walmart’s Rogers recalled that he bought tuxedo shoes online last year, which were “the last pair I will ever buy, but that’s the online ad I see every day.” As Antonio Lucio, HP global chief marketing and communication officer, put it: “That blue sweater ad you click on today is going to follow you around the Internet until you die and I don’t know why.”

“Whether it’s media fragmentation, big data or the explosion of analytics types and CIOs, there’s just such massive complexity now in marketing, it’s difficult for anyone to understand it all,” said Chris Thomas, CEO of BBDO, The Americas, who supervises 20-plus BBDO agencies in his region.

“Some of the biggest traditional advertisers, particularly the [consumer packaged goods] companies, are facing massive change, so they are taking traditional ad dollars out. And some of the new brands that are coming in and disrupting are not advertisers. It’s a massive structural change that’s producing fragmented spending — probably too much so.”

“That blue sweater ad you click on today is going to follow you around the Internet until you die.” - Antonio Lucio, HP
Purpose marketing and overall brand honesty were repeated themes. “What you hear resonating here is brand safety and transparency,” said David Selby, president of Chicago agency SCC, with clients including the Cubs, Friendly’s and Johnson & Johnson. “Honesty and transparency with your consumers is being rewarded like never before.”

Added Maurice Herrera, Weight Watchers senior vice president and head of marketing: “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘It’s not about the stimulus, it’s about the response.’ The cheese has moved. We’ve just got to be humble and agile enough to move with it.”

FACE-ING THE FUTURE: A compendium of intriguing data points from Facebook’s Sarah Personette had the audience energetically scribbling during her luncheon speech. Facebook’s head of global business marketing noted that while it took TV 14 years to reach a domestic audience of 50 million, the internet took just four years, and it took two years for mobile devices to achieve that same milestone. Now, she said, 5 billion mobile subscriptions around the world are tied into more than 2.3 billion smartphones.

Among her “20 Shifts for 2020” forecast:

Mobile video will dominate, if it doesn’t already. In 2011, less than 1 percent of all video viewed was on mobile devices; by 2014, it was up to 38 percent; by the end of 2016, it was up to more than 50 percent.

Omnicultural identities are on the rise and gender lines are blurring. “We can no longer rely on traditional definitions of sex or what is sexy,” she said. “Are we marketing to the customers we think we have or customers we actually have?”

Aging is archaic. “As people live longer, healthier, more fulfilled lives, the concept of retirement is becoming obsolete,” she said.

Phone calls are so 20th century. “Across every demographic group, phone calls are declining as messaging apps are on the rise,” she said. “By 2020, 80 percent of the connected world will be using messaging apps and using them to interact with businesses for hours, location and inventory search. … So, can your messaging app be a one-stop shop?”

Online, convenience is beginning to beat price. “People will absolutely make their [online] purchase decisions based on convenience, even if the deal is good,” she said, while encouraging markets to remove as many clicks possible between “buy” and “checkout.”

> ANALYTICAL ACES: NASCAR was named of as one of three winners of the ANA Genius Awards for innovation in advanced marketing analytics. NASCAR was cited for championing analytics across its organization and achieving “widespread adoption of cross-consumption reporting and analysis to reach current and potential consumers where they consume media.” Winners receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice; in this case it will go to the NASCAR Foundation.

Adobe and IBM were the other honorees.

Terry Lefton can be reached at