What’s on the mind of top brands right now

It’s marketer-palooza at the Association of National Advertisers’ ANA Brand Conference in Dana Point, California, with brands and agencies (and of course, vendors) coming together to talk about brand-building. Here’s what we learned.

Brands really want to figure out programmatic. The big question for most clients dipping their toes into programmatic is which model of engagement they want to follow. The options seem to narrow down into one of three: The Unilever-WPP model that focuses on proof of media spend; The Kellogg’s model which relies on the agency for execution; or the Netflix and Allstate model that brings programmatic in-house. The other big issue, of course, is how much can they trust their agencies to do what they’re asking them to do; transparency is still a problem.

Brands couldn’t care less about agency ego. Marc Strachan, who heads on-premise strategy and multicultural marketing at Diageo, shared these staggering facts: 12 percent of marketers rate agency contributions as extremely valuable and 66 percent plan to make changes to agency rosters in the next year. “I get measured by the cases I moved and my stock price,” said Strachan. “Agencies tend to care more about Clios. Not even Effies.” Strachan said that “clients rule” more than ever before and exhorted agencies to care more about the business and less about creative awards, and suggested that agencies tie compensation and bonus plans to client performance.

Total market is top of mind. Jamie Moldafsky, CMO at Wells Fargo, said that with the idea of what it means to be a minority changing, brands need to have all their partners — agency and otherwise — involved from the start to ensure ads are inclusive, with different ethnicities and age groups represented. Only 54 percent of marketers take a total-market approach, which means they don’t segment out ethnic and racial groups, instead applying a single brand message to all of them. Stay away from the “ethnic sensibility trap,” said Moldafsky. “Don’t tell me total market means bringing in a collage of ethnic images and calling it a day.” Barry Westrum, evp of marketing at Dairy Queen, used a similar approach — “diversity in casting, diversity in age” — in the company’s “Fan Food” campaign that made over the brand entirely.

Brands want to be good, really. Multiple conversations and sessions focused on how to be a better brand by simply acting with purpose. One big reason brands should be more sustainable and human is, of course, millennials, who love brands with a purpose. According to eMarketer, 47 percent of online shoppers will consciously buy from brands that support causes.  It’s why with Target’s “zero waste” policy, it reuses material from commercial shoots or gives them to charity and uses reusable water bottles and solar-powered energy — and tells customers about these activities. “There’s no reason why we can’t craft beautiful commercials without sacrificing our planet, or our bottom line,” said John Lick, executive producer, broadcast at Target, citing that Hollywood studios alone create 26 million tons of waste every year on shoots. “The eco-department always pays for itself,” said Lick. “But it starts with you. Your agencies and production companies will follow your lead if your corporate culture embraces the idea of social responsibility.”

Brands worry that their leadership isn’t agile enough to figure out the world they live in. Bob Liodice, president and CEO at ANA said as much. “Do we have the resources to build brands? Are we quick enough?” Probably not. A McKinsey study found that marketers know what they want to do but can’t figure out the processes they need, internally and externally, to reach their goals. “Marketing aspirations are outstripping marketing operations,” said Liodice. “We are slow and we are plodding.” That extends to the entire marketing department, but also the rest of the company — whether it be the customer service managers at Target or Dairy Queen’s “Conistas.” The key is to listen to those company employees as much as to the executive team, said DQ’s Westrum.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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