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Bob Liodice addresses the crowd at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference
The metaverse, Web3 and NFTs might be the biggest marketing buzzwords of 2022. But the futuristic concepts were barely mentioned at the largest annual gathering of chief marketing officers. Instead, executives speaking at the Association of National Advertisers “Masters of Marketing” Conference seemed more focused on the here and now, such as protecting their ad budgets amid economic headwinds, appealing to new consumer demands for sustainable business practices and overhauling media buying and ad tactics to reach more diverse consumers.
The event drew some 2,100 in-person attendees to the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Florida, about five times more than the 2021 event, suggesting that CMOs are in the mood to mingle again after pandemic shutdowns.
“It is so great to have you back,” ANA CEO Bob Liodice told the crowd.
Off stage, consultants and agency execs suggested the reason CMOs did not talk much about the metaverse was that they are not quite comfortable speaking about it yet, as they focus on more pressing matters.
Read more: Why Roblox is the closest thing marketers have to Web3
Keurig Dr Pepper CMO Andrew Springate was one of the few execs to tout metaverse and NFT marketing during a presentation, including Snapple’s move to open “the first bodega in the metaverse” on Decentraland. In a moment of candor, he acknowledged, “I’ll be 100% honest, a lot of that makes me nervous—but I think we are learning.”
We’re proud to announce the first bodega in the #metaverse is now open! Play the Snapple Elements #BlockchainBodega now in @decentraland pic.twitter.com/X19hqLWR7f
Some other CMO anxieties were spelled out on a giant whiteboard in the lobby outside the main stage, where attendees were invited to answer the question, “What’s wrong with marketing today?” Answers ranged from “Trust your gut, don’t overthink it” to “too much greenwashing” to “so much data goes unused.”
Attendees shared their concerns on a wall
Below, more on what’s on the minds of the nation’s top marketers.
Conference speakers wasted no time in talking about the elephant in the room early on—the recession. In one of the first sessions, JJ Hirschle, head of enterprise partnerships at Pinterest, spoke about how “inspiration is recession-proof.” That remains to be seen, but the changing economy was a topic during other presentations throughout the week. “In the next few months, if you’ve not already been asked to, you’re going to be asked to cut your budget. You’ll be asked to find ways to save money,” Liodice warned, adding, “this is not the time to do that.”
Concerns about the economy are likely to pressure marketers to shift more money into “bottom-funnel” efforts expected to immediately drive sales, a movement that could easily get out of hand, said Gary Osifchin, CMO and general manager for hygiene at Reckitt, in an interview. CarMax CMO Jim Lyski, in a joint presentation with The Martin Agency CEO Kristen Cavallo, touched on a new “finance-based shopping” program from the used car marketer that lets consumers browse cars based on their monthly cost. “The consumer just can’t afford the car that they want,” he said, alluding to inflation.
United Airlines’ Maggie Schmerin, head of global advertising, talked about how in the early days of the pandemic, despite losing money from lost business, United continued to invest—in new planes, new talent, and in its biggest ad campaign in a decade. It’s a strategy United intends to replicate if the economy continues to trend downward. In response to a question about the recession, where many people are fearing cutting back, Schmerin said, “We could have hunkered down and played it safe,” but that would have meant ignoring a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity. “It allowed United as a company, as a brand, to make leaps and bounds in terms of where we were prior,” she said.
@maggieschmerin, Head of Global Advertising at @United, shared how United doubled down on changing for the better during a time of uncertainty and turmoil #ANAMasters pic.twitter.com/dFxmEJeqXA
There was some talk from the stage and at the CMO Growth Council before the main meeting that ANA should do away with its Multicultural & Diversity Conference because the so-called “general market” is multicultural, and all marketers need to be thinking that way anyway. The message came across in speeches by Procter & Gamble Co. Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard and Verizon Senior VP-Marketing Tony Wells and was reportedly a hot topic of conversation in all-day marketer meetings on the first day of the Masters of Marketing conference.
To be clear, the Multicultural conference isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s still scheduled to start on Nov. 6. “Until the battle is won, we will still have a conference,” Liodice said in a statement.
In fact, Pritchard is still scheduled to deliver a keynote there, though he may need a new speech, since he delivered the one he was planning for Multicultural at Masters. Marketers—and the ANA— went to lengths to try to demonstrate that the industry isn’t forgetting about DE&I issues.
“Since the murder of George Floyd, thousands of brands have committed billions of dollars” to Black and diverse-owned media,” Wells said. “The question is are we as committed now as we were?”
He tried to note that the answer for Verizon is yes, as he outlined a number of internal and external efforts. Among other things, Wells announced a new programmatic deal with Black-owned Reset Digital to use its Neuroprogrammatic Advertising platform to find diverse audiences it’s been missing with prior targeting efforts.
Executives from Walmart and Dentsu joined Joanna Jenkins, St. Joseph’s University visiting scholar at Rutgers University, to talk about industry commitment to gender equality and announce a new partnership between the ANA’s #SeeHer and the ANA Educational Foundation to launch a new gender studies program.
“There’s progress today vs. where we’ve been historically, but we still have work to do,” said Walmart U.S. CMO William White. “Still men are two times [as likely] to be depicted in the workplace in advertising than women, and that’s problematic.”
White said Walmart is trying to “raise the DE&I acumen of our organization” in part through a DEI review board that “holds us accountable to eliminate bias at work.” The group, he said, has 150 participating marketers who spend time in its meeting and work outside work hours. And it pays dividends, he said. “We have stopped work that’s inappropriate from going out the door.”
Walmart’s holiday campaign, he said, sprung from efforts by its marketers to spend time with diverse customers. Everything in the campaign, he said, “comes directly from the mouths of customers.”
So-called “purpose” marketing has been a buzzword at the Masters conference for years. That was no different last week, though CMOs took pains to outline specific ways they are changing corporate practices to do more good.
Reckitt’s Osifchin wiped down the podium and sprayed the carpet on the dais with some of the company’s Lysol products. Product and purpose (“Keep your loved ones illness-free”) are inextricably linked for Lysol, he said, and that extends to democratizing disinfection by giving away free Lysol wipes in public schools.
A growing focus on sustainability won’t necessarily be easy—or cheap—for agencies. Among new Cannes Lions judging criteria announced by Cannes Lions CEO Simon Cook at Masters is one that entries disclose the CO2 footprint of the work, leaving some agency executives at a loss to figure out how they could measure or estimate it. Besides the Lysol, some Masters attendees may have smelled a business opportunity for carbon footprint measurement coming around the March deadline for entries.
Jane Wakely, executive VP and chief consumer and marketing officer at PepsiCo, detailed the food and beverage giant’s “PepsiCo Positive (pep+)” program, which includes moves to more sustainably source ingredients, while helping farmers. She also plugged a program the company is running in Latin America to use Quaker Oats-based products to help solve malnutrition among children.
The Masters is seemingly an unusual place for Cook to announce new judging criteria and a commitment to juries for awards that go primarily to ad agencies. But the theory was that change has to start with briefs from clients. Plus, the changes are clearly an outgrowth of the growing Cannes-ANA alliance, and pressure from marketers.
Pritchard was particularly adamant about making the Cannes judging criteria happen in meetings that started last summer, according to people familiar with the matter. While he didn’t exactly threaten to stop having P&G people go to Cannes, he did warn that the event would start losing clients if the changes weren’t made, said one of these people. And when Cook told the CMO Growth Council and ANA board about the criteria changes on Tuesday, he was very supportive. Besides the sustainability and DE&I commitments, his concerns included doubts that some of the work getting top honors of late would grow brands, these people said.
A P&G spokeswoman declined to comment.
Simon Cook speaks during the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference
P&G was the first marketer to start attending Cannes en masse in 2002, leading to many more brands coming over the years and the transformation of the festival into a broad-scale event attracting growing hoards of media and tech vendors, too. So its clout with the Ascential-owned event is substantial.
Besides sustainability measurement, Cannes also will be looking for entries to demonstrate growth—or at least potential for growth—stemming from all work submitted, not just the Creative Effectiveness Lions. It also wants to see discussion of DE&I impact and the diversity of teams behind the work.
The changes clearly came as a surprise to some agency executives attending the Masters, some of whom had questions or concerns about how the carbon footprint of work would be measured or how DE&I standards would be applied to work made in Asian countries that have less ethnically diverse populations.
Soyoung Kang, CMO of Eos Products, told 2,100 ANA attendees that ‘“creativity can be the rocket fuel to maximize acceleration and growth.”
Some of the strongest presentations at the conference carried a familiar theme–risk-taking. Soyoung Kang, CMO of Eos Products, wowed many attendees with more “cooch” and “pubes” references than ever before heard on the ANA stage, which was risky on its own. But Eos’ recent marketing moves would not have been successful if they didn’t dip a toe into something new.
Viral campaigns such as “Bless Your F#@%ing Cooch” and “Vagnastics” helped spur sales beyond Eos’ well-known lip balms into its newer shaving products category, and also boosted brand awareness. By leaning into what fans were saying on social media and using such listening to drive campaigns, the brand grew.
“Creativity can be the rocket fuel to maximize acceleration and growth,” Kang said. She noted that to avoid being overly vulgar, it’s necessary to constantly check social media and other feedback and to continue to take “temperature checks” to make sure content is resonating, and not offending.
Ex-Progressive CMO Jeff Charney was also all about risk-taking. He noted that he fired himself from Progressive when he was at the top of his game, to start Mkhstry, the collective that works with brands and agencies, earlier this year. “I’m not looking to make a ton of money—I’m looking to make change,” said the marketer known for ad characters such as Progressive’s Flo and Dr. Rick.
By leaping into multisensory branding, Mastercard has also been an innovator. Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Raja Rajamannar spoke about Mastercard’s new touch cards for the visually impaired, and its sonic logo.
“We typically try to communicate with consumers through sight and sound, but most consumers are blessed with five senses–why don’t we communicate through five senses?” he asked. The simple idea paved the way for Mastercard to reach scores of previously untapped customers.
@Mastercard Raja Rajamannar CMO #SonicBranding WOW 🤩. #AnaMasters pic.twitter.com/y47gr6IbZO
The growth of retail media was prevalent at the event, with Walmart Connect, the retailer’s retail media arm, opening the conference with a case study alongside P&G and PepsiCo around the Super Bowl, where the marketers reported they generated an added $8 million in sales through joint promotions and advertising, including a P&G-arranged shoppable livestream with Deion Sanders. Kroger Precision Marketing highlighted an effort with Red Bull in which the beverage brand used its shopper purchase data to target and evaluate connected TV advertising, which delivered a return of $4.70 in incremental sales for every $1 of investment, according to Shelby Forsthuber, senior manager of shopper marketing for Red Bull North America.
Especially with concerns about the economy, retail media and its ability to deliver measurable sales is going to be increasingly tempting, said Reckitt’s Osifchin in an interview.
“My fear is that marketers—and I need to prevent myself from doing it—will want to look at all the lower-funnel considerations and performance marketing even more,” he said. “But we need to build brands upfront. We need upper-funnel equity. And that also drives sales. It really does. I as a marketer want to build my brands by distinctive propositions, but I also need to see return on it.”
Read more: 12 retail media network executives to know
In this article:
E.J. Schultz is the News Editor for Ad Age, overseeing breaking news and daily coverage. He also contributes reporting on the beverage, automotive and sports marketing industries. He is a former reporter for McClatchy newspapers, including the Fresno Bee, where he covered business and state government and politics.
Jack Neff, editor at large, covers household and personal-care marketers, Walmart and market research. He’s based near Cincinnati and has previously written for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bloomberg, and trade publications covering the food, woodworking and graphic design industries and worked in corporate communications for the E.W. Scripps Co.
Adrianne Pasquarelli is a senior reporter at Ad Age, covering marketing in retail and finance, as well as in travel and health care. She is also a host of the Marketer’s Brief podcast and spearheads special reports including 40 Under 40 and Hottest Brands. Pasquarelli joined Ad Age in 2015 after writing for Crain’s New York Business, where she also focused on the retail industry.