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ANA Conference: Marketers Remain Positive During the Economic Slowdown-Adweek

Marketers Optimistic at ANA Conference

Oct 17, 2008

-By Todd Wasserman, Brandweek

ORLANDO, FLA. Orlando is a town synonymous with escapism, so perhaps it was fitting that the 2008 Association of National Advertisers' "Masters of Marketing," the key marketing meeting of the year, is taking place here this year.

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That's not to say the event exists in a bubble. In his introduction, Robert Liodice, ANA president and CEO, made mention of the dire state of the economy, but was quick to point out marketing's role as a counterpoint. Marketers, he said, account for about 20 percent of economic activity and about 21 million jobs. Strong brands create wealth, a point he underscored by noting that General Electric's brand is now worth $52 billion versus $42 billion in 2003, per Interbrand, New York.

The marketers who followed his lead were cautiously upbeat as well. Jim Stengel, the soon-to-be-departing CMO of Procter & Gamble, for instance, said he saw "a lot of good opportunities" in the downturn, pointing out that P&G had no reason to fear that consumers would trade down to private label versions of its products. "In these times, people are looking for value," said Stengel. "If they are looking for the right value, I think we'll be able to give them it."

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Liodice and Stengel both alluded to the stress between short-term results and long-term brand building, which could be taken as a sign they expect such pressure to continue in these market conditions.

Meanwhile, Michael Mendenhall, CMO at Hewlett-Packard, spoke little about the economy. He instead focused on the dominance of Web 2.0, which he said brings challenges and opportunities to brands. He cited Twitter as a new media force to be reckoned with, having become a source for such news stories as hurricanes and even the discovery of water on Mars. As an example of the power of social networking sites, Mendenhall pointed out that the "Obama Girl" video, which featured model Amber Ettinger singing a love song to the candidate, wasn't generated by the campaign, but but was part of the media landscape that the campaign had to consider.

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