Key Takeaways from ANA's Day of Learning | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

Key Takeaways from ANA's Day of Learning

October 4, 2021

What would you do if you woke up and suddenly everything you knew about marketing had changed? On September 14th, it did.


"The future is already here; it's just not very evenly distributed." ― William Gibson, Author

On September 14th, a seismic shift happened in our industry. Nearly 12,000 people in over 85 countries committed to take the day off from work to participate in an honest exchange on how we can all move the marketing industry forward. Maybe you got to attend, or maybe you didn't, but either way, I am confident in saying that you will benefit, because this Global Day of Learning from the ANA was the beginning of the future of the marketing industry.

Some people are calling this one of the largest and most complete marketing and business gathering ever. I am calling it the largest exchange of global knowledge in marketing's history in a single day. Whatever we call it, the success metrics will not be measured in size, but how it has inspired our industry toward the change it needs.

This virtual event ran for 24 hours straight and offered a continual stream of the latest thinking, informed by the last year and a half of business and personal challenges, and fueled by the immediacy of the moment. There was much to take in -- an overwhelming amount in fact -- but volume was not the point. The point was to get everyone in the industry together to pause, to learn from each other, and to recommit to working as a team beyond this day.

So how did this happen?

The discussions that took place leading up to this were the kind that are often held behind closed doors. And in fact, the idea for this day started during a closed door meeting of the ANA's Global CMO Growth Council at Cannes Lions. When the agenda turned to helping marketers, and specifically CMOs, to drive more growth at their organizations, the open and frank discussion that followed caught everyone by surprise. The CMOs in attendance came to a point in their discussion when they began to see their roles differently; that they didn't just have the ability to influence marketing, they had the ability to influence business. Energized by the moment, they sprang into action, knowing that if they didn't, the moment would be lost.

Why this event was unique

The attendees were not just C-suite executives; it was everyone -- whole teams. This was a chance for deep participation within marketing organizations, and I can think of no other conference or learning event that offered this kind of team learning at this scale.

One of the biggest reasons people registered was to close the gap on the learning ecosystem. But this wasn't just about bringing all of these disparate segments together -- it was equally about bringing together marketing teams, brands, and their agencies. P&G, for instance, had over one third of its global marketing team registered to attend. Other global companies had upwards of 90% of their teams join in, and many smaller companies thought it was so important that they had 100% of their team attend.

Who was there?

The day began with some of the most influential CMOs in the world -- people who control much of the world's advertising and in turn influence the lives of many people, including those in attendance. People like Julia Goldin, CMO at LEGO, who was co-leader of the event along with Elizabeth Rutledge, CMO at American Express, Marc Pritchard from P&G, Marcel Marcondes from Anheuser-Busch, and Raja Rajamannar from Mastercard, among many others.

Other presenters were top academics, creatives, brand officers, CEOs, advocates, editors, founders, creators, and more. Attendees were from every sector including real estate, retail, publishing, education, health care, tech, food & beverage, charity, transportation, financial, digital, farming, religion, the military, sports and entertainment. Important industry trade groups, including the 4A's and IAB, also helped to drive participation from the industry's major stakeholders. Cannes Lions shared best practice for creative excellence from this year's award winners, and thought leaders from companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo! and LinkedIn all contributed their expertise. This was a truly a diverse, unprecedented, and comprehensive group who came together to forge a path forward as a global community.

What the day was like

A few people likened it to a marathon. There was grumbling about the lack of breaks, and one attendee said that the lineup was so good that it gave her FOMO. Teams spread out around the world embraced it like a relay race, taking turns watching during their day and then connecting later to fill each other in on the big picture, excited by what they saw.

From my perspective it was a global conversation. These were not lectures, they were provocations, meant to spur more thinking, more conversations, and more action.

What the days after will bring

I put together a list of takeaways from what I saw and heard during The Day of Learning. They are by no means exhaustive, but they are a good starting point for moving forward:

  • Don't make the goal to get back to normal. Make it to get to a better place.
  • Invite everyone in. Diverse points of view offer the most options for change.
  • Resist the pull of the status quo. The only way to grow is through discomfort.
  • Look beyond your industry. The solution you need may already exist there.
  • Recognize that creativity is a skill. It is a way of thinking that can be learned.
  • Commit to always learning. It is our responsibility as leaders and influencers.
  • Look for catalysts. Good thinking naturally stimulates more good thinking.
  • Think culture, not brands, and people, not consumers. It's about connecting.
  • See change as growth. This shift in thinking turns problems into opportunities.
  • Data and tech are tools. Use them to inform and inspire your growth mindset.
  • You can't go this alone. True change comes from open and honest collaboration.
  • Sustainability is non-negotiable. Without it, there literally is no future for us.

What you can do

Will there be another Day of Learning? I hope so. In fact, I hope that there are dozens of them, each independent and each inspired by the last. But I also urge you not to wait for more. Think about what you could present to your colleagues now from your unique point of view and put a presentation together. Take what you learned to heart and put something out into the world. Don't make it perfect. Just make it a relevant place to start the discussion.

A quick note

The event was so large and so broad that it could not be contained in one day. That's why the ANA kept the access to its content up for an additional two weeks. If you registered for the event you can still see the video tract and download the more than 200 pieces of content that were made available during the event. Just do it before September 30th when it's coming down. The ANA will also be putting out a "best of" from the Day of Learning soon so look for that. And you may also want to consider joining the ANA to become involved in all of the other opportunities they provide to learn and grow throughout the year.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

This post was originally published at MediaVillage here.

Steven Stark has over 20 years' experience working as an advertising copywriter and concept director. He has worked for hundreds of clients, brands, and agencies in the B2B and B2C space during his career.

When he's not creating marketing he's writing about it, as well as about creativity, food, culture, and DTC companies. Steven's work has appeared everywhere from liquor stores to The New York Times. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, a designer, and his daughter, who works in communications.

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