It Takes a Village to Drive Growth and Change

October 31, 2018

By Ilana Kearns


The 2018 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, the largest and most senior marketing event in the industry, ended on a high note last week with thousands of marketing professionals gathered together in Orlando, Fla. The highlight of the week for me was to hear insights firsthand from senior marketing executives from my favorite brands, including the U.S. Navy. The evenings were filled with fun and uplifting music — a huge bravo to Kelly Clarkston, Train, and Amara La Negra for rocking it out!

I loved seeing everyone gather to share knowledge, hilarious brand ads like the Tide ad, uncover new opportunities, and form new business relationships to help the industry continue to evolve.

It was clear to me that the marketing industry is at a pivotal point and the ANA and its members are moving it to meaningful engagement that drives ROI. The CMO role is changing and utilizing new tools like data science and technology to drive growth.


Association of National Advertisers

With nearly 2,000 companies and 25,000 brands, the Association of National Advertisers is the U.S.' oldest and largest advertising trade association founded in Detroit, Mich. in 1910. Articulated in its bylaws, the association's overarching purpose is: to safeguard essential values in advertising as a positive economic force, to enhance the science of advertising and marketing to benefit advertisers and consumers, to improve efficiency in marketing goods and services through responsible advertising, and to promote the common interests and welfare of its members. Focusing on these concerns, the ANA initiated, at times working in concert with sister associations, the formation of industry associations and innovative systems and studies to address specific advertiser concerns.


The Case for Change

Research shows that when unconscious bias is eliminated, new pathways for business growth open up, creating measurable outcomes from which all businesses and brands can benefit. To support this growth mindset, the ANA announced several new initiatives and reinforced others. Highlights include:


Its mission is to accurately portray all women and girls in advertising and media so that by 2020 — the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote — women and girls will see themselves reflected as they truly are! The Gender Equality Measure (GEM) developed by #SeeHer is a data-driven methodology that identifies unconscious bias in advertising and programming. It is being used by marketers, researchers, agencies, networks, content creators, and producers throughout the ad and media community and is being integrated into national advertisers' media strategy and implementation. Membership in #SEEHER includes access to the ANA's latest proprietary insights, programming opportunities, and webinars with real-time marketing trends and best practices.

Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing

While the population and buying power has boomed for Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and LGBTQ segments, advertising spend from the top 500 U.S. companies has flatlined. More alarmingly, leading advertisers are not investing in multicultural and inclusive segments at all. According to Nielsen, the Hispanic millennial population is driving overall growth in the age group, picking up more than 6 percent in five years vs. over 3 percent in overall total market. To combat this, AIMM (Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing) was formed with a mission to create a powerful voice that elevates multicultural and inclusive marketing to promote business growth in an increasingly diverse marketplace.

Learn and Share

To address the huge gap with marketing and technology skills, the ANA has launched the ANA Marketing University. The university will bring together the best minds to create the capability industry-wide to transform marketing. To date, 200 CMOS have signed up to be adjunct professors!



More and more organizations are finding that leading with a value-driven approach is a key business differentiator. Without values, many organizations find themselves being commoditized. Here are just a few of the countless initiatives announced:

  • The ANA has eliminated plastic from the conference badges.
  • The host hotel of the ANA Masters, the Rosen Shingle Creek, provided recycled paper pens for conference attendees.
  • To support a greener footprint, Walt Disney World has announced that all of its theme parks have eliminated plastic straws and stirrers.
  • During times of tragedy, nothing like a hot meal can lift one's spirits. To get a hot meal anytime, anywhere to those in need, Denny's has unveiled its 53-foot long Mobile Relief Diner designed to serve hot breakfast and refreshments to those in need across the country.
  • Keurig Green Mountain is committed to improving the lives of coffee growers and has actively supported the fair trade movement since 2000! In the case of Fair Trade USA, Keurig supports pilot programs designed to innovate and expand the fair trade model to allow more farmers and workers to benefit.
  • Sorry can be worse than any swear word. The Canadian Down Syndrome Society has launched a new campaign to say congratulations first and sorry never to new parents of children with Down Syndrome.


Overarching Conference Themes

  • Data is both an opportunity and a challenge. There is a need to humanize data and remove bias from machine learning while democratizing the learnings.
  • Employees are the biggest and best brand ambassadors. Creating the best employee experience matters now more than ever. CFOs need to think about the impact of their decisions on the customer. CTOs should understand how their role impacts the end user customer.
  • The way we work is getting in the way and needs to change. Marketing has become too automated and creativity is making a huge comeback. We need to demand quality and style.
  • The customer is at the center of everything we do and consumers today demand a unique experience created through personalization and customization.
  • Focus on growth tied to outcome, not metrics.
  • Hire culturally curious people.
  • Partnership marketing is huge.
  • The ongoing debate of in-house agency vs. outsourcing creative work to an agency continues.

Ilana Kearns is a marketing and strategic communications professional.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.


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.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.