At the ANA meeting, data privacy, transparency, WTF agencies take center stage

This week, thousands of marketing executives are spending four days in Orlando for Association of National Advertising’s Masters of Marketing. Beyond playing golf and listening to performances by Train and Kelly Clarkson, this year’s conference includes presentations from big brands like Bank of America, Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

Key topics expected this year include the effects of General Data Protection Regulation and other data privacy measures, the never-ending battle around brand safety combined with the resurgence of brand purpose, the changing retail landscape with the rise of direct-to-consumer brands and the many threats facing agencies, attendees said.

GDPR and other regulations are just getting started
The industry is many months out of GDPR going into effect, but marketers are still wrapping their head around the impact. Doug Wood, partner at Reed Smith LLP, will be presenting on the concerns around GDPR as well as regulatory investigations. Wood’s law firm is the ANA’s outside council who also has been in touch with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its investigation on illegal media buying practices. At a private event prior to the official start of the conference, ANA’s leadership said that they are taking this FBI investigation extremely seriously, an attendee said.

“People are wondering what progress has been made with ad transparency since the call a year ago to clean it up. We’ve gotten viewability as a standard, but people are still wondering who they are reaching across different media and how can they work with the walled gardens to safely share that data,” said Victor Wong, CEO of Thunder Experience Cloud.

Balancing risk-taking with brand safety
Anne Bologna, chief engagement officer of digital marketing agency iCrossing, said she expects to hear about the importance of brand purpose. Nike’s splash with Colin Kaepernick is sure to get praised as the perfect example of brand purpose that many marketers admire and yet admit they can’t necessarily mimic.

Progressive CMO Jeff Charney is presenting on what he dubs the “most feared four-letter word,” also known as “risk.” That notion includes concern on whether to advertise on particular platforms, notably YouTube, and whether to participate in devise political conversations.

Rise of Amazon and direct-to-consumer brands
While Amazon is on everyone’s minds as the newest advertising giant, competitor site eBay is taking the main stage this year. Suzy Deering, CMO of eBay Americas, will present chat about the rise of direct-to-consumers brands and the investments it has made in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Amid the rise of Amazon, eBay has been a charm offensive to small businesses. Investment banker-cum-industry-cutup Terrence Kawaja will also talk DTC.

Threats to agencies
These days, ANA’s conference features sponsorships from platforms — like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter — and not the big holding companies. Yet much of the discussion isn’t worrying about the end of Facebook or television but rather the challenges facing agencies including in-housing and consultancies. “We’ll hear CMOs talk about how they’re reconfiguring their internal, agency and partner teams to deliver modern, nimble solutions that perform,” Bologna said.

Deloitte Digital is having a big presence this year. Not only is the consultancy sponsoring the conference, but its chief marketing officer Alicia Hatch will be giving her own presentation on the main stage and participating on a CMO-filled panel moderated by Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble. Meanwhile, Verizon’s presentation will focus on building 140, its in-house agency.

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