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Q&A With ANA’s Bob Liodice: The State of the Advertising Industry

December 5th, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler

What’s the state of the advertising industry? Ask Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). He’s steering his organization through unparalleled change with a call for greater marketplace transparency. He’s also changing the business model by reappraising the agency and client relationship that helps advertising keep pace with technical advancements.

Described as “a most unlikely revolutionary” by MediaPost, he was named Media Executive of the Year in 2017. Liodice shares his thoughts on industry challenges and opportunities.

Weisler: What is the state of the advertising industry today?

Liodice: Technology has wrought tremendous change to our industry, both good and bad. Some issues remain particularly challenging including the ongoing debate over media transparency, diversity, and gender equality in the workforce; brand safety; brand purpose; ad blocking; [and] talent issues that agencies, marketers, and media companies are trying their best to solve.

What do you see as the industry challenges next year?

There are many challenges, but one of particular importance is influencer marketing. At the last Cannes festival, Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed announced that Unilever would no longer partner with influencers who buy followers. This was powerful. The rise of fraud in influencer marketing has become a growing issue as marketers pay influencers based on their follower count. Because influencer marketing is centrally built on top of two platforms—Google and Facebook (Instagram)—and the platforms control what data is available and how it is accessed, marketers will continue to remain in the dark and limited in their abilities to tackle this growing issue without greater collaboration and transparency from the social networks.

What are the opportunities next year?

They are boundless. Marketers have the chance to improve how they engage with consumers while agencies have the chance to develop new, creative methods for how their clients communicate with their customers. There are also endless opportunities in refining the use of data and the role it plays in the marketing mix, which is growing tremendously in importance.

What’s the future of agencies?

Agencies are in a state of flux and are in a difficult stage of their evolution. They are being challenged by consultancies who are competing more directly with them than ever, and, at the same time, a growing number of clients are bringing agency services in-house and looking for more return on their advertising investments. There is consolidation at the holding company level and advances in technology continue to influence the way media is bought and sold. At the same time, as ANA chairman Marc Pritchard noted, it’s also a time of great opportunity for agencies, particularly for more creative shops who are capable of delivering the kind of engaging work that only they can produce.

What’s your opinion of the state of programmatic, linear, local advertising?

They’re all part of the overall media ecosystem and play key roles in the marketing mix. Each has their advantages and marketers and their agencies determine how to best utilize them depending on which platform provides the best results for the [particular] product or service being advertised.

How can the industry best move diversity and gender initiatives forward?

Marketers need to get involved with ANA initiatives. One is the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing [working] to bring together senior thought leaders from African-American, Hispanic, Asian, LGBT, and general market communities to create a united blueprint for the evolution of multicultural marketing. The other is #SeeHer, which launched in June 2016 in partnership with The Female Quotient (TFQ). #SeeHer’s mission is to increase the accurate portrayals of females in media 20 [percent] by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women winning the vote. #SeeHer unites more than 70 of the nation’s top marketers, including AT&T, Coca-Cola, Ford, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, L’Oreal, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Verizon, and Walmart, unified to address this challenge for positive change.

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