a room with a group of people and large screens

The theme of this year’s conference, held in Orlando from Oct 2-5, was driving growth, and it was interesting to see the varying ways brands are seeking to achieve it.

Last year, Direct to Consumer (D2C) brands stole the show, most notably in Terry Kawaja’s presentation, ‘Fire your CMO‘ presentation. This year, as first time sponsors, we were surprised that D2C brands were largely absent from both the stage and the conference floor. This is not to say that the agenda and quality were not top-notch. Among the highlights, Andrea Brimmer, CMO at Ally Financial, made agency folks smile by sharing that she paid agencies who pitched for their time. Gary Vaynerchuk was back again this year, and delivered an energetic presentation which called the industry out for being too mired in process.

Gary V at the ANA

Gary Vaynerchuck sharing his hustle gospel

There were many other highlights from both the presentation as well as our conversations on the ground with attendees. Listed below are our top three takeaways:

1 – Large enterprises are looking to D2C brands and Silicon Valley for inspiration

A common theme amongst the brands on stage and in attendance is that they are looking outward for inspiration on how to grow. Leading the charge on this narrative was Mark Pritchard, CMO of P&G, who shared that their executive team have done a number of innovation roadshows to Silicon Valley to learn more about lean innovation.  Pritchard also believes that we are in a perpetual state of disruption and that top brands can take a leading role in driving this disruption. This suggests that P&G will continue to experiment with in house ventures and by acquiring D2C brands.

2 – Marketers continue to face challenges in becoming data driven

There was plenty of references on how to do a better job of harnessing data to make better decisions. However, there was also chatter about how ‘analysis paralysis’ can hinder creativity. Marketers are not alone in facing the challenges in becoming data driven, in fact 69% of executives polled in a recent HBR survey believe they have not created a data driven culture.

It was encouraging to see differing perspectives on leveraging data and insights. While sharing an inspiring turnaround story, Target CMO, Rick Gomez, shared his belief that that much of the data we have is commoditized and that brands need more ownable, proprietary data to create real insights. 

In a comment that went down well with the audience, Doug Zarkin, CMO of Luxottica, reminded attendees that the data should inform the decision and not drive it. At Optimizely, we share this view and believe that creativity and data driven decision making need not be mutually exclusive.  

Data doesn’t make marketing decisions. Marketers make decisions using data. @DougZarkin CMO @Luxottica #ANAmasters

— Laura Maness (@lauramaness) October 3, 2019


3  – The In-Housing battle continues to be fought

Chatter continues amongst brands and agencies around the merits of In-Housing. Gary Vaynerchuck criticized established agencies for being too slow to deliver work adding that full service agencies will give brands more agility and speed. 

Chobani’s Chief Creative Officer, Leland Maschmeyer, outlined how they built out their in-house agency while Ally Financial’s CMO, Andrea Brimmer shared how they pay agencies who pitch for their business.

Like Chobani, Verizon also built a new, integral in-house agency from the ground up in a short period of time. This is how Verizon’s Agency 140 came to be: https://t.co/d7o2Ygic4x #ANAmasters

— ANAmarketers (@ANAmarketers) October 4, 2019


For more on the in-housing trend, here’s a report from the ANA and research from eMarketer. (For full report go here).

eMarketer In-Housing

Final thought

Growth for many of these brands will come through innovation and agility. Creating a culture of experimentation is proven to help drive both of these and will have a meaningful impact on the bottom line. Read our recent research report, ‘How to Win in the Digital Experience Economy’, to learn more about the link between experimentation and growth.