4A’s Media Conference Tackles Challenges

ORLANDO, FLA. The American Association of Advertising Agencies’ 11th annual Media Conference and Trade Show kicked off today with spirited and freewheeling discussions on technology, measurement and the challenges of “Staying in touch with the consumer” at the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.

The conference drew almost 1,100 agency, client and media executives and was marked by an energetic exploration— “honest” was the way one participant described it—of the myriad issues affecting attendees.

Renetta McCann, CEO of Starcom North American and chair of the 4A’s Media Policy Committee, opened the conference with a warning: “The maze that takes us to consumer engagement is becoming more complex.” She also noted that media agencies face “unprecedented fee pressures” and new factors like media audits and the involvement of procurement officers.

The event’s keynote speaker, Procter & Gamble global marketing officer Jim Stengel, talked about “how technology has shifted our audiences so far.” Stengel recalled a 1994 speech at a 4A’s gathering by former P&G CEO Ed Artzt that forecast “a future where consumers, not advertisers, pay for content. A future where consumers control what they watch and when they watch it.” And he graded the industry and clients on how well they’ve realized that future in areas such as pay-for-view TV, time shifting, fragmentation and other topics. The grades ranged from D (for programming and segmentation) to B+ (for reducing dependence on TV.)

Overall, Stengel gave the industry a C-. “I’ve got two children, a son and daughter. I can tell you that if this was one of their report cards, we would be having a heart-to-heart talk.”

The first day also featured an address by GroupM CEO Irwin Gotlieb, who laid out 10 challenges for media agencies to navigate in a digital world. Among them: developing and recruiting talent, better targeting, content development and integration. And pointedly, better measurement tools: “We are getting closer to the point where our research providers may not be adequate to the task and could put our overall business at risk,” Gotlieb said.