Marketers Face Challenges of Growth

PHOENIX As sought-after 18-34-year-old consumers prove harder than ever to pin down via traditional media on the one hand, and the government and the public blame marketing for everything from obesity to just being annoying on the other, there was a bit of a siege mentality on display at last week’s Association of National Advertisers annual conference in Phoenix.

In his opening remarks, Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA, noted that the marketing industry had become “the public whipping boy.” Other top marketers made requisite comments about this being an era of unprecedented change, how dabbling in “micro-media” like blogs and podcasting was imperative now that the 30-second TV spot’s efficacy has waned. They also related how difficult it is to measure ROI, a bugaboo that has haunted the industry since its inception.

“We’re losing audiences, we’re losing attention,” said attendee Gary Elliott, Hewlett-Packard vp of brand marketing, in a typical plaint.

Jim Stengel, Procter & Gamble global CMO, stressed in a speech to the record-setting crowd, “Measurement tools have not kept up with the advance of our industry.”

The ANA said 900 people registered for the event, about 400 of them corporate marketing executives.

Marketers offered several strategies to combat audience erosion.

Stengel—who was named Brandweek‘s Marketer of the Year—said his approach was to encourage consumers to seek out its brands. One example: the launch of P&G’s teen-targeted Secret Sparkle this year. It was supported not by TV but by a print ad of a girl with flowing hair surrounded by flowers under a Moonlit Rose banner, via Leo Burnett, Chicago, and proved so compelling that young girls downloaded the art. Stengel also expressed faith that Project Apollo (a joint venture among Arbitron, P&G and VNU, which owns Brandweek and Adweek) would emerge to address the ROI question with better tech tools.

Not all was gloom and doom. Jerri DeVard, Verizon svp of marketing and brand management, preferred to see the future as one of excitement and unlimited consumer choice. “We face uncertain ad-supported futures,” she said. DeVard noted that young people seem to have abandoned mass media and cocooned themselves in a “zone” of customized information; often they do not know what is going on in the outside world. But, she offered, “we’re betting that Verizon has the future-proof ecosystem of services.”

Another strategy was an emphasis on design. In his speech, Geoffrey Frost, CMO of Motorola, talked about Pebl, a black, rounded phone to be released this year. He showed a launch TV spot, via 180, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in which a meteor falls from the sky and evolves into a phone that assumes its place among similar-looking black rocks on a beach.

Joe Tripodi, CMO of Allstate Insurance, suggested that the media and public perception problems are not intractable, but merely cases that demand a more proactive approach. The insurer is rolling out “Protect and Prepare” to help consumers to gird for catastrophes like the recent hurricanes and terrorism before they happen.

Tripodi also had some choice words for marketers who are seeking the Holy Grail in the form of branded entertainment: “If you think that a two-second placement on Everybody Loves Raymond is going to save your company or your product, to this I say, ‘Bullshit!’ “