IAA Congress Commentary: Of global branding, lazy-marketing, and future of ad business
It was a few minutes past 9 am. Even as the delegates were settling down and putting their mobile phones on silent modes, up walked the often dubbed as controversial and maverick thought leader Sergio Zyman. Over the next 30 minutes, the ex-marketing chief of Coke spoke on a simple broad theme – "Marketing is there to sell stuff!" Zyman blasted the CMOs for being plain lazy with marketing and focusing on showcasing their works rather than moving the organisation's "growth agenda." A silent audience heard him out. Zyman also had strong views on marketing ROI – "If CMO can not measure the results, the finance chief will always dominate. Calculating the tangible return on marketing investments is absolutely critical." Overall a powerful talk, but Zyman could have avoided making sweeping statements without adequate supports.
What followed Zyman was a panel discussion on an oft-debated topic – 'Integration vs Segmentation of advertising business'. While speakers like Howard Draft, CEO of Draft; Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin; and McCann Vice-Chairman Marcio Moreira had interesting discussions, it looked like the Integration debate was like the story of seven blindfolded men who while touching the elephant saw it in their own different points of view. By and large, world over panelists see this debate only from their point of view – an advertising agency head argue for his case, media wants to come "first" and lead the integration and similarly for other functions. However, on this occasion the moderator summed it well when he said – "In the new era, ad agencies have seized to be the Sun of this Solar System. Now it's the consumer in the center with all the types of agencies revolving around."
Confirming that the IAA Congress' title "Challenges of Change" was high on every speaker's mind, Steve Forbes was direct. "We live in disruptive times. This is an era of tremendous change," he said. Articulate and authoritative, Forbes, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Magazines, was a delight to hear. His wit made an otherwise mundane discussion on world economy interesting. Disappointingly, his comments on media developments were brief. His theory on media is perhaps unarguable – While new media like Internet, iPods and broadband are changing the mediascape, old media will always survive. Forbes is upbeat that traditional media owners like him will do well in the new order, provided they adapt. Forbes.com, according to him, was growing fast and profitable on back of the print title.
A couple of other speakers added depth to the day's proceedings. StarCom Media's global boss Jack Klues and Walt Disney Park Chairman Jay Rasulo, in particular.
Let me try to share what StarCom's Klues had to say. Two of his buzzwords were "From exposure to engagement" and marrying "content with context". He argued that media agencies had to move beyond eyeball measurement into engaging the consumers. Well, nothing earthshattering there, but perhaps an important reinforcement for the media folks. Interestingly, throughout his talk, Klues kept referring to P&G's Jim Stengel's assessment of ad industry a few years back where Stengel had give a poor C minus to the ad industry in general. Jack Klues believes he can now get an A. We'll find out when we meet the man who ad industry dreads most Jim Stengel himself when he speak at the Congress tomorrow.
What is common between Adidas, Coke and Disney? Jay Rasulo of Walt Disney Parks would like us to believe it were two words - "Organisation Principles" - that separated these icons from the also rans. What's this Organizational Principle and how does it help marketing? These principles are what the brand, and the entire organisation, stand for. So for Coke its "Bringing humanity together" and for Disney it's all about "Magic, Dreams and Wonderful experience." Disney has embraced these "principles" and future will see these principles being played out across the World.
Will Disney Parks be in India anytime soon? "No, Indian infrastructure isn't up to it yet," Rasulo said without any hesitation. Indian planners have a job cut out.
This kind of sums up the experiences of the Day Two. Now as the Sun goes down, IAA Congress delegates will wear their jackets (we are repeatedly told that deserts get cold in night) and get ready to drive into the heart of Arabic deserts some 40 miles outside of Dubai City. On offer is some "Arabic experience" – but don't get your minds working too hard! We are here to do business, pleasure can wait.
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