A New Era at the Advertising Research Foundation

The consumer is in charge – we know that.

What’s news today is how quickly marketers are adapting.  We’re unshackling our thinking, and re-focusing our modeling, building on decades of industry learning.    

Since becoming CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation five months ago, I’ve seen how our member companies are accelerating their response to the “consumer in control” revolution.  Here are a few insights from my first months on the job, gleaned from our member companies on the industry’s future.

  • Today’s marketers are in search of “connection DNA” – understanding consumers’ values, when and where they’re most receptive to messaging, and how we can engage them continuously.
  • Consumers use media in real time – we need to model in real time, too, with real-time course correction.
  • The days of tweaking last year’s marketing plan to reach this year’s consumer are over.  Many advertisers are shifting significant percentages of their budgets to social, mobile, and other online touch points.   Incrementalism is out, wholesale reinvention is in.
  • Media consumption is up, freeing many of our members to move past the “platform of choice” debate.   The question “Which platform do consumers prefer?” is increasingly answered “All.”
  • Big Data can lead us to the promised land of “Big Connectivity” and “Big Customization.”  Our members are learning, however, that without great creative, connections enabled by big data are just data, and not connections.



Transforming our marketing models to achieve game changing business decisions is our shared industry future.  What’s needed to seize this historic opportunity are marketers that can align better data with better organizational structures and link great creative with the authentic voice of the consumer.  

Today’s marketers need not just top analytic chops, but also premium listening skills, to hear and translate the needs of the market   have superior business acumen, and can secure and allocate spending to drive global growth.

Without doubt, it’s a daunting transition. An industry built on pushing out messages and measuring consumers’ response to those messages can’t be transformed overnight.  However, I’m greatly encouraged by the receptivity of our member companies to full-scale experimentation. Our insight leaders and their C-suite investors alike are embracing change and matching unprecedented growth in touch points with new modeling based on meaningful analytics, placing the voice of the consumer where it belongs, squarely in the center.

We’re forging consensus on what our next great opportunities will be.  We’re creating new business models that discern continuous insight from continuous market data, moving from “Spend, Measure and Pray” to “Listen, Create and Scale,” and distilling data into bites that drive real time decision-making.

Three strategic imperatives, the three Cs, are emerging from this ferment of change:

  • Create.  Great creative is essential.  Marketers need to do more than measure feet and clicks.  We need to show consumers, with great cross-platform creative, that we also understand their feelings and beliefs.
  • Connect.  Consumers are clear on this – send us messages at the right place and time, when we’re in the right mind-set.  Marketers have to change their behavior to connect with consumers at the speed and scale of today’s mobile lifestyle.
  • Collaborate.  We’re in an era of shared learning and experience.  This means not just meeting consumers’ expectations for two-way engagement, but collaborating within the marketing discipline as well.  Competing internally on how to divide the pie makes little sense when sharing knowledge and best practices grows opportunity for all.

Something else has been abundantly clear since my joining the ARF – the indispensable role of research.  With the “consumer in charge” and mobility revolutions in full swing, research is more important than ever.  It’s the tool the C-suite needs to forecast consumer behavior, chart new frontiers of cross-platform marketing, and ensure the most productive marketing spend.


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