The annual ANA Masters of Marketing event, which took place in Arizona last week, was a study in Darwinism, showcasing the entire industry ecosystem at work.
For four days, Phoenix turned into Darwin’s Galapagos. With a record 2,200 attendees making the annual migration this year, advertising/marketing firms of all shapes, sizes, and appearances seemingly filled every available niche where a dollar or two could be made.
Ad dollars are our sustenance. And who holds sway over how it all gets divvied up? The ANA membership, now all gathered together conveniently in one big watering hole.
Checking over my diaries, the environs were dominated by three species. First, the agencies who have roamed the media world for almost three centuries now, despite facing several crises that announced their imminent extinction.
Even more visible than the agencies this year were the marketing tech companies, recent adaptations to a changing environment that enabled the evolution of social media and programmatic media buying.
And thirdly of course, the clients, who came in large numbers from a broad range of industries.
But who sat at the very top of the marketing food chain? A quick scan of the premises revealed the answer: hordes of people cluster wistfully around just a few individuals. They, of course, were none other than the CMOs. It was quite educational to observe the intricate mating rituals devised to catch the attention of the dominant species.
The marketing tech companies, being generally a bit less (ahem) sociable than agencies, seemed to prefer to sponsor tightly scheduled, extravagant events (they are also much richer than agencies) than to schmooze clients til all hours.
Social skills aside, they do appear to have highly developed homing radar. The behavior which has emerged among tech companies of late is to simply sidestep the agencies, and go right for the client. This is clearly an effective adaptation, having spread rapidly to become common practice among virtually all marketing tech firms.
The agencies however are still dangerous, ‘armed’ literally with their ancient but still effective weapon of choice, the cocktail. But don’t count them out just yet. Who else is there who can explain all of these techie tools in plain English?
As the conference tailed off, and a beautiful Saturday afternoon waned into evening, I looked skyward and saw what appeared to be a large, bright object hanging in the distance. A few minutes later, it still hadn’t moved. Sensing the possibility of an historic moment, I mentioned to my associate that perhaps we were about to witness the world’s first client abduction. No, he said, it looks more like an asteroid. (In that case, it’s only the dinosaurs among us that need be afraid).