Content and Creativity: A Recap of the 2023 ANA Social & Digital Conference
By Bobby Johnson
July 26, 2023
By Bobby Johnson
July 26, 2023
We just got back from ANA 2023 at the Costa Del Sol resort in Carlsbad, CA, and we’re here to share what we saw at this year’s conference.
Last year, the most exciting and popular topics on everyone’s lips were Web 3.0 and the Metaverse. Needless to say, things have changed. This year, the discussion was a little more varied, covering how e-commerce, gaming, influencers, social channels, and retail media networks are helping brands grow.
Basically, where last year we were putting our eggs in one basket, this year we’re recognizing the need to diversify.
A.I. was also not a main topic, which we found surprising considering all the buzz. However, what we found interesting was that AI was mentioned across the board as it related to each of the discussion topics. So, instead of making AI the hero, AI became a support player for each of the main tactics. We imagine this will be the way AI integrates into marketing as it evolves.
We’re going to share what we saw at the ANA Social & Digital Conference this year, outline the most exciting panels we attended, and talk about the trends that’ll be shaping the immediate future of advertising.
Creativity was huge this year at ANA. It wouldn’t be overstating it to say that creativity was the single most important topic, the one that spread down into every growth and marketing strategy.
“The best discussions about creativity at ANA were those that stressed the importance of understanding the audience. Of listening to the way they want to be communicated with.” – Brett Sirianni, Chief Digital Officer, Inspira Marketing
We noticed that being culturally aware and meeting the market where they live were common phrases. Everyone wants to find the side door into their audience, and creating content hyper-tuned to their interests seems to be the way to do it. All the advertising platforms are amazingly intuitive and intelligent, but without the best-in-class content, brands will be overlooked, or worse, be called out for being inauthentic.
Hyundai showcased an entire panel dedicated to marketing to a multicultural audience, hosted by its director of experiential and multicultural marketing. They showed how diverse influencers, multicultural content stories, and bilingual campaigns all shape Hyundai’s strategy.
The Paramount Advertising crew had a well-put-together offering showcasing how culture was at the heart of success in digital marketing content. We found their presentation so captivating we barely took notes. But it wasn’t difficult to remember: they showed how content was created at a premium level, then distributed to Instagram.
The same campaign would be sent to TikTok, but in a more lo-fi tone. They were playing to the strengths of each platform with their creative content: Instagram for the glossier content, TikTok for the “amateur” flavor. Paramount showed how brands that are savvy with their content, with their audience, were winning where it matters.
The undisputed heavyweight champs of ANA, and of 2023, are the retail media networks. Retail media networks are retailer-created or provided advertising platforms located right on their ecommerce sites or pages.
Amazon, Walmart, Lowes, Instacart, et all, were all massive winners and will continue to be going into the future.
In Social Insider’s panel, they talked about the shift away from paid media like Meta and Google, and toward an omnichannel approach. In just the last year, Google grew 3%, while Instacart grew 44% in paid media dollars spent.
Basically, with a retail media network, you get access to extremely specific data about customer purchases at a granular level. This of course lets you advertise more accurately, and right in the same store where you’re already shopping. Retail media networks are a full-funnel opportunity, and they aren’t as dependent on the soon-to-be-gone cookies that have been the cornerstone of other advertising platforms.
What we heard during our stay was that food and beverage brands seem to profit the most from retail media networks, but every brand is going to see a bump from embracing them.
We attended a few panels on influencers and social media, with TikTok being the strongest contender for “winner” of social media channels at the ANA 2023 Conference. One panel even predicted, using the latest data, that TikTok will be bigger than Facebook and Instagram by 2025.
TikTok is already a winner with Gen Z and the place where they start their shopping. And soon it’ll be the place where they end their shopping, being able to buy products straight from the app. Check out our article on TikTok Shop to learn more. Naturally, this makes TikTok a prime channel for reaching Gen Z in particular.
In each panel focused on TikTok, we learned a few common tactics advertisers are using. As we mentioned earlier, lo-fi videos with a homemade feel do well on TikTok, even for big brands. And because Gen Z (and TikTok) is focused on this kind of personal authenticity, content that is “design by committee” is the content that falls flat. Content constructed to please everyone is rounded over: it has no cutting edge (if you’ll allow the pun).
Brands on TikTok need to take risks, they need to allow their content creators a long leash. Not all content will hit, but every expert who spoke at ANA said you have to give your team creative freedom to do their best work.
The most successful advertising focuses on entertainment first. The content from influencers, the content going on TikTok and Instagram, it has to creatively engage the audience. No one is sharing a TikTok describing the latest product, or an upcoming event. Ditto for Reels.
Entertaining content gets shared, entertaining content goes viral. What we learned at ANA is to forget brochure-style content and go for your audience’s heart (or their funny bone).
We had a blast at ANA, and we’re excited to see what other marketers have in store for 2023.
A few quick takeaways:
To learn how to incorporate these tactics and channels into your marketing strategy, hit us up today.
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