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2022 ANA In-House Agency Conference Review
March 25 2022
Andrea Ruskin

By Andrea Ruskin, Partner and Co-Founder, Blum Consulting Partners

If you work for an IHA, if you work with an IHA, or if you are building or growing your IHA, The Terranea Resort was the place to be March 15-17 for the ANA In-House Agency conference. Against the beautiful backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, over 200 marketers and their creative partners gathered to share information, learn from each other and share some of the latest industry trends.

I was honored to kick off the pre-conference agenda with a session called Expecting the Unexpected with Carlos Ricardo from HP, and Jessica Cipolla-Tario from Sony Interactive Entertainment offering their insights on building and managing in-house agencies.

They each spoke openly about how to create an organization that marketers want to work with, how to be flexible and react in the moment by modifying the original plan, and how to deal with the challenges of implementing the right technology and making sure it is user friendly enough that stakeholders will use it.

Jessica spoke about her goal of helping her team get comfortable in the grey zone, because things are constantly evolving and solutions rarely present themselves in black and white terms. “Always have a large roster of freelancers and don’t confuse re-organization with growth”, she added.

This was echoed by Carlos Ricardo of HP who recently set up internal pods for interpretation of real time data to drive quick turnaround of responsive social and point of sale.

The next few days brought insights into optimizing internal structure, the benefits of bringing media capabilities in-house, how to address globalization, and the latest news on NFT’s and the metaverse.

Bill Duggan from the ANA spoke about the role in-house media can play in the upfront planning and buying process, and how the shift is creating faster turnaround time and more social control. The latest Forrester report has 50% of all survey participants noting in-housing media is their top priority. Expect that number to keep climbing.

Mike Siegel from St Jude’s tugged on audience heartstrings with content that his team has created to strategically tell their story and shared their marketing philosophy that “storytelling is the essence of the emotional connection”. He attributes their success to setting up their internal teams to co-create their strategy with the agency as a partner and reorganizing from silos to pods. If any of us needed to understand what “brand purpose” really is, this was a master class.

Collaboration was another big theme with several people discussing how they plan for collaboration with internal and external partners. Andrew Graff of Allen & Gerritsen highlighted differences between a business culture and a creative culture when trying to understand how to foster better communication between internal and external partners and recommends holding outcomes workshops to define clarity of the mission.

Helen Lin, Wizards’ VP of Digital Marketing attributes their success to clearly defined work streams for internal and external work.

Lori Hobson and Jamie Lewis from The Wonderful Agency, who produce 100% of their advertising in-house, offered three tips for anyone trying to grow their in-house agency:

  1. Flawless Execution
  2. Continuous Process Improvements
  3. Best in Class Thinking

Agility was another theme of how in-house agencies are evolving to support their business partners as expressed by Michelle Clark of E&J Gallo Winery. Gallo’s in-house is responsible not only for asset production but branding and packaging for a broad range of different brands and products.

Orange Theory made a big splash with their Covid success story describing how their revenue dropped to zero during the beginning of Covid and how the in-house team, under the direction of Kevin Keith and with the help of Steve Aoki, created a shared online community of almost 1 million members across the globe inspiring them to live longer and create more vibrant lives through their workout while in lockdown.

Michelle Wong, CMO of Sprinkles and our very own Woman of Influence, spoke about the value of her diverse in-house team, how they are creating more diverse advertising, partnerships with diverse chefs and influencers and driving sales. She also said their new flavor, Matcha Glow Up, became the brand’s best-selling Flash Flavor.

Laura Satterly and Peter Viento of Citi shared the inspiring work that was done to contribute to Citi’s diversity initiative which allows cardholders to pick a chosen name for their identity as opposed to their given name, if it does not match the gender they identify with.

The conference would not have been complete without a discussion of the metaverse, including oracular pronouncements by Kristi VandenBosch of Oliver and David Jones of The BrandTech Group who broke down the fundamentals of the metaverse and likened the journey to the evolution of the internet, including a Gantt chart of the journey to come. “We are in the .com phase of the metaverse right now, but soon it will be unrecognizable”.

David Frankland from Insider Intelligence added his macro trends for marketers and said, “CMO’s are challenged with consumer demand and at the same time, consumer distraction”. He added that success is achieved when you tie your marketing to the strategy of the business.

There were many other great speakers who shared success stories including, Mandy Janicki and Tracy Miller of UL who discussed shifting priorities to meet global demands, as well as Corey O’Brien, Megan Gall, Peter Brown, Jeremy Swiller, Cara Blake, Justin Morgan, Simon Morris, Heidi Cooley, Jack Teuber and Darren Moran.

And, of course, VP of the ANA and Facilitator, Greg Wright who did a fabulous job holding a town hall session, moderating a panel and fielding questions and pulling the conference themes together throughout the two and a half days.

Jack Teuber left us with his advice for IHA’s. “You have a seat at the table, you achieved the objective. Now, do the work!”

My takeaways? Get ready to be more agile, have better collaboration with internal and external partners, have a more powerful story and embrace the unknown.