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Exploring the ANA Digital and Social Media Conference: Insights and Takeaways




We recently had the privilege of attending the ANA Digital and Social Media Conference in Carlsbad, California. This event offered a diverse array of topics that captured the rapidly evolving landscape of digital and social media. From TikTok’s innovative strategies to the intricacies of programmatic advertising and the increasingly important role of creative, the conference delivered a multifaceted exploration of the digital landscape. There were three trends covered that we think will continue to capture the attention of marketers this year.

1. TikTok’s Continued Growth: Advertising Best Practices

One standout theme of the conference was the discussion surrounding TikTok’s meteoric rise and the need for brands to develop a messaging strategy that conforms to the platform. For maximum impact, brands should be developing content specifically for TikTok. This means using platform-native features to receive preference by its algorithm, embracing the LoFi nature of the platform—ensuring content is not over-produced, always shooting on iPhone, trying different story-telling styles and tapping into a culture squad that can watch for what’s relevant and trending. Brands should embrace experimentation on the platform, being careful not to be too precious with their assets. When posts don’t hit it’s fine, nobody cares. So there’s little risk in experimentation. The brands that are winning on TikTok are having fun with their content. Tapping into trends on TikTok at times means including unlicensed content or audio. A variety of brands from ESPN to United Airlines mentioned that there’s a wide range of legal involvement when using trending TikTok content. Sometimes it’s “ask for permission” and other times it’s “beg for forgiveness” assuming you want to keep up with the speed of the platform.

2. Social Creative: Why it Matters

Several speakers also mentioned the fascinating paradigm shift that positions creative as an integral part of their media targeting strategies. Brands like California Pizza Kitchen emphasized outcomes over audience segmentation, urging creative and media teams to forge a symbiotic partnership that allows creative development to move at the speed of media. Rain the Growth Agency has consistently seen success allowing platform algorithms to optimize creative delivery toward the most receptive audiences. This approach also allows brands to gain interesting audience insights by analyzing who is responding best to each unique creative asset.

Creative testing and iteration is critical in identifying assets that will create a lasting impact on audiences. It’s also important to consider that assets developed for a specific platform will almost always perform better than creative that is developed and cut to conform to several different channels or platforms.

3. Programmatic Precision: Navigating the Landscape

Amid the conference buzz, programmatic advertising emerged as a focal point of discussion. The ANA recently published the results of their 2023 programmatic best practices report that saw participation from dozens of brands. The findings made it clear that the industry needs to keep a continued watchful eye on the structure, platforms, partners and inventory involved in programmatic ad campaigns.

To ensure brands are receiving quality ad experiences in programmatic, teams should be considering site inclusion lists rather than the more common exclusion list approach. Brands participating in the ANA’s report saw their ads run across an average of 44,000 sites. Partners who hand-selected several hundred sites saw better average ad quality and performance. Brands can also avoid made-for-advertising websites with this approach. Exclusion lists have always been a popular approach for programmatic plans, but taking this a step further will guarantee a higher level of ad quality.

Another highlight of the report—brands benefit by prioritizing value over cost and CPMs. The report noted that 50% of observed programmatic events came at a CPM of $3 or less. However, ad quality and performance was strongest when a brand’s average CPM was above the $3 mark.

The need to negotiate direct data access contracts with all primary supply chain partners was another critical finding in the report. Accessing log-level data (LLD) from every adtech vendor and stitching that data together will inform where value is hiding and where there is no value at all, helping brands to make more informed decisions.

Looking Ahead

As the conference drew to a close, these noted trends stood out as focus points teams need to pay close attention to going forward. We have seen the importance of all these noted trends first-hand in our experience with brands and will continue to explore these categories going forward.

This article is featured in Media Impact Report No. 47. View the full report here.

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