Andrea Martens is the CEO of the Association of Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) and she discusses some of the challenges facing ADMA and their broad membership base last year as marketers and their agencies adapted to the impact of the global pandemic. Andrea highlights the lessons and the actions she took as a leader and the results her team delivered in 2020. She also looks to the year ahead with optimism, outlining an ambitious agenda for the organisation in the coming year both from a regulatory and educational perspective.
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Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media and advertising, with industry thought leaders and practitioners.
Today, I’m sitting down with Andrea Martens, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Data-driven Marketing and Advertising A.K.A, ADMA. Welcome, Andrea.
Thank you, Darren. Great to be here.
Well, look, I appreciate you making time because I know you have the busiest calendar or diary that I’ve ever seen. But thanks for taking the time to sit down.
I want to start our conversation with the idea of understanding what ADMA is; because look, from my experience, as long as I’ve been in marketing advertising, which is more than, let’s say three decades — ADMA was always the place you would go for a high-quality industry training and education. But it’s actually a lot more than that, isn’t it?
Absolutely. While education absolutely remains a key pillar for ADMA, as it has for the last few years and will continue to be in the future; there are many more elements to what we do.
Ultimately, we represent the industry on all matters of data and privacy, ensuring that as the government goes to make changes to the regulatory landscape, that the industry’s view is heard and the interests of the industry are represented. And that’s an industry that includes marketers and advertising agencies.
So regulatory and advocacy on behalf of the industry is another of the three ADMA pillars. Looking at the regulatory agenda in 2021, we’ve got a really busy year ahead – which is not going to be helping my calendar at all!
The third pillar is thought leadership – bringing the global and the local best practice to the Australian marketing industry. Making sure that we bring international insights from our global DMA network to the local market and seed discussion and thinking about those insights in a local context.
There are some great learnings that we can take from global practices and the amazing work being done locally. Our job is to bring that to life, through content, education or events.
You’re absolutely right in regards to privacy. We’re seeing the big battles happening with Apple and Facebook and the like. And I think privacy is an issue that governments everywhere struggle with.
We’ve seen in the EU that they’ve taken steps around GDPR and giving people permission, but it really is quite a challenge. And I can imagine that it would put a heavy burden on your organisation to represent all of the different perspectives.
Absolutely. We need to be open to learning from markets like the EU. Australia is leading the way in some respects but there are a lot of insights to be gained from what’s happening in California as well as Europe – particularly the UK.
The importance of staying up to date with happenings across the globe has seen us assemble a global A-team for the regulatory area. The ADMA regulatory working group, with those international representatives, will make sure that we’re looking a few steps ahead. And locally, as we head through 2021 we’ll be staying close to the ACCC. The number of submissions was unprecedented. So, very, very busy in that area.
Well, you’ve raised the COVID issue and here we are at the dawn of 2021. How was 2020 for ADMA? Because I can imagine with such a broad … and you have the largest membership of any marketing association, don’t you?
ADMA is the largest marketing industry association — we represent 600 brands. Our members are the advertisers, as well as the advertising and media agencies.
So that’s across industry verticals, as well as large organisations as well as very small. You can imagine those challenges are different but with some common threads.
At the end of the day, the need for the CMOs and their teams to reinvent themselves really quickly is universal. As well as understanding the customer experience in a rapidly changing business landscape. For businesses wanting to survive this time, the focus came back on marketing in many ways.
We not only have to be agile but also stay authentic. That’s a bit of a balancing act and we’re also having to make more decisions from the data coming in – data that was unlike anything pre-COVID.
Sorry, I was just going to say, because it’d be really interesting — and what you just shared then made me realise that a lot of B2B businesses that had traditionally relied heavily on sales and salespeople, were completely at cross purposes because sales were one of the big things that got hit with working from home and social distancing. Sales disappeared.
So, I think that was part of what put for B2B the emphasis back on marketing; how do we maintain relationships that have traditionally been in sales?
In the B2C area, we saw this massive shift. And people were saying, it was like five years of digital transformation in six months where suddenly, consumers were all running online to source and buy everything they needed.
I imagine across the diversity of your membership, you would have seen in some ways, common threads, but also very different challenges.
Absolutely. On one hand, we’re talking to the grocers around the fundamental shifts they’ve had to make in their supply chain because ultimately, everyone is moving online to buy their toilet paper and everything else.
But then to your point, with B2B, finding a way that your sales team can still connect mattered. And that actually came from personal connections through Zoom. If we’d looked back 12 months, that would have seemed strange. But now, it’s become the norm.
It was interesting also how marketers who were often limited from what they could do from a technology point of view with the CIO or the IT department putting lockdowns, suddenly, you’re given a carte blanche to, “Are we going to use Team or Zoom? Well, we’ll go with Team because that’s Microsoft,” or, “Oh, no, we’ll have to stick with Cisco because that’s robust,” things like that — it opened up all these opportunities, didn’t it?
Take ADMA for example, the majority of our education was face to face. All of a sudden, within three days, we took the entire curriculum virtual. We needed a platform and needed to train our instructors on how to deliver virtually because it’s a very different experience.
And at the same time, we had to move our team from Barangaroo to 100% working from home. It was the same across the country. And IT was truly an enabler and wanting to do what was needed to make it work. There was no other way.
It is amazing, isn’t it? What is it? Something’s the mother of invention … I’ve gone blank. When the chips are down, how organisations that will often be siloed, suddenly, find ways of working together.
You’ve mentioned your team; what was it like for you as a leader to go from managing a team that largely would be sitting in an office (and mostly they’re open-plan offices, you could see everyone there) — to suddenly you’re working from home, they’re working from home, the contacts or emails and video conferencing; was that a big challenge for you and what were the challenges for the team?
I think from my perspective as a leader, I’ve always been very output-focused. So, it’s been not how much time do you spend at your desk or how much time you’re at the office; it’s the output that’s actually delivered.
My key concern was around collaboration. The ability for people to be able to make sure that projects could keep moving forward and collaborate. And the mental health side of it, there are challenges to navigate working from home, from share flats to being completely on their own. Each scenario would create different challenges.
As a leader, I put some things in place really early, making sure that we connected every single morning as a team. We also basically created a virtual office. So, we would run a live team stream and you drop into what became the office so you could have those ad hoc conversations that you were used to having in the physical office.
For the young ones, and I’ve got a number who have interned or have come through as graduates in my team, the challenges were around not being able to learn by osmosis. Making sure that we could provide that to them through these open channels really made a difference.
We found that in the first place everybody had that adrenaline rush. We’re working at home, we’re getting everything sorted, we’ve got so much to do, keep going. And then you get to about week four or five and it’s super exhausting and there’s no end in sight.
It was when we got to about October, November when it started to get tough. That’s when I could see keeping the momentum of the team going was harder. And so, we got everyone back together in a covid-safe way – park catch-ups worked well.
We just needed to connect with each other – especially for our new starters, they’d never met half the team face to face. In early 2021 we’re starting to go back into the office one day a week, two days a week and those days are enjoyable.
While we’re unlikely to go back to the ‘office’ of pre-covid, for our culture and how we collaborate having a commonplace to connect and work together side-by-side is important. For some projects, you need that ability to banter, to challenge, to pull apart ideas and that is best-done face-to-face.
And Andrea, you’ve got your board and you’ve got quite a lot of sort of thought-leading committees that are focused on particular areas; what was it like managing those without going into detail? I don’t want any board confidences breach, but just more from the point of view of engaging with people. Because what you want from these teams is for them to be really engaged and really contributing and collaborating with each other.
It’s interesting because once everyone had settled into the new routine, it actually became easier in many ways because there wasn’t the travel. So, therefore, if I needed a board call, I could get on a board call. From that perspective, it made it easier to access very busy people’s diaries.
In terms of the working committees, it’s more challenging as there’s a lot more debate – particularly for the regulatory or the education working committees. As soon as we can, we will bring them back together.
We actually got a lot out the door in 2020. There was a lot that was launched into the market that we looked back, as a team, and went, “Wow, how did we actually get that done?”
So, aside from going virtual within three days, we realised there were a lot of marketers at home who needed support, something that would fuel them or fuel their capabilities. One of the first things we did was touch base with Mark Ritson and collaborate on providing a program for our marketers working from home.
And it was hugely successful because you’d worked with Mark previously in previous roles.
I worked with Mark at Unilever, at Jurlique, and brought some case studies to him for some of his clients. He’s super engaging at a time when the industry needs strategic perspective and engagement.
100%, entertaining. Yes, very entertaining, very glad that throughout the entire 12-week course, he left all his clothes on – Data Week was a different story though.
We had 1,200 people on that course as well as those people who had been stood down who attended pro bono.
And what better time to build your capability in strategic marketing fundamentals, and also enjoy being able to throw questions to Mark, have him answer, and just spend three hours a week together – even though it ended up being much longer.
We felt the energy from the industry coming together around Mark’s unique educating style.
He’s got this terrific ability to just cut through the wall and get people straight back into the very core of what marketing’s about, which I think is so important because when people are working remotely, working from home, just having that sort of true north to be able to tap into.
So, apart from Mark, and that was hugely successful — what would you say if you had to pick three? Let’s say Mark’s one.
Two was the relaunch of Data Pass. Data Pass is an online program for our members focused on the areas of privacy and compliance, and how marketers use, analyse and collect data. It basically gives the marketers a fundamental knowledge of what is going on in the privacy space and what they need to be aware of.
Our members were thrilled that they had something that gave all marketers that base understanding. In the first month, 600 people went through the course.
That was exciting to launch and much needed because it’s amazing how many gaps there actually are in knowledge and the risks that that poses to businesses. Yes, you may have a regulatory department and a legal department, but with the foundation knowledge, you are able to eliminate so much duplication of work.
Third would be taking Data Day, which is a conference we’ve run historically in Sydney & Melbourne. Virtual. We broke it up to lunch and learns that ran over four days. And that was about really giving marketers some inspiration with global best practice in bite-sized sessions.
We had leading data practitioners inspire and then provide pragmatic tools – those actionable steps that marketers could then use to drive revenue and greater efficiencies within their business. They came away from every day with a clear toolkit of not only how they could leverage what they do in their every day, but also step it up.
It was our first online conference and it went really well. When we look back, Ritson, Data Pass, and then Data Week, were our three key successes.
So, Andrea, what I’m seeing here is a CEO with a very strong marketing focus. Because as you were going through each of those, you basically looked for those things that delivered the most value to your members and the industry; and found new ways of packaging it so that people could actually do it within the limitations that everyone was facing.
I mean, congratulations, because it’s … do you think of those things that there’ll be … we’re all going to be vaccinated by the end of 2021. And let’s hope that COVID becomes like the flu with booster shots.
Do you think there are lessons that you’ve learnt personally, but also collectively, that you’ll take forward into the future?
Priority and focus. Within that environment, there is no choice, but to prioritise. So, the peripheral had to go. And not necessarily the nice to have, because nice to haves are still sometimes important, but they-
They’re nice to have.
They’re nice to have. But sometimes being really single-minded about what you stand for, being really single-minded about where you are going to in order to lean in to a conversation or not. Because you do need to engage this broader resource; the resource of the team, of the industry, and everybody’s busy. Everyone is dealing with their own challenges within their business. If you don’t focus, all of a sudden you end up with a lot of mediocrity.
For us, it was about making sure we focused on data-driven activity, education and the regulatory space. They’re the things that we stand for and if we had been distracted that would have been a problem. And feedback from our members has been phenomenal. Even the number of new members coming on board is booming. We’ve not seen anything like it since 2017.
It tells me, that focus has meant that we are delivering the right thing for our members and the industry.
Well, it was only a couple of years ago that I famously critiqued that I thought the industry had too many industry bodies. But to your point, if those industry bodies are focusing and delivering value, then they’ll survive. And the ones that don’t, will go to the wall.
As we built our plans for 2021, it was crystal clear we need to put our energy into providing value. It’s like any brand. It’s having that clarity of proposition, living by it and being willing to say, ‘that’s not a conversation we need to get involved in because that sits with someone else’.
Every regulatory submission we make, we are very careful that we make sure that we’re adding value to what is already there. We will review and ask ourselves what our members’ perspective might be. Where is ADMA going to add value? We’re invited to the ACCC round tables for that reason — because we do adopt a very clear perspective.
It’s probably the worst marketing strategy when you’re trying to drive growth by broadening your offering, rather than focusing on what is the value proposition and working out ways of delivering it better, isn’t it?
For me it’s no different to the principles I used running a consumer goods business. Your core is all-important – there is an innovation piece around the outside but that’s not really what’s going to deliver a deep change.
Getting the core of that business right, getting that to resonate with your audience, and making sure that that is optimal and the best in the market, that then sets the brand and the business up for success.
So, I’m sitting here interested for someone that has such an outstanding career at Unilever, you haven’t once used the word “purpose.” Because in many ways, what you’re talking about here is that 2020 gave you and ADMA the opportunity of really looking at your purpose and working out what are the things that we need to prioritise? What are the things that are core to our purpose? What are the things that are nice to have?
I call it surprise and delight. You always have to do something that surprises and delights people, because if you’re always just delivering what you’re meant to deliver, people get a bit bored. You just need to find those ways of adding a bit of sparkle.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of spice. Just allow the spice to be how you execute against your core purpose.
For example, Ritson added the spice for us in education.
2020 did allow us to focus and to make sure that we were customer-centric. The reality is that it’s a tough time for marketers with a lot to navigate through.
They have not only the regulatory environment changing almost on a weekly basis but on top of that, they are being questioned on the return on investment that they’re delivering, what role they play, revenue growth — and then how they’re actually utilising all this data that they have access to. All of those questions are being thrown at them. And at the same time, their customers are changing fundamentally in how they behave.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? I think it’s worthwhile. And we constantly remind people that marketers effectively have less money today, less budget today than they had 10 years ago or 20 years ago. Yet, they’re under more demand and pressure for proving return on investment at a time when there are now more options available to them than ever before.
I mean, this is really where strategy becomes so critical. You would think terms like “strategy” would be second nature. But it’s when you don’t have a very clear identified strategy that you get into all sorts of trouble because you’ll chase, run-down rabbit warrens that lead you nowhere.
I’d also argue that marketers have less time now. They are not given the time to deliver the result. The expectation is that most businesses run by quarter and quarterly results that have to be delivered.
In reality, we know some of these changes take time to see results. They take time to develop the strategy and then to actually go into implementation. That’s one of the additional pressure that’s happening.
When we look at the relatively short tenure of a lot of the CMOS being 22 months. That added pressure of having to deliver the fundamental step change and results from a strategy and a tactical plan in that short period of time is a big ask.
It’s a lot of pressure.
That’s a lot of pressure.
So, in the context of all these challenges, in the context of the lessons and the achievements of 2020, what’s 2021 looking like for ADMA and for you?
2021, will be another step change in both focus and new initiatives in the market. From an industry perspective, there are going to be many more opportunities. We are going to learn a lot more out of the data that’s come out of 2020. I don’t think we’ve fully mined that yet.
From a ways-of-working perspective, I believe there will be further changes that affect the way we work. I don’t think we will go back to pre-pandemic times. There will be a continued level of agility and flexibility that’s balanced with collaboration. I just hope that we retain some positives such as being output focus, not input focus, and also retain the ability to collaborate.
The other piece is that data will ultimately be more important than ever before. Understanding how we manage, use and respect data is going to be our focus. And the regulatory agenda, which I’ve touched on a few times, is substantial. The industry’s voice within crafting and responding to that is critical.
Once that has been responded to and once we’ve got the input of some of the changes, then we need to prepare marketers. We need to upskill them so that they can cope with the changes that are coming.
The cookies changes that are coming is a prime example. And that’s an area that we’re going to double down on in terms of providing education to our members across all levels of their organisations.
From CMOS, with team oversight, and then specific skills for the teams so they have the practical hands-on tools in order to implement. How are they going to navigate through that? Driving the results we’ve talked about is probably going to cost 10 to 15% more. How are they going to explain that back to the business? How are we going to get them to start thinking that through?
We’ll use some of the lessons we learned in 2020 around master classes. We know that the master class concentrated format with the industry’s best experts works well. And provide marketers with something to take away from the best of the best, no matter what size the business. The instructors give them the tools they’ll need to move forward.
We will continue to work with the government and the industry to ensure that we’re representing their voice on all things regarding privacy and data management, like our submissions into the digital advertising services inquiry.
We’re going to provide member guidance around what’s happening with consumer data, the news media bargaining code and then cookies as I talked about. Importantly, we will be watching what happens from here with the Privacy Act review. There’ll be phenomenal changes coming that marketers need to understand so they can be armed to manage and embed those. And that’s just from a regulatory front.
For education, and this has me excited as a leader, is the introduction of our skills assessment tool.
We’re recognising that as an industry, we need to continue to capably build the marketer of the future. And we need to give the industry a view of where their team is skills-wise, where they are as an individual sitting today, and what it is going to take in terms of building skills to move forward.
And that’s an area that particularly for us because a lot of the work we’re doing these days is helping marketers; how do they restructure? How do they realign their teams within the organisation, but also, what are the capabilities they need?
So, we’re very excited that this is going to be relaunched very soon, isn’t it?
Yes, in April.
Well, let’s just say sometime in 2021. Let’s not lock ourselves into a particular date, because getting … but also getting it right is essential. This is not something you can beta test-
Because it’s going to have a huge impact on individuals and the way that they evolve their careers and their capabilities.
What we are doing, is absolutely making sure that that industry voice is represented in terms of what the current capabilities are and where they are heading. What are we seeing? And it’s not only in the technical space, but it’s also in the strategic place because to your earlier point, without the foundation of strategy, the tactics become largely irrelevant.
So, looking at the marketer as a whole, making sure that for the teams, for the departments, for the individuals, we can identify where their gaps are, where are their strengths — and then making sure that they have a clear path forward.
I was fortunate, I had a similar tool many years ago at Unilever, where we had a clear view within the Unilever framework, but this is within the industry framework, be it from consumer goods through to B2B, really understanding what’s it going to take? Where do you sit as a marketer, and where do your team sit? This is hugely exciting for ADMA.
Andrea, I think there’s a lot of marketers out there that are going to love this because one of the things that seem to get lost in the last 10 years is this sense of career momentum. That you went into a specialty area.
I often run into marketers that go, “Well, I’m a performance marketer,” and I go, “Sorry, everyone’s a performance marketer.” Or, “I’m a brand marketer, or I’m a digital marketer.” You know, there are all these different channels and yet marketing as a discipline has a very clear foundation. There are then skills that you build on top of that foundation.
Absolutely. And that is one of the reasons we’ve approached this from a competency’s perspective, not a job title perspective.
Because the reality is there is an infinite number of job titles, but it’s this foundation principle of what does it take to be an amazing marketer that we want to focus on. Yes, you can have strengthened expertise in specific areas, but there’s still a common foundational piece. As you develop from a marketing graduate right through to your CMO, what are the key building blocks?
We’ve got some key industry partners we are working with to provide input, to make sure that we’re looking at it from a holistic perspective. And it will evolve.
As the industry evolves and as technology changes things, and it’s not something to set and forget just as no one’s career is set and forget.
Hey, look, that is a huge agenda. I mean, please, don’t be exhausted already. I’m feeling like I need a good lie down now, after hearing all those things that you’re taking on. It’s going to be a phenomenal year.
It will be a big year. But in terms of us making sure that we continue to deliver what the industry needs it’s what we need to do. I’m fortunate, I’ve got an amazing team of experts who are fantastically capable of delivering our plans. We also have collaborators that have formed some great partnerships.
We’re in a really good place to have a fabulous 2021, to support the members as they need supporting.
Well, look, this has been a terrific conversation. Thank you for taking the time and dropping by.
Thank you very much, it’s been fantastic.
I have got a question, and that is; do you think there’ll ever be a time that ADMA will go to the market to explain to consumers why they should give their data to advertisers?
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