ORLANDO — Ad-tech is nice, but it is also a distraction and now it’s time for marketers to refocus on business fundamentals.

That was the message from the leader of an umbrella group representing tens of thousands of US brands, as his own conference got under way this week.

Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), spoke with Beet.TV for this video interview at ANA’s Masters of Marketing Week in Orlando.

“As we lost sight and gotten distracted by the shiny objects of all the new media forms, the emphasis on building our brands began to de-emphasise and it went away,” Liodice said.

“Growth is the most important issue, the function (that) marketing has to focus on. A 1%, a percentage change in the growth rate of the Fortune 500 will elevate sales by $500 billion over three years.”

The ad industry has spent the last 10 years in rapture to a host of new technology super powers, much of which has allowed brands to combine data sources to find specific audiences around the net and then buy ads to them in a microsecond.

In 2019, the focus is shifting slightly toward opted-in relationships with known audience members, following privacy outcries.

Additionally, Liodice’s sub-text is, at the high level, brands need to drive real business growth, not just obsess over low-lying efficiencies.

He calls the current moment a “puddle of confusion”.

“Now a marketer has to understand about data, has to understand about brand safety, understand about ad fraud, things that they typically have not spent a lot of time or attention on and have had to grow up and realise that data is the heart and soul of optimum decision making,” he says.

“Those are enormous challenges and everybody is struggling with it in various ways. (Marketers) are leveraging technology to try to harness that. But, because most of us have not necessarily had the firsthand experience at how to harness that while simultaneously respecting the rights and privileges of the consumer, we end up making less than optimum decisions as to how to approach it.”