ARF CEO Gayle Fuguitt set out to change the world and now she has done it. Three days in Manhattan at ARF’s annual RE:THINK event set the media-advertising complex into a whole new direction.

Job fear. That was the secret to so much leverage. Archimedes is beaming down.

The cream of the research cadre responsible for the intelligence gathering of the media-advertising complex (much more powerful than the military-industrial complex) heard that $100B was coming in over the next three years to either push them down under new people or be terminated.

Fuguitt made the point that the opportunity exists for us to “lead or be left behind,” which was echoed by Stan Sthanunathan and Keith Weed of Unilever. She went on to say, “Without leadership, we will risk competing over a smaller $ universe, not stepping up to the C-suite challenge and invitation to lead new measurement and analytic solutions for the $100B being invested and spent in the next three years to drive growth and sales.”

Unless they change faster than they ever thought possible. “Simply put, it’s ours to lose,” she warned.

Participants at Re:Think 2015 heard the message. Not that the pace could possibly go any faster, or that people could feel any more stress. Those needles are pinned already.

Change is the one thing to which the media-advertising complex has been most resistant. Outward change -- no resistance there -- is where all of the adaptability has been demonstrated by those still in leadership. Inward change is where the mechanism has been stuck.

So we see things like companies stepping on the gas and brake at the same time by targeting purchasers but paying agencies based on sex/age -- which causes optimizers not to be able to optimize very well. That’s just one of many examples.

(Click on the image below to watch my interview with Bob Lederer of Research Business Daily Report at The ARF RE: THINK 2015 conference in New York.)

Now we will begin to see more depth of change and at the highest speeds we have ever seen. There’s nothing like a serious threat to focus the mind.

Some of my best friends have admitted to me, “Hey, I guess I have my head in the sand on this one,” meaning they know they are either ignoring a flagrant problem instead of fixing it or taking the easy way out in general. It’s said with a knowing nod, meaning, “You know how hard it is to change the boss’s mind.” Fuguitt’s effective messaging is going to blast through a lot of that.

Fuguitt also hosted concurrent discussions on four Ground Truth Experiments designed to gather venture capital investment and to get the industry collaborating to answer fundamental questions/needs:

Experiment A: Advertising vs. Promotion -- What Is Right Mix and Integration?
Experiment B: Using Addressable Media To Answer Every A/B Question We Have.
Experiment C: How Do the Media Work Together in the Brain and in the Marketplace?
Experiment D: Amassing All of Our Mobile Data Together to Create the Universe.

ARF will likely focus first on two of these four experiments, based on feedback and investment interest.

Unilever’s Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, and Senior Vice President Stan Sthanunathan provided the role model for what we will be once we have changed, if we want to remain relevant as management entertains its new fancy for the concept of data analytics. The one-hour course Weed and Sthanunathan gave the industry was densely packed with information -- you should definitely see it when ARF posts the video. Here are a few highlights, paraphrased from my cryptic notes:

1) Yes we need insight, but more than that, we need foresight.
2) Let’s go beyond prediction to shaping the future.
3) Take actions that lead to transformational change.
4) Audience is where it all starts. These are the people we want our brands to be deeply engaged with. We use content to drive this outcome. We use data analytics to drive it more effectively and efficiently.
5) We used to be TV centric. Now we have to be content centric.

More on Unilever’s remarks here. Kantar’s Chief Digital Officer and CEO of WPP’s Data Alliance, Nick Nyhan, surprised almost everyone in the audience including me by saying that despite the mountain of data it has collected, and the mountains collected by others -- even Nielsen -- the data are in themselves not sufficient, and that we are all going to have to learn to have data handshakes with competitors in order to run our businesses most successfully.

More on Kantar’s remarks here. CBS CRO and CBS Vision President David Poltrack, and Nielsen Catalina Solutions’ CRO Leslie Wood presented two papers at the CBS Vision Spotlight Session. David showed evidence that the monies drained from TV to support digital hurt the brand and the better way to go is to invest incrementally in digital. He also demonstrated that CPG brands have been “leaning the mix” to maintain the same GRPs year after year by taking dollars out of broadcast prime, which actually has a higher ROI in most cases despite its higher CPM, according to Nielsen Catalina as well as TiVo Research/TRA.*

Leslie Wood won the ARF President’s Great Mind Award and I was one of the many people who had the honor of saying a few words in tribute to her. I also had the pleasure of presenting at the conference a paper with Turner Sports VP Research, Jay Leon, and TiVo Research/TRA’s SVP of Advertiser & Purchaser Insights, Brian Katz, showing evidence from eight out of eight brands that TV and In-Store can be coordinated to increase ROI. Once again I suggested that advertisers heavily invested in price cutting instead consider frequent buyer reward programs .

These are very positive signs. The top people in the industry talking about transformational change, learning to forget the way you do it today and to zero base to what outcome you want, and cooperation. Wherever and whenever in the past in the few cases so far where this thinking has turned into action, the results have always been spectacular. It now appears to be rolling out to full scale, at which point the world will be richer in every way.

*This primetime advantage is also seen in client work not releasable by TiVo Research. See also EMM work supporting the importance of high rated programs to ROI.

Bill Harvey is a well-known media researcher and inventor who co-founded TRA, Inc. and is itsBill Harvey Strategic Advisor. His nonprofit Human Effectiveness Institute runs his weekly blog on consciousness optimization. Bill can be contacted at bill@billharveyconsulting.com

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