ADMA falls to Computer Society - is the brutal consolidation hitting markets coming for industry bodies and talent?
When former Unilever and Jurlique marketer Andrea Martens took the reins as ADMA CEO, it was said to be a certified sh*t sandwich. What now for the long line-up of industry bodies and the lagging capabilities development of industry-wide talent?
Five years ago ADMA looked like the industry body to beat.
It was ambitious, acquiring smaller, struggling associations, it was seemingly cashed-up and was running what seemed to be a considerable industry training program. And ADMA had tens of thousands of members (28,000 today, assuming, as the peak data body, that its database is clean).
Critically, ADMA was at the booming nexus between data, technology and marketing and even the Houses of Huge Margin - Google and Facebook - were on its board.
Success seemed assured but things went South fast.
Understanding the legacy of ADMA’s previous CEO, Jodie Sangster, now IBM’s CMO in Singapore, and the strategy and actions of ADMA’s boards of recent years, is not for this piece. But it’s a valid conversation for future learnings and leanings.
There was, predictably, an opportunistic swipe last year from a trade title, heavily reliant on events and short courses to survive.
But there’s been little about what all this means for industry and perhaps, more importantly, the new skills and capabilities needed for individuals in the marketing, data and tech economy. ADMA's Martens has a new plan on this front which we'll get to shortly.
Beyond ADMA, there are currently a few renewed market rumblings for the Media Federation of Australia and the Communications Council to join up - it's been argued before and does makes sense, strategically, to hitch media and media planning with creative, messaging and brand planning. The marketing world is trying furiously to stitch together its disparate activities and technology to deal with complexity and improve customer experience but the MFA and its members will likely resist the idea in the short-term. Longer-term the economics might dictate change, like ADMA's scenario with its related associations that have been acquired by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) - the others in the ADMA portfolio are the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia (IAPA), Digital + Technology Collective (D+TC) and Data Governance Australia (DGA).
Interestingly, the AANA, which was being challenged by ADMA in a turf war five years ago, is now building out a marketer capabilities program. It's partly about AANA funding although there is a clear deficiency among many marketing teams around skills and knowledge across the entire marketing remit. Many are specialists - particularly in digital marketing streams - and need better smarts and skills across a broader marketing landscape.
It's also what ADMA's Martens says has been one of her priorities in saving ADMA - a massively overhauled industry training and education regime based on the UK's Digital and Marketing Association (DMA) and what's known as the Singapore framework for digital marketing skills, backed by the Singapore government.
The DMA in the UK acquired the Institute of Digital Marketing a few years ago, which has trained 100,000 students across 23 markets and is at the centre of the DMA's program which ADMA is aligning to under its new owners, the Australian Computer Society (ACS). The ACS has 45,000 individual members in Australia.
"The last piece of work that we did about nine months ago showed 47 per cent of marketers actually don't feel that they have the skills to do their role," says Martens. "That is very, very concerning.
"ACS has a really interesting education platform as does ADMA, so we're looking at where there are any gaps in that education piece and how we work together to create something that's going to take things forward. I've sat client-side for 25 years, I know what it looks like to have to renew an industry membership association budget. You have to be providing value and you have to be providing a point of difference. It's absolutely critical. Marketers are demanding a step-change in terms of support for them as they're going through what is undoubtedly a challenging time to really be able to unlock the growth potential that exists within their businesses and be supported by an association to do so."
"Adding on another bolt-on or partnering with someone where there was already significant overlap in terms of benefits back to members was not going to get us there," says Martens. "It all comes back to being relevant. It's no different to any other brand. Be relevant, to your customers, make sure that you're listening to them and understanding them and continue to engage in why you play a role in their life because if you don't, very quickly you feel it."
There's a lot in the above from Martens.
She also acknowledges more consolidation across industry bodies is likely, although Martens describes it as evolution.
"My sense on this is there will be evolution," she says. "They need to stay relevant. It's whatever it takes to stay relevant because the last thing you want is to be left out of the conversation and not adding value to business. If that means consolidation, so be it.
"For us, the ACS have got the right energy for this and the engagement among our members is fantastic."
The merger officially happens this month between the two groups and after Martens takes a holiday to "go find my family", the next part of the plan will take shape.
Culturally it will be challenging, but Martens says it's entirely doable. The ACS membership runs the entire food chain from early career technologists to chief information officers, chief technology officers and chief digital officers.
"Will marketing be diluted? Absolutely not," she says. "There is a lot of leading edge thinking from ACS in that space of data-tech-IT and a lot of that is very relevant to our marketers."
As for further marketing and media industry body alignment and consolidation, there will be none who'll want that right now. But there's a wide spread: ThinkTV, AANA, MFA, IAB, CRA, OMA, Comms Council, AMI et al. ADMA's lesson again? Stay relevant to members and the market. Funding, though, is another issue.