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Why the Ad Industry Should Think Globally, But Meet Locally

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan  |  Executive Chairman
Updated: Jan. 11, 2023
Published: Jun. 22, 2022

“All politics is local,” was the famous pronouncement of Tip O’Neill, the longtime and larger-than-life Speaker of the House of Representatives from north Boston. O'Neill served 34 years in Congress, succeeding John F. Kennedy when the future President was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1953.

I was in Boulder, Colorado recently for Colorado Ad Day 2022, an event put on by Ad Club CO, where I had the privilege of doing a fireside chat with my good friend Eric Roza. Eric is owner and Board Chairman of CrossFit, one of the world’s most powerful brands in fitness and well-being.

What made the talk particularly relevant to the ad crowd is that Eric was one of the true pioneers in the world of data-driven advertising and marketing. He transformed Datalogix from an offline marketing data company into one of the most powerful companies in the digital marketing ecosystem during his 12 years as its CEO, selling it to Oracle in 2014 for more than $1.2 billion, then running Oracle Data Cloud for several years. Three years ago, Eric bought CrossFit, a company he knew well as a longtime adherent and the owner of one of its top gyms in the world in Boulder.

I’m certain about one thing coming away from our conversation: our discussion was more robust and relevant to how the advertising world really works than it would have been if it was part of an ad or media event in New York City or at the Cannes Lions.

I live and work in New York and was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed attendee at Cannes this year. But in both of those places, the glamour and sizzle of the venue, its exclusive attendees and headliner talent, cause most panels and presentations to be more about posing -- as if on a red carpet -- than positing practical, pragmatic ideas and concepts for making our industry better. Most importantly, local events also feature a chance to engage with folks who work in the most important element of our business -- the front lines of advertising, where consumers, brands and real people’s budgets and purchase preferences actually play out, whether in neighborhood grocery stores, local fast-casual restaurants, Main Street mom-and-pops or fast-growing ecommerce.

Consumers, their purchases and brands live locally, as does all great advertising. That’s why I was in Boulder. That’s why I had colleagues at ThinkLA to hear the latest on advertising and marketing in the country’s entertainment capital, and at AAF Austin to talk about the future of TV advertising. They were at the Atlanta Ad Club talking about the same thing just 10 days earlier.

Over the past few years, some of the most meaningful discussions I have had have been at events put on by the Media Association of Pittsburgh and lat ocal events in Minneapolis and Chicago.

I am an enormous fan of the ad industry’s national and global events. I attend many of them and learn a lot when I do. But they can’t replicate some of the things that can only happen in local markets, where the real impact of advertising is felt, and where so much of the very best work in our business is done.

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An earlier version of this blog was originally published by MediaPost.