The new leadership agenda

The impact of a global pandemic and recession, combined with racial injustice around the world, underscores the need for chief marketers to work together in the face of transformative change on a global scale. That’s why the ANA, in partnership with Cannes Lions and WARC, established the Global CMO Leadership Coalition.

To participate in the Coalition, please contact Nick Primola, EVP, Head of Industry Leadership and CMO Practice, ANA, at

Antonio Lucio, the global CMO at Facebook, and a member of the Global CMO Leadership Coalition on COVID-19, spoke with the ANA about how the global pandemic has been reshaping our industry. He reminds marketers that, as communicators, we have an urgent role to play in maintaining the values of diversity and inclusion that have been the bedrock of our industry.

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1. What is the role of marketing today vs. pre-coronavirus, in your organization and externally?

There is no playbook for what we face today. The best thing we can do as an industry is exactly what you are doing right now at the ANA, and through this coalition: sharing. Sharing best practices (and even worst ones). I was a marketer through 9/11 and the 2008 recession. While this crisis has the shock value of 9/11 and likely will have resulting fundamental behavioral shifts, there will also be a long journey to recovery like we saw with the recession. This is why sharing is most important thing we can do right now, and I am glad the ANA is doing that.

At Facebook, we are experiencing this in different ways. On the one side, for Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, the pandemic has helped these products prove the true value of social media to connect people around the world. We are also experiencing high levels of engagement with our platforms all around the world.

On the other side, our business is being adversely affected like so many others around the world. We don’t monetize many of the services where we’re seeing increased engagement, and we’ve seen a weakening in our ad business.

2. What do you see going forward in the short and long term, after COVID-19?

First, the companies that will survive are the ones which are taking care of their employees first. We can talk about values and purpose all we want, but we have to take care of our employees first. This was the first priority for our leadership and has been my priority within the marketing team as well. Some of the actions we have taken include extending paid leave and guaranteeing employee bonuses and pay. And on my team, we want to be compassionate about everyone’s personal circumstances and are providing everyone with total flexibility for how they approach working from home and maintaining their personal safety and well-being.

Second, successful companies will need to communicate frequently, with realism and vulnerability, and remain hopeful for the future. For example, be clear what is going well and what is not, and have clear conversations about what that means for the work that needs to happen and how it affects our teams. We must remain hopeful for the future. We will overcome this crisis and be stronger as an organization and as marketers.

Finally, we also have to guard against the abuse of “purpose.” Purpose is not cause marketing; it is whether your brand has a meaningful role to play in the world and in fulfilling fundamental needs in people’s lives. Purpose is the way we treat people in times of need and in ensuring we remain empathetic to the realities people around the world are living in. And it is the way we turn to the products and services that people will really need now and post-pandemic. We must demonstrate proof points that our brands are helpful, useful, and selfless. Showing through action that you care, at a time when people need us the most, is critically important.

3.  What advice would you give other CMOs?

The brands which talk to and engage consumers during times of crisis will end up in a better place than when they started. The question then becomes how do you talk to consumers in a relevant way that shows you’re not out of touch during the crisis we’re all living through?

At Facebook, and like many other companies, we had big plans for marketing this year. In the past month, we’ve had to adapt quickly. We maintained our strategy, but we needed to reframe the contextual setup of everything we were going to do, including changing the tone and relevance of our marketing. We had to redevelop our campaigns to ensure we were in line with the moment in every local community around the world as they dealt with the crisis.

There is also an opportunity to accelerate some projects that may be on the back burner but are now more in line with what is needed in the market today. For us at Facebook, this means staying focused on keeping the world connected and working to accelerate things like virtual reality, remote engagement, small business building, and our ability to use data for good.

4.  What is the role of marketing now?

The role of marketing has never been more important. We have not only helped to define the value of our brands in the context of a crisis, but we are also the voice of the company during the crisis. As we work through this time, we must look toward accelerating the innovation roadmap so we are ready for the market when things start to open up. This is our time. There has never been a more important time for marketing to show its value for building growth and reputation.

5.  What is one thing that you would tell CMOs to watch out for?

Keep an eye on the mood of the U.S. and key markets to ensure messaging is in tune with what people are living. For example, in our campaigns we have reduced the size of our logos and have ensured that there is a helpful call to action that shows, not tells, people how they can help right now. This is not a time to shout from rooftops. Instead, we are curating and amplifying the behavior, actions, and voices of the people using our platforms.

6.   What would you find helpful for the industry to be even stronger on other side?

First, we must demonstrate that marketing can help lead the way out of the crisis for the economy and for the companies involved. We have an important role to play in that recovery. Consumers will not be fooled and will pass judgement on the way brands behaved during and right after the crisis. We need to pay attention to this.

Second, the industry should take advantage of the acceleration of technology and the reinvention of the communication creation model. This crisis is teaching us that we can do things significantly faster with less resources and still be contextually relevant. This is the window of opportunity for reversing the old advertising and development process.

Finally, we need to remain focused on diversity and inclusion. I am concerned about the potential for corrosive impact of xenophobia that may follow in society. Certain societal walls, real or virtual, may get bigger and taller. Marketers have an urgent role to play as communicators to ensure that we maintain the values of diversity and inclusion that are taking hold as the bedrock of the industry today. This is essential for business and for society at the same time, and the marketing community can make a real difference.

Back to ANA Global CMO Leadership Coalition on COVID-19