Joshua Faulks on his “whirlwind” first month as CEO of AANA and his big plans for 2023

AANA - Joshua Faulks

Faulks described his first several weeks as CEO of AANA as a “whirlwind” and “an amazing ride”

Joshua Faulks stepped into the role of CEO of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) in October.

Since then, the past month has been a “whirlwind” for Faulks, meeting AANA members and other leaders in the industry, as well as attending industry events.

After the AANA’s recent Taking Flight event, Faulks spoke with Mediaweek about his leadership so far, his thoughts on the industry, the AANA’s recent announcements and plan for the new year, and his outlook for the industry body in 2023.

Faulks at the helm of the AANA

Faulks described his first several weeks as CEO of AANA as a “whirlwind” and “an amazing ride.”

“I’ve been blown away by how welcoming and nice the industry has been and how much love there is for the AANA, which is great.”

Faulks noted meeting the AANA members and seeing their passion and energy for working with the industry body to contribute to the industry as a highlight.

“And of course, the industry events like the Mediaweek 100 and the Effies have been really good to see everyone come back together and feel that energy in the room.”

The industry’s highlights and challenges ahead

Looking at the industry as a whole, Faulks noted that what excites him is the talented CMOs and marketing teams in the industry.

“They’re pushing the boundaries with really innovative advertising and marketing campaigns. Some of those campaigns are truly inspirational, and I take my hat off to those amazing marketing teams. We kind of need that right now,” he said.

But Faulks pointed out that the industry and its members are treading cautiously in the current economic climate.

“It’s a pretty tough time for everyone in the industry at the moment, and there’s plenty of talk around the global recession,” he said.

“The government says Australia will avoid it, but there’s no doubt we see that economic contraction and the spiralling inflation we haven’t seen for decades. This is new ground for our industry.”

Faulks noted that some members’ marketing budgets are being squeezed despite asking their boardrooms and executive teams for more money to invest and protect that brand loyalty.

“There’s plenty of research pointing to our brands that invested in marketing during COVID and other recessions fared better than those that chose to cut their marketing expense.”

While he noted that it didn’t make sense to reduce marketing budgets because it allows for more attention and people, the focus should be on the eventual recovery.

“Now is not the time to be trimming marketing budgets. Now’s the time to be investing in marketing. Our members are telling us that the key to getting that yes for that investment is to demonstrate that return on investment to demonstrate that effectiveness.”

Faulks said the key priority for the AANA is working with the industry around effectiveness and ROI.

“It’s going to be front and centre for marketers in 2023. There’s no one silver bullet or right answer around measurement and ROI. But we want to bring the industry’s best and brightest thought leaders and experts together to help our CMOs and marketing teams grapple with the downturn,” he said.


Tackling industry issues

Faulks noted that the AANA will work hard on tackling several industry issues, such as measurement effectiveness which he said will be a key priority.

“We want to help our marketing teams and CMOs have those conversations with their businesses. That includes the language of the board and the CFOs.”

Faulks said the AANA has its sights set on tackling the environmental claims code review and setting up a sustainability member council to align with community expectations and international best practices.

The AANA will also work on the deluge of data, a continuing challenge facing the industry.

“Tied to that will be privacy, and that’s a big topic within the industry after the recent breaches. Tied to that also is the cookieless future and the rise of first-party data. We are also continuing to focus on ad tech transparency, supply and demand side, so that’ll be another priority for us next year,” he added.

The return of RESET

The AANA recently made some big announcements at its Taking Flight event earlier this month – the return of RESET and a review of its sustainability and environmental claims.

Faulks was also proud to discuss the return of AANA’s flagship marketing conference, RESET, in 2023, featuring retired soccer star Rio Ferdinand.

“Rio is probably one of the biggest names we’ve brought to the Reset stage, and it’s been three years since we’ve been able to have international speakers.

“So, you may ask, what does one of the world’s best and most accoladed football stars have to do with marketing? But Rio is a giant in the media and advertising world.

“He’s a media commentator and author, a foundation founder, a documentary maker, he started multiple reality TV shows, and he’s got over 20 million followers on social media. Rio is also the driving force behind the social media for good movement, We Are 8.

“The three things he’s going to talk about are what it takes to sustain a brand over many life stages, how millennials are decentralising media revenue, and how to live a life of purpose,” he shared, noting that the conference will take place on March 24.

AANA - Joshua Faulks

Joshua Faulks at the AANA Taking Flight event

Faulks’ outlook for the AANA in 2023

Looking at the year ahead, Faulk said that the AANA has big plans with four main priorities in 2023.

“The first is, and I’ve made this clear and everything I say at the moment, we will be the loud and strong voice for advertisers and marketers in Australia, advocating on relevant issues.

“We need to protect and promote our world-class self-regulatory system because there is a bit of pressure on that self-regulatory system from politicians across the country.

“There’s a big role for us to make sure that we educate governments about how our world-class system works and how they are some of the strictest and best codes in the world.”

Faulks also noted their work on the current environmental claims code and children’s code reviews, as well as the positive work with government regulators and stakeholders.

The AANA is also stepping up their industry events, which Faulks called some of the best in the industry, starting with its flagship event, RESET.

Faulks noted the purpose of AANA’s events next year will be to create an opportunity for members and the broader industry to connect and hear from experts and thought leaders about the future and how to grapple with today’s challenges.

Faulks also said the AANA is also stepping up its education offering for members who want to upskill their teams with best-in-class marketing programmes that focus on unlocking growth.

“It’s the perfect time to help marketing teams unlock growth right when they need it during this economic downturn,” he said.

Faulks said that AANA will also focus on working with its members in advertising and marketing to improve the industry.

“I think it’s a strong purpose in that we are for better marketing, advertising, community, diversity and sustainability. I think it’s a really good purpose that aligns with all of the initiatives we’re dealing with now,” Faulks concluded.

Top image: Joshua Faulks

AANA - Joshua Faulks

Joshua Faulks

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