November 10th, 2021

4 Standout Achievements at the 2021 ANA Genius Awards

For nearly a decade now, the ANA Genius Awards have showcased brilliant work from amazing marketing teams across a wide variety of industries. Reviewing and judging each entry is the highlight of the year for many of us, and the 2021 entrants didn’t disappoint. We’re inspired by the creativity that was on display again this year, and energized to see the profound impact that data and marketing analytics initiatives continue to have on organizations far and wide. It was one of the most challenging and unpredictable years on record, making those companies’ accomplishments that much more remarkable.

Out of dozens of submissions, our distinguished panel of judges first selected 13 deserving finalists across four categories. We wrote about this year’s finalists in an earlier post—be sure to check it out and bookmark it for future inspiration

But now it’s time to announce and celebrate the winners of the 2021 edition of the ANA Genius Awards: American Express, Kroger, Forbes/Capital One, and PepsiCo. These four outstanding winners will get to split a $100K pool prize and donate their share to the charity of their choice.


Innovation Adoption Storytelling Growth
American Express
Avocados from Mexico
AT&T Business
Forbes/Capital One
Avocados from Mexico
Hill’s Pet


2021 ANA Genius Award for Innovation: American Express

Like many modern customer-facing global organizations, American Express produces thousands of advertising creative concepts each year tailored to specific products and services, geographies, audience profiles, and campaign objectives. Before they get published, these creative assets need to be checked for compliance against brand, legal, and regulatory requirements. That’s a tedious task even in the best of times, but it's particularly daunting in a world where privacy regulations are still largely unsettled.

American Express decided to leverage the power of AI to assist creative reviewers in their compliance review process. Thanks to techniques drawn from intelligent document processing, natural language processing, content matching, and validation against approved taxonomies, the company's AI tool is able to deconstruct, categorize, analyze, interpret, resolve requests, and add relevant new comments to the creative assets. It’s catching 70% of errors and discrepancies early in the process, thus allowing human reviewers to focus their energy on more complex cases.

Overall, the tool’s first-generation deployment has allowed American Express to cut compliance review time in half. As a result, its sales and marketing teams are faster to market and more confident in the quality of their creative material.

2021 ANA Genius Award for Adoption: Kroger

Kroger used to rely on antiquated measurement tools that delivered marketing insights twice a year, and were hard to understand outside of the marketing organization. As a result, senior management didn’t fully trust that the insights they were receiving were in line with market realities and key business outcomes.

The company implemented a holistic measurement program that could ingest disparate data from a variety of sources (not just marketing data, but also data from logistics, retail operations, competitive initiatives, and other exogenous variables) and make a compelling case for analytics across the organization. The platform it adopted is capable of updating complex models in near real time, and it can deliver insights to all stakeholders on a monthly basis, not once every six months. For brand managers looking to optimize channel allocation, that was a major breakthrough, the company stated. Kroger’s media spending is already 16% more efficient, and faster, better-informed decisions have translated into $100M in incremental revenue this year alone.

But the key to adoption beyond the marketing department had less to do with data, technology, or the platform itself, and more to do with the way the team went about scaling its deployment. It created a rollout schedule that involved many opportunities for users beyond the marketing team to get familiar with the platform and provide input into the program. This ensured that the marketing organization was addressing real business questions every step of the way, and encouraged a test-and-learn analytical mindset that’s now become part of the company’s culture.

2021 ANA Genius Award for Storytelling: Forbes and Capital One

Capital One partnered with Forbes to survey 1000 executives in the U.S. at $100M+ companies. They wanted to discover how these executives approached resilience and agility in their financial decisions, with the goal of driving sustainable growth at their company—themes that are central to Capital One’s value proposition. With the world upended by the Covid-19 pandemic, Capital One wanted to gather relevant insights and offer guidance to its executive clients.

The two partners put together a dedicated insights hub and produced a variety of content to share and amplify their original research. These included premium posts, multimedia articles, short-form video segments, digital ads, animated social videos, and even a long-form promo. All that custom content was organized into a carefully orchestrated three-part thought leadership series, and was heavily promoted by Forbes on its online and social properties.

The campaign drew over 25.8M cross-platform impressions, 6K search referrals, and 500K social engagements within a highly targeted audience of C-suite and senior executives motivated to learn more about business content (4X vs. average users), investing (9X), and economics (12X). It elevated Capital One’s status as a thought leader and strategic partner in business intelligence.

2021 ANA Genius Award for Growth: PepsiCo

PepsiCo transformed the way it approaches marketing with CANVAS, a homegrown integrated marketing platform that’s become a one-stop destination for internal teams to conduct what-if analyses, optimize media plans, and design customer-centric user experiences.

That new platform is built on a unified architecture that has already democratized data across the company and broken down traditional silos. But "unified" doesn’t mean that all brands in the PepsiCo portfolio have to measure success the same way. Emerging brands, for instance, might be focused on expanding reach, while more established brands might be driven to improve ROI. The predictive analytics algorithms in CANVAS are flexible enough to accommodate various types of business outcomes.

The platform was developed by a cross-functional group of leaders at the company: media, brand marketing, insights, data, and analytics were all represented, along with business unit CMOs who had a hand in the design every step of the way, and were instrumental to evangelize the new capabilities. The platform was awarded top honors by PepsiCo’s global CEO, and has already delivered $5M in operational savings and an ROI of 170%. In its first year of deployment, marketing ROI at PepsiCo has improved by 7%, and digital media outcomes have improved by 12%. Scenario planning for channel allocation is done in real time now, where it used to be a six-week process. 

Looking ahead to 2022

Congratulations to the 2021 ANA Genius Awards winners! This was a difficult year with many ups and downs, and their success is proof positive that data-driven organizations always come out on top.

What’s the economic outlook for 2022 and beyond? More of the same. According to Capital One’s award-winning research, 90% of business executives anticipate major disruptions over the next three years in the way they do business. It’s safe to say that corporate resilience and agility will continue to be essential to growth, and that data and analytics will continue to offer opportunities for top marketers to stand out. We’re already looking forward to next year’s submissions.

For more inspiration, check out our full list of 2021 finalists, and the ANA Genius Awards website for past winners.

Neustar is a proud sponsor and presenter of the ANA Genius Awards. To learn more about the company's products and services, check out our Customer Analytics page, and don't hesitate to contact us for more details.

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