Advertising Week New York Recap: Industry Insights from 800-Pound Gorillas and Thought Leaders

Last week I had the pleasure of attending New York Advertising Week. Advertising Week is an organization that puts on conferences around the world for marketing professionals to learn from the industry’s best (commonly mistaken for AdWeek, the magazine!). This conference, in particular, was held in Times Square, the mecca of traditional advertising with bright, flashy billboards from the world’s top brands, as far as the eye can see. I started to see the irony in the location choice after my first session where a group of panellists answered the question - Is traditional media dead? (Spoiler alert - no it’s not).

As I sit down to write this blog post, flipping through my Moleskine - I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with the thought of condensing all of my learnings into one snippet of a blog post. I’m sure my teammates at Bits will be delighted my by word-vomit-esque attempts to summarize some of the sessions I attended (some have already fallen victim to these tirades), but I promise not to put you in that kind of agony today. At a high level, here are some of the overarching themes that I identified in the sessions I attended last week:

The Pursuit of Building Authentic Brands

A recurring talking point throughout the conference surrounded the need for brands to be more authentic, genuine, and relatable than ever before. In the past - corporate giants were able to live in society as such - an untouchable brand, far removed from its consumers’ everyday life. In 2017 - that’s no longer the case. People are craving transparency and authenticity from new and established brands, largely thanks to the rise of social media. People expect brands to go above and beyond to earn their buy-in.

If you’re going to market with a brand targeted at millennials, this piece is even more crucial since this audience can sniff out a fake from a mile away. At Advertising Week, I sat in on a session called “Brands That Matter Now”. Melanie Whelan, CEO at SoulCycle sat on the panel to discuss her brand and how they stay ahead of the curve by being unapologetically “real”. They also announced the launch of a new branch of their business during the conference. It’s called SoulAnnex and people are excited! Based on the talk, it’s clear that SoulCycle is an expert in aligning their marketing strategies with emotion and authenticity.

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Age of Assistance

The Age of Assistance was another common theme at Advertising Week. Panellists were asked - What’s your voice strategy? How does your brand use AI and AR to improve user experiences, how will they use it in the future? And ultimately - How will your brand adapt to the Age of Assistance? It seems to me, that we’re at the crux of The Age of Assistance now. Consumers’ expectations are higher than ever, and they are becoming increasingly impatient, curious and demanding of how digital serves them in their everyday lives.

In one session I heard from Google’s SVP of Ads and Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy and Walmart’s President and CEO of U.S. eCommerce, Marc Lore on how they work together to bring e-commerce to the next level through AI. The audience was wowed by the two execs who chatted about the future of online shopping, where they took us through one example of a pilot voice-activated shopping program. Imagine a world where you can basically shout out - “We need milk”, and Walmart will receive a notification to ship you the type of milk your family drinks; same day delivery to your fridge, charged to your credit card, all based on past-order data they store in your personal account. That world is not far off based on what these two were chatting about!

The overarching theme here - people want brands to work for them! They want a frictionless experience - quick, safe, high-quality, and fast. So brands are playing catch-up to meet expectations, and using data and AI to do it.

Agency Model of the Future

There was also a lot of talk at the conference regarding how agencies fit into the changing marketing ecosystem. We heard from agency executives at R/GA about how they are disrupting the traditional agency model through collaboration and innovation. In a world where data and insights are more accessible than ever before, agencies need to adapt just as their clients’ marketing strategies should. Our clients look to us as the leaders in marketing and advertising - not only as creatives but also as strategists and business partners, helping them make smart decisions for their organization. With technology today - knowing who we are talking to, what we are saying, and why people should listen, is more important than ever before. It’s all about action, measurement, and results.

R/GA also spoke to the fact that they have embraced collaboration with other agency partners as well as start-ups to increase their breadth of knowledge. Innovations in Ad Tech are moving quickly so it can be tough for agencies to keep up with the latest and greatest - especially while balancing everyday client work and deadlines. Collaborating with peers and tech innovators, is a win-win - everyone has a unique perspective to bring to the table nowadays, best-practice strategies are quickly becoming obsolete because there are always new, interesting tactics for us, as marketers, to play around with. And that’s another thing - don’t be afraid to play, test and try new things!

I’m excited to be able to bring back these new insights to my team and to start finding ways that I can put my discoveries to use, with current and future partners of Bits. If these touchpoints seemed interesting to you - stay tuned for more posts as I dive in a bit deeper on some of these topics in the coming weeks.

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