5 Things We Learned At Advertising Week NYC

By : Amanda Batista


Last week Advertising Week took over Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood. Much like the culture of the city, the event brought a vibrant and varied crowd of digital marketing pros. The event agenda boasted something for everyone with innovative and bright speakers that shared fresh ideas, experiences, and inspiration all. 

My individual itinerary took me on a journey through a plethora of fascinating conversations: B2B technology implementations, new shopping innovations, a pensive presentation by the alluring Deepak Chopra, and a panel with a WWE superstar! (Like I said, something for everyone!)

Here are five takeaways from my time attending the show: 

1. Storytelling is still the age-old brand building block. The word “storytelling” came up many times during the week’s session content. Founder and bestselling author, Deepak Chopra delivered a session titled: “The Awakened Life to the Soul of Leadership, during which he called for the next generation of visionary leaders to tell greater stories that help captivate and inspire audiences. “People don’t buy a product, they buy a story,” he remarked, as he shared a slide with a list of brands and their associated stories, including: Starbucks: “Yuppie Intellectuals, ”MTV: “Rebel’s Voice” and Apple: “Cyber Punks.”

“Who controls is the one who has the best story,” noted Deepak Chopra. “Even in a court of law it’s not always justice that wins. It’s the one that has the best story.” Chopra’s session was a call to arms for innovators to write new stories that will help inspire and motivate audiences.

During a panel titled Breaking Through a Sea of Sameness, Ulta Beauty’s Head of Content, Social, and Media, Christine White talked about the profundity of storytelling for the brand as part of its recent launch of a program called “Beauty And.” “The initiative is a reflection of overall brand identity and why Ulta is here: to widen the lens on the way that the world sees beauty,” White noted. “This is tied to our core fundamental business values, rooted in people. We have a foundation of trust within internal culture. There’s a level of empowerment in matrixed orgs for work to get done quickly. We needed to think about the beliefs and stand behind diversity and inclusivity in a way that exposed conversation. We talk about storytelling, and 6-sec ads and reels don’t always get to do that.”

2. The next wave of marketing talent are creative [data] geniuses. The blend of art and science has long challenged leaders to hire for a range of talent and skills to effectively service advertising needs. Empowered by data-informed insights, modern marketers can boldly make more intelligent creative decisions. During a panel titled “Creative Drives Business” Bloomberg Media’s Head of Marketing & Media Performance, Chris Marino, encouraged marketing leadership to invest in talent. “The access to data that we have is more than ever,” Marino noted. “Finding data-driven marketers who can turn data into actionable insights that you can use to help bring your leaders along to make your creative work harder for you is crucial. Invest in technology. The ability to personalize and scale experience is largely based on technology.”

As the industry adjusts to marketing with less audience data, the panelists shared how their organizations have put creativity at the center of campaign optimization. Their teams are tapping into the power of creative data to learn how creative decisions affect performance outcomes.

3. Platform placement should drive content creation. A hot topic of discussion, strategic platform consideration can be challenging, particularly to optimize production and disbursement of assets. 

During a panel titled “Out of the Ring: Building Iconic Brands with WWE Superstar Becky Lynch WWE VP of Digital noted that the sports entertainment brand subscribes to a “platform agnostic” philosophy.We don’t cut one video and put [the same content] everywhere,” he said. “That’s not how we do digital and social. Everything is different. TikTok videos, Instagram reels, what’s consumed on Twitter…We think of every platform individually as its own channel.”

The organization has two teams producing social content, one “home-based” and another “on the road” that moves along with production (typically 50+ weeks a year) to chronicle the behind the scenes and events of the traveling wrestling circuit. Each team works closely with talent to build out their own social media profiles and content. 

“There is an echo chamber effect on platforms,” Braband said. “I like to look at how much time fans are spending with our content: Viewership on YouTube, engagement on Instagram, and [these inputs] also tell us what to create more of and communicate across our business and to our executives. There’s multiple ways to listen, not just diving into the comments section.” 

4. Digital transformation is not a short game, and now is the time to start if you haven’t already. During the Breaking Through a Sea of Sameness panel, Global Director at Draftline Transformation, Jessica Douglas talked about the organizational efforts to foundationally change the way the brand evaluated the effectiveness of its advertising creative. 

“We did a lot of foundational cultural things to help everyone upskill,” Douglas said. “We developed a spectrum to talk about and evaluate creative and of course we adopted technology to help us measure effectiveness and understand what’s working.” Douglas noted that the team’s efforts have helped them get closer to having visibility into what’s driving conversion, and is focused on driving consistency and brand recognition to purchase. This, coupled with a “test and learn” mentality, is helping Draftline find out what works. “We cascade the things we know work every time, while still having a flexible learning agenda of the topics we want to experiment around and learn from,” Douglas said. “There needs to be accountability on ‘test and learn,’  and you have to hold yourself to a rigor to improve that effectiveness.”

5. Rather than simply cost cutting, consider how to spend wisely. While discussions of economic downturn loom like a dark cloud over marketing leaders’ growing list of management considerations, panelists warned that now is not the time to cut costs, but rather allocate costs where it will make the most business impact. “We’re investing now in the use of data and in creative production,” noted Josh Rabenovets VP Marketing Strategy and Performance at NFL. For [the sports] industry, the recession brings more people to you because they’re looking for a resonance of entertainment. We need to go where our audiences are today.”

Read our latest guide on Best Practices for Higher-Performing Creative.