For four days, marketing and communication professionals from around the world gathered at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square theater for this year’s Advertising Week. The annual conference, featuring industry thought leaders, entertainers, and entrepreneurs, provided relevant insights into the industry’s hottest topics today. As an Advertising Week newbie, the over 290 events and 126 speakers left me feeling pretty overwhelmed, but incredibly fulfilled at the same time. I look forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned to my own career moving forward.
Here are my top 5 takeaways from Advertising Week:
1. DTC is having its moment.
DTC or direct-to-consumer is all the rage these days, as evidenced by the numerous panels debating what it actually means to be a DTC brand today. Nick Brien, CEO Americas for Dentsu Aegis Network, defined DTC as data-fueled, total-experience and community-led. Fluide co-founder Laura Kraber said, "DTC is a mindset in the sense that you’re building a community online and are focused on that direct relationship." Despite varying definitions, one thing is for certain, brands today need to own their relationship with their customers. Melissa Grillo Aruz, Head of Talent & Business Development of VC firm, Forerunner Ventures, stressed this further saying, "a lot of the brands that we work with feel like they’re our friends and I think that goes back to listening and community."
2. VC funding is still a man’s world.
Despite venture capital firms like Forerunner Ventures investing in female-founded startups (millennial favorites: Glossier, Outdoor Voices and Away), VC funding is still a man’s world. In 2018, only 2.2 percent out of $85 billion in VC funding went to female founders. When asked for advice to female founders looking to raise money, Ali Weiss, Glossier’s SVP of Marketing said, "I think ambition and perseverance are really key. It’s really fantastic that people have started talking and bringing awareness to the topic, but it doesn’t change that we’re going to work hard to change what the data says." As female-founded brands continue to increase in popularity, it’ll be interesting to see if women entrepreneurs get the support they deserve in the coming years.
3. Competition among streaming platforms heats up.
Hulu had a huge presence in this year’s conference. The OTT company even set up a mock convenience store to show how like a mart, Hulu has all your streaming needs. In between events, I made my way to the store and scored a Hulu water bottle, Tate Bake Shop’s chocolate chip cookies and Purell. With the impending arrival of Apple TV+, Disney+ and HBO Max, competition in the OTT market will be tighter than ever.
4. Consumers are forcing brands to take a stand.
Gone are the days when brands could afford to play it safe with regards to global issues. In the panel The Consumer’s Revolution: Growing a Business with People First, speakers from Facebook, Wayfair and WPP stressed the importance of how brands today need to be purpose-driven. Lindsay Pattison, WPP’s Chief Client Officer gave a great example of a purpose-driven initiative. AKQA, in collaboration with the Raoni Institute, launched an open source software called Code of Conscience, which restricts the use of heavy-duty vehicles in protected areas. The software stops vehicles in their tracks once they reach protected areas like the Amazon.
5. Celebrities today leverage themselves for their OWN brands.
In the panel, How Do You Stand Out From the Crowd, Goop CEO Gwyneth Paltrow shared, “as an actress, I had spent many years being leveraged for other brands, and I thought what would it look like if I could do that for myself?” This mindset is clearly shared by other celebrities who are using their celebrity status to create business empires. In the most jam-packed talk I attended, tennis champion, Serena Williams, talked extensively about her business endeavors like her DTC clothing company, S by Serena, and her VC firm, Serena Ventures, which has invested in over 30 companies to date.
Sofia attended as part of the student-run Integrated Marketing Association’s arrangement with Advertising Week New York – one of the industry’s largest gatherings of marketing, advertising, technology and brand practitioners with over 98,000 attendees in NYC over four days in September. [photo credit: Joe Yates on Unsplash]