At the beginning of October, I was given the chance to travel to New York for Advertising Week through Centennial College’s SaGE Program. As an advertising student, AdWeek is a great opportunity to explore a new city, network with industry professionals, and learn more about industry issues.
Over four days, I attended eight seminars that I thought would best address where advertising was headed in the future. I wanted to learn about the issues that would impact my career when I graduated.
“One of our most powerful weapons was silence.”
-Daniel Fink, Executive Director at Marvel Entertainment
The most interesting seminar I attended on the first day was “Marvel and the Power of Podcast Storytelling for Brands.” After learning about the rise of podcasts in class, I wanted to understand how podcasts will soon become part of advertising communications platforms. Executive Director for Marvel Entertainment, Daniel Fink, discussed the creation of Wolverine: The Long Night. He addressed the struggle of turning X-Men’s Wolverine from an action-based character into an intriguing audio-based storyteller. For Daniel Fink, “one of our most powerful weapons was silence.” By refusing to give the audience information for a few seconds Marvel discovered how to make podcasts compelling. I think it is important that brands also learn how to build tension and intrigue to keep consumers interested in an audio-based medium. What struck me most was the realization that the rise of podcasts will mean brands will also soon need an audio identity, which will add a new level of intricacy for advertisers.
“The format of your message is just as important as the message itself.”
-Joe Federer, Brand Strategist at Reddit
On the second day, my favourite seminar was “Memeology 101: The New Language of Cultural Ideas.” Brand Strategist for Reddit, Joe Federer, considered how brands could use the format of a meme and alter the content to reach young consumers in a more relatable way. He stressed, “The format of your message is just as important as the message itself.” The panel discussed how advertisers must understand that an image overlaid with text can be more culturally powerful than a Tweet. What I found most interesting was that the challenge for advertisers is to use memes organically. Memes are often based on current events and cannot be planned in advance. In an industry where planning is critical, it will be interesting to see how we will learn to recognize the potential for memes as they arise and jump on them quickly.
“Just because your movie was ranked number one that week doesn’t mean it was a good movie. There may have just not been any good movies out that week.”
Personally, the most memorable seminar of all of AdWeek was “The Jump with Will Smith: One Iconic Storyteller’s Journey of Reinvention and Connection.” Will Smith discussed the recent launch of his YouTube channel and the lessons he learned from producing engaging content. He realized that metrics are not always the most important factor. He related this insight back to his film career, stating, “Just because your movie was ranked number one that week doesn’t mean it was a good movie. There may have just not been any good movies out that week.” I found this relatable to advertising because we will need to not just look at numbers. Rather, we need to also consider what people are saying about the ads and the brands. Just because people had exposure to an ad doesn’t mean they bought a product or viewed the ad favourably. Overall, I was impressed by Will Smith’s insight and charisma and I think he made a very interesting presentation about how to be a good storyteller.
“Time spent on stories will pass time spent on feed.”
– Nicolò Brentan, Head of Sales at MakeMeReach
On the last day, the seminar that stood out most to me was “The Social Evolution.” While most advertising students are aware of digital becoming more impactful than traditional media, it was interesting to see how things are changing even within social media. According to Nicolò Brendan, Head of Sales at MakeMeReach, “time spent on stories will pass time spent on feed.” The reason for this shift is because stories feel more natural and authentic to consumers than carefully planned posts. I think it was important to understand that prioritizing social media alone will not be enough shortly. Consumers are now shifting their focus from permanent posts to temporary stories which change how advertisers can best reach consumers. As someone entering the industry, it will be important to recognize these trends and understand how to capitalize on them.
Amidst the flurry of attendees rushing between seminars were vendors showcasing new technology, and offering treats and prizes. I loved that there was always something new and exciting to see and try at AdWeek.
In addition to attending AdWeek seminars, we also had the opportunity to explore Manhattan. It was surreal to experience a place in the person that you always see in movies. While we explored many of New York’s notable locations and restaurants, my most memorable experiences were going to Times Square and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).
The first night my classmates and I arrived in New York, we decided to travel to the most iconic place in Manhattan, Times Square. The streets may have been busy with people but the buildings were even busier with ads. It was hard to know where to look with the flashing lights, giant billboards, and noise. I do not think there is a better place for an advertising student to get a sense of the impact of the industry than Times Square.
Except for the seminars, my favourite experience from the trip was going to The Met. As a self-identified history buff, seeing a massive collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artifacts made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. One of my favourite exhibits was a reconstructed Egyptian temple that dominated an entire room. I am so thankful that we made time to go to The Met and I believe that any person, no matter his or her interest in history, can find something there that astounds them.
Overall, travelling to New York for AdWeek was an amazing experience. Throughout the conference, I was able to gain further insight into topics I was previously mindful of. Yet, I was surprised that I also become aware of upcoming industry issues that I was not previously aware of but should investigate further since they will impact my career. Centennial’s SaGE Program has afforded me professional growth and the ability to travel with my classmates to a place I have always wanted to visit.
Thank you SaGE for an unforgettable Global Experience!
Written by: Lauren Clancy