I had the pleasure of attending AWNY ACC in New York City last month with a group of AAF members from Ithaca College. The trip began with a visit to Geometry Global headquarters with presentations by IC alum Courtney Cox, Allyson Hotchkin and Seth Greenberg. Courtney and Allyson work at Geometry on the Liberty Mutual account, while Seth works at OgilvyOne.

After a networking event back at the conference hotel, our group ventured out into Times Square for some delicious sushi followed by giant cookies and the richest, chocolateiest hot chocolate I have ever had at Schmackary’s.

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Good morning, New York. #awny #awnyacc #awnyacc15

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The next morning the conference really kicked off, beginning with Kelly Wenzel‘s keynote address. I really enjoyed what Kelly had to say about being both a powerful marketer and a loving, present mom. Here are the six points she shared with us:

  1. Having empathy, being able to tell as story that customers want to hear and will appreciate, and treasuring relationships will almost always get you further than skill alone.
  2. Be curious, because curiosity will help you keep up in the ever-changing advertising industry. Investing your time is different than merely spending your time.
  3. “Be a go-giver.” Do not ask what you can get, but instead what you can give, and end interviews by asking, “How can I give?”
  4. The good work you contribute is more important that your title. Making your boss’ job easier gets you noticed.
  5. Dress for tomorrow, because there is so much you can’t control, but how you show up and present yourself you can control.
  6. Feedback is a gift, use it to fuel curiosity.

Video Production: Making Ideas Come to Life

This workshop wasn’t even on my radar, but after a poorly timed bathroom break, it was my only option. I am so glad I ended up here, despite the fact that I have no interest in video production. The theme of this panel’s discussion was “If content is king, distribution is queen.” Although the panelists, as creators, always want people to watch an entire video, goals are determined by what media is used to distribute the content and  the environment it’s viewed in. Metrics gathered with test audiences, platforms and content fuel future content and optimize distribution.

The panelists discussed justifying feel-good content over videos that scream “buy me.” This feel-good content creates awareness with storytelling; for Millennials, this type of story makes can make them want to buy and use a product. Branded content is preferred over ads; people love brands, but not ads. This content then creates a following that doesn’t mind seeing an ad every once in a while. While content creators like the panelists know this, it can be difficult to prove it due to brands’ use of traditional advertising concurrently.

For this method of communication to work, people have to watch the videos. One way to gain audiences are to find where they already are; this field relies heavily on influencers and brand ambassadors. Influencers are their own brands, so in some ways this is just an update of a cross promotion. Bloggers generally have a list of their favorite bloggers. It is important to remember not every video goes viral, and while going viral does generally mean success, so do other metrics.

Digital Content Development / Social Community Building

The next workshop I attended was hosted by a panel filled with clients, agencies and publishers, which created a great dynamic. Personalization to viewers, whether by where they are, who they are or what they like, is one strength of digital media. Then, these viewers must be turned into advocates for the brand. This can be done with “friends” of the brands using, for example, Instagram takeovers. Inspiring, educational content gets shares and tags. Lifestyle content blends in with users’ feeds and seems familiar, although a product focus is acceptable depending on the context. Engagement is created when brands keep cool, evolve, are self-aware and can also make fun of themselves. While all of this is part of a strategy, it takes talent to execute these strategies in authentic ways. Each media platform receives a unique personality and voice, but it is important to have consistent storytelling.

Influencers were also discussed in this workshop. Influencers can act in two ways: as an amplifier, where a brand uses the influencer’s following, or as a co-creater, where a brand uses the influencer’s voice. It is often difficult for brands to allow control of voice to be handed over to another creater, but viewers know when a brand is forcing its voice on an influencer. You don’t want an audience to wonder how much an influencer was paid. Both small influencers specific to each channel and one star across all media are tactics used by brands. Often, brands will opt for smaller influencers because they are more authentic and less cluttered.

Experiential Marketing

The last workshop I attended was hosted by marketers who create experiential marketing events to connect brands with target audience members in an incredibly hands-on way. Owned and earned media is always better than paid, and these events create a story that invites consumers in and gives them a chance to participate in a shared interest, such as educating teen drivers on the dangers of distracted driving, as Toyota did. This two-way communication between brand and user reaches above and beyond a “logo slap.” Instead of talking at consumers, these tactics enhance the consumer experience with messages that are meaningful and relatable.

It is important to meet people where they already are and decrease barriers for entry into new platforms. This removes excuses such as “I don’t care,” or “I don’t have time.” Campaigns with a shareable element create further reach for brands with no additional investment. It is important to remember that the experiential content must be of high quality to generate users and additional buzz.

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