The energy at Advertising Week 2014 was intoxicating. The food and wine were incredible, but it was the conversations and panels that truly shaped my experience. Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to engage with high-profile advertising executives from around the world as they passionately spoke about our industry’s emerging trends and latest ideas.

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Although I left Advertising Week a little exhausted after a week of information overload and nonstop hoofing around midtown Manhattan, I feel rich with new knowledge and excited to be up to speed with the latest and greatest industry trends.

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Some of my favorite Ad Week moments included hearing Walgreens EVP Alex Gourlay and WebMD CEO David Schlanger speak about new healthcare partnerships and innovations; laughing with the “last Mad Man standing,” DDB Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard as he shared his experiences and strategies behind the most famous McDonald’s campaigns; and closing my first day with some favorite commercial mascots, from Aflac’s Duck to Angry Birds and Smokey the Bear. Yes, I tried to snap a photo of each.

Keith Reinhard & Soledad O’Brien
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I can’t deny that I also quite enjoyed taking a break and relaxing at the WebMD Relaxation Room. After a long week of walking and sitting in all-day seminars, a free massage and mani-pedi were just the right medicine.

Key Takeaways from the Advertising Week Panels

A message that came through loud and clear from this year’s Advertising Week is that relevant advertising is the key to success. In addition, programmatic campaigns are still a hot topic, and it’s evident that mobile advertising has become increasingly integral to all brand strategies.

Another common thread of the week was the idea that consumers are smart. We can’t give them garbage advertising and expect them not to see it that way. It’s important that we embrace consumer savvy and engage with them on the right platforms at the right times.

Some of my favorite panels and seminars included:

Where the Cookie Crumbles: Solving the Cross-Device Problem
This panel focused on how marketers, agencies and ad technology companies are working to solve the problem of tracking cookies cross-platform.

  • Key Takeaway: The shift in media consumption has changed the way we can reach consumers. The problem is that current marketing is not reflecting consumer behavior.  It’s important that we stay consistent with the platforms and devices we are using to serve ads to the right audiences.

Marketing to Millennials? You’re Doing it Wrong
In this session Bryan Melmed, Senior Director of Insights at Exponential, dove into the young world of Millennials. Through 4 million data points, he introduced 12 personas of the complex Millennial audience.

  • Key Takeaway: There were many compelling topics, but one in particular stood out: in no time, this audience will be our sole purchasing decision makers. We need to learn what motivates them to engage with our brands. Bryan’s research showed that it’s time for us to drop dated assumptions and reach this audience with authenticity. Target individuals instead of bucketed personalities.

Data-Driven Creative
This workshop showed us how certain data points can be used to not only evaluate creative success but also guide our creative briefs and strategies.

  • Key Takeaway: It’s our responsibility to pay attention to what the data exposes to us.Instead of playing a guessing game of how particular creative messages are performing, we need to allow data to drive a key level of visibility into our consumers.

As I apply my new knowledge to my future initiatives, especially when I am trying to find the right platform or targeting strategy, I will strive to keep Keith Reinhard’s core marketing belief in mind: “We have to remember that advertising has always been about connecting brands to a consumer. But with all the amazing new tools to help us make a connection, the central task of advertising has not changed.”