I attended the Ad Age Small Agency Conference last week for the first time. It was in New Orleans and since that’s such a short flight from Atlanta, I thought it’d be a nice place to network with other agency owners and learn a few things.
It was a very organized, well run conference. This was their tenth year having the Small Agency Conference and Awards so they’ve had some practice putting on a smooth event. Attendance seemed very good to me, but I don’t have past events to judge it by. I saw a few other people I know from Atlanta which is always nice.
Part of this conference is, as the name suggests, an award show. It is an award show strictly for small agencies, which Ad Age has defined as 150 people or less and is still an independent shop. (But wait, I know at least one agency with a holding company investor that won.) Seeing the work these shops are doing was inspiring. Most of the work doesn’t fit into people’s old ideas of what an ad agency is. I don’t think a single print ad was shown during the awards. Most of what was shown as great work came to life in stunts, experiences, digital interactions and TV/video. There were awards for Best Agency and Runner-up in different regions of the country and awards for specific campaign categories. I was impressed. It has given me renewed energy and drive to push Seed Factory and our clients to do more impactful marketing.
I also learned quite a bit from some of the speakers they had lined up for us. 4A’s Management Practitioners Forum held two very educational and enlightening sessions. Lindsey Slaby of Sunday Dinner also held two sessions over the two day conference and I found her view on “thin slicing your capabilities deck” to be very good. Perhaps it was a bit basic to some, and a refresher for others, but I found it helped me as we can be a bit wordy with our Seed Factory presentations. (Probably like this blog, but blog wordiness can also be attributed to what Google likes to crawl for SEO.)
Getting out of the office for a quick two days in New Orleans and listening to other agencies’ case studies, seeing a lot of great work, hearing from consultants like Lisa Colantuono of AAR Partners, and hearing from clients at Target and P&G was all very good for recharging the batteries. It was also nice to see the editors and publisher at Ad Age in action and put some personalities with the names and words they write. As someone said, these events are their “night job” as they need to keep the magazine, website and newsletters moving as their main duties.