Brand Arc Attends 2013 Ad Age Small Agency Conference & Awards


Last week, we headed to Portland, OR for the Ad Age Small Agency Conference & Awards. The event kicked off with a welcoming cocktail party at the offices of Wieden + Kennedy.


Brian Jennings, the EVP of Marketing of the National Hockey League (NHL), started the morning off talking about the league’s lockout last Fall and it’s comeback last January. During the lockout, Jennings’ team focused on the fans and communities and worked with league sponsors to find ways to retain relationships. As a result of their efforts, the following season delivered record setting attendance and viewership.


Next up, Laurie Coots, President of Disruptive Works at TBWA, spoke about the benefits of doing a post-mortem on new-business pitches by deconstructing each pitch to learn about your agency’s approach—something most agencies don’t do. Coots asserted that agencies can really learn how to fine tune the story of their process (think of it like putting your agency’s “secret sauce” into words) by doing so. Coots’ summed up her talk by saying that quality of your agency’s ideas are way more important than who you are as an agency. Meaning, small agencies really are on the same level as the large ones because anyone can provide service, but not everyone can deliver the right idea.

Conference Room

Lani Hayward, EVP- Branding & Creative Strategies for Umpqua Bank, spoke about how her community bank disrupted the banking industry by breaking the mold of the traditional bank brand.  The New York Times called Umpqua “Starbucks with teller windows”.  The key strategy of Umpqua‘s unique value proposition was to build culture around service and innovation.  She concluded by saying agencies should not come to the problem with advertising as the answer. They need to go beyond the brief and harness the client’s DNA.  Be nimble and take risks, and help their clients challenge the status quo.

Dan Wieden Talk

Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden+Kennedy, delivered a keynote speech that focused on a couple of mantras. The first, “fail harder”, is spelled out on the wall of his agency’s headquarters and is meant to unleash creativity by giving his employees the freedom to fail. His other words to live by happen to be “walk in stupid every morning,” which means forget about the preconceived notions you have about how the day will go and instead, walk in open to learn and ready to grasp the reality of whatever the day has in store.

Debra Giampoli of Mondelez Intl

Debra Giampoli, the Director of Global Strategic Agency Relations for Mondelez International, spoke about what it’s like to be on the receiving end of new business solicitations and agency relationships.  A major takeaway was that agencies really need to tell their story and not their capabilities when approaching prospective clients.  She said, “I may forget what you told me, but I won’t forget how you made me feel.”  She suggests that small agencies most likely still have founders who are alive and well, and that the agency’s story should start with the founder’s story.

Famous Portland Voodoo Donuts at Awards

We left Portland with full bellies (check out those famous glazed bacon donuts!) and feeling inspired by the speakers and the small agencies being honored for their work. For a list of attendees that took home Ad Age Small Agency Awards at the event, click here:


One thought on “Brand Arc Attends 2013 Ad Age Small Agency Conference & Awards

  1. Pingback: Brand Arc’s Rob Donnell Talks Dodge’s Ron Burgundy Ad Campaign for Durango With Bloomberg TV |

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