Advertising Week, best known for four days of seminars all over Manhattan in late September, is heading to Havana.
Advertising Week: Cuba x Creativity will be unlike the New York event, which features ad industry people talking about the advertising, tech and entertainment businesses, because Cuba doesn't have an ad industry yet. Instead, Matt Scheckner, CEO of Advertising Week organizer Stillwell Partners, envisions the Havana gathering as "a destination for conversations around creativity."
The only confirmed speaker so far is Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, which started the first commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba today. JetBlue is a founding partner of Advertising Week: Cuba x Creativity, which will kick off Nov. 28 with two JetBlue flights from Fort Lauderdale to Havana carrying up to 200 people each to the event, which ends on Dec. 1.
"It won't have the breadth or depth of the New York program with more than 250 seminars and [deep dives into topics like] data-driven marketing," he said. With up to about a dozen speakers, who will be mostly non-Cubans, there will be "someone from architecture, someone from film and someone from the design world. You'll see a broader arena of popular culture."
There will be one business development session on how to do business in Cuba, he said. After the morning sessions, curated by founding partner Fast Company, attendees will lunch at one of Havana's paladares, or private restaurants, then tour Havana in the afternoon.
Delegates will buy a turnkey registration package that includes their JetBlue flights, hotel, food and beverage, entertainment and visas.
Mr. Scheckner said it will cost "about half what it costs to go to Cannes." After focusing on logistics for the last 14 months, he said he expects to have the final price next week, and a speaker list later in September.
"We had to have in place permission from the Cuban government, and secure 400 hotel rooms that people can stay in and be fine, and visas and paperwork," he said. That even includes required Cuban health insurance for all the delegates, he said.
Last year, eight people came from Cuba to check out Advertising Week, including Mariela Castro, President Raul Castro's daughter, and well-known musician Isaac Delgado. Mr. Delgado will chair the local organizing body along with Cuban government representatives.
Mr. Scheckner said he expects attendees to include brands, adtech and media and media owners. "What you won't see is a lot of ECDs," he said.
There may not be many Cubans either. "It hasn't been determined yet if there will be local Cubans in the audience," he said.
It's unclear what issues Advertising Week, which has a London and a Tokyo event in addition to New York, might encounter in a country notorious for government control and human rights abuses. "Isaac [Delgado] is a leader of the creative community, so we'll defer to him," Mr. Scheckner said.
Ad agency execs have been visiting Cuba for the last couple years, often holding small gatherings like regional Latin American meetings there. One Latin America agency head said his next trip to Cuba will be later this month, for a workshop with people from the Ministry of Culture, local university students, and young entrepreneurs. The most official move came from WPP last year, when the holding company reached an agreement with the Cuban government-owned Palco Group that includes a base for a WPP exec in Cuba. That exec, Miguel Barroso, a native of Spain and the former head of Young & Rubicam Spain, has the title of director of new projects for WPP.