This year's Advertising Week program took a laudable digital bent, but there's still room for improvement. Based upon attendee interviews, here are seven suggestions to make it an event to rival SXSW, CES or Cannes.
Dial back the overt sponsorship. The biggest criticism was the rise in sponsored panels by agencies, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and publications such as Wired. Many expressed that they felt like they were hearing sales pitches instead of valuable advice that could help them do their jobs better.
Ensure the content matches its billing. Organizers had promised CMO Congress Live would be a forum for top CMOs to delve deep into juicy topics such as the pitfalls of agency-client relationships. But it proved to largely be a dry discussion about multicultural marketing and elementary social-media tactics presented by Telemundo and featuring only one major marketer.
Play up the networking and encourage smarter promotions. As always, execs said that the best part of the week was being able to meet with many of their colleagues and clients at a single place. Organizers estimate 85,000 people attended -- 10,000 more than came last year. Of course, more bodies allowed for more opportunities for sales pitches. However, some smart promotions won fans, such as the Weather Channel's umbrellas, handed to drizzled-upon event goers or the hand sanitizer AOL gave folks emerging from the subway at Times Square.
Make it easier to navigate. It's a common complaint: the overwhelming amount of content and the congested Times Square location.
Sideline the product icons ... While amusing, the march of the icons, an age-old Advertising Week tradition, has grown long in the tooth and doesn't suit an industry trying to prove that it's evolving.
... And spotlight advertising's real icons. While a funeral for advertising was among the most-talked-about events, another highlight was Ogilvy & Mather Chairman Emeritus Shelly Lazarus' thunderous standing ovation at an Advertising Women of New York luncheon honoring her and others. Sessions worth continuing include one to help war veterans find jobs, and the annual Big Ad Gig that grants deserving young folks agency internships.
Keep the focus on digital. During the week, the content reflected that of the modern ad world, with several panels about mobile marketing, content creation and Tumblr ads.
Contributing: Natalie Zmuda