Advertising Week: Now New and Improved

Yes, There Were Glitches, but Annual Confab Offered Big Names and Big Ideas

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK ( -- A few years ago we argued that Advertising Week, which brings thousands of ad types to New York each fall for networking, panels and partying, needed to be a lot less country club and be a lot more Facebook.

And it has become that. The event has improved a bit each year and 2010 was no different.

Twitter's Dick Costolo
Twitter's Dick Costolo Credit: Bloomberg

There were complaints: the rainy, dreary weather (organizer Matt Sheckner hasn't quite figured that out yet); poor cellphone service in some of the auditoriums; the flash-only Advertising Week website, which was useless on the iPad.

But it continued its commitment to try to help the future of the industry, with five lucky students winning the "Big Ad Gig," and enliven the content, by sprinkling in more outsiders and celebrities. Among them, king of the Virgin empire, Richard Branson; HuffPo Founder Ariana Huffington; an F-bomb dropping former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich; Twitter Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo, who was interviewed at the IAB's Mixx event by Ad Age Editor Abbey Klaassen; and model-turned-talk-show-queen Tyra Banks, who taught IAB Chief Randy Rothenberg how to "smize." (That would be smile with your eyes.)

While that last one can't exactly be put into words, other things can. Here's a smattering of the conversation, collected in the Ad Age notebooks.

AOL's Tim Armstrong
AOL's Tim Armstrong Credit: Bloomberg

On procurement: The problem is, "they think in the short- to mid-term, said Rob Norman, North American CEO of WPP's Group M. "We have clients that want to know what the evolution of use of the iPad will be 10 years down the road, and they have to invest in that type of research, but procurement doesn't always see the value in that."

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL: "Procurement is a huge issue the clients seem to be bringing on, but I would also say that agencies are selling themselves as a price-based mechanism and that's [a mistake]."

On job titles: In a session titled "21st Century Creatives," Michael Lebowitz, CEO and founder of Big Spaceship, objected to the term, saying: "No one should have 'Creative' in their title -- it absolves others from being creative." He later added: "I expect everyone who works for me to be creative."

On diversity: As Roy Eaton -- former music director for Benton & Bowles -- accepted an honor as a pioneer in diversity at the American Advertising Federation's Mosaic awards, held at the New York Athletic Club, he noted the irony of where he was. Mr. Eaton was the first black man at a major agency to work on a general-market account and, in 1955 when he was hired as a copywriter and jingle composer for Young & Rubicam, he would not have been allowed to enter the club. In his view, the ad industry has made some progress, but should take a page from Alcoholic Anonymous' 12-step program. "God, Give us the grace to accept the things we cannot change," he said. "Courage to change the things we can -- and yes, racism is one of them -- and the wisdom to tell the difference."

On AMC's 'Mad Men': Four seasons in, the show is no longer just water-cooler, it's being viewed as a recruiting tool. On a panel of agency CEOs, Bob Jeffrey, global CEO of WPP's JWT, said "Mad Men" reminded people of the "fun," "sexiness" and "glamour" of the business -- and suggested everyone should be trying to get some of that back.

On the client-agency relationship: What's usually at the root of the client-agency problems? Sometimes the client, said Joanne Davis, president of Joanne Davis Consulting. "It's easy for a client to point to the agency and say they are doing bad work and they want to put the business in to review." She noted that both sides should be better at "listening to each other," before it gets to that point.

On compensation: "I'll overpay for the brain-trust component of the relationship, but not the commoditization part of it," said Claire Huang, top marketer at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She wants top people and efficiency at same time. "When we get the B-team from an agency, that's when the partnership breaks down. We need a partner that understands all of the pieces of our business and it should be cost efficient."

On the value of Twitter: Tyra Banks' take on Twitter turns it into a highway from her fans straight to her heart: "When you get to my level, you have to get through a lot of barriers to get to me, and Twitter lets my fans get right to me, and me right to them. It's great. I can reply to their questions and even ask them for advice."

On the changing role of the CMO: "So many of the CMOs that we are dealing with are struggling with their roles inside their organizations," said Publicis Chairman and CEO Susan Giannino, adding that they seem to have "lost some of the teeth" they previously had.

E-Trade Financial CMO Nicholas Utton responded: "I don't buy that. And I commiserate with those who might have lost their power within organizations. We are tasked with revenue growth, and if we can't do that, we should be fired. Net-net, it's up to us to work with the management team of the organization ... and if CMOs allow the dilution, they should be replaced."

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E-Trade Financial CMO, Nicholas Utton speaking at Advertising Week.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story attributed E-Trade CMO Nicholas Utton's quote to Nick Brien.

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