It's back: The Ad Age Small Agency Conference & Awards returns Aug. 2-4. But while the conference is now in its 12th year, the agenda for this year's virtual event is anything but the same old thing. We're tackling topics that have been critical this year and which will be crucial for shops to navigate in the coming months. Here's a sampling of five subjects that will be discussed.
1. Smarter ways of doing business
The pandemic has tested shops big and small and made doing our jobs tougher. Pitches migrated toward Zoom, clients are demanding more for less, RFPs are getting more arcane and contracts messier. Several sessions will offer ideas and solutions for succeeding against these odds, including a presentation from Media Sherpas' Nancy Hill on how to recognize warning signs for bad pitches and Sunday Dinner's Lindsey Slaby on how to write a good contract. Keith Cartwright, founder of Cartwright, will share lessons on what he learned in his first year of operating his own agency. And Michael Goldberg and Lorraine Stewart of Rojek Consulting will explain why matching your culture to that of your client is so important. Which brings us to ...
2. How to win and keep clients
Landing a major client is tough, but it's only half the battle. A panel of execs from small shops that have won big business—WorkInProgress, Mojo Supermarket and Highdive—talk about how that can change your agency and what to expect. And Dana Lytle of Planet Propaganda, along with client Ricker Schlecht of Duluth Trading, will offer the secret to a long-term agency client relationship—theirs has lasted a decade during an era where clients change agencies as often as they change their underwear.
3. Walking the walk on diversity and inclusion
There's been no bigger topic in the industry this year, yet not enough has changed. Sessions will include The Martin Agency's Elizabeth Paul presenting the Visibility Brief, an open-source tool for upping representation in advertising; a fireside chat with Courageous Conversation's Glenn Singleton on how to be an ally; and a report from BLAC, a coalition of small agencies dedicated to diversifying the ranks of small shops via an internship program.
4. Battling burnout
The pandemic exacerbated issues that already existed from overwork and unyielding competitive pressures, to the point where people are leaving the industry in droves. Elizabeth Rosenberg, founder of the Good Advice Co., will offer a moving personal story of how she ignored warning signs at her own peril, and a panel of executives from small agencies will offer best practices and ideas for dialing down the stress in your own agency.
5. Trends that will survive the pandemic
Flex time, virtual offices, living in one city and working in another. Are these trends that will remain when things go fully back to “normal” in the fall? Or were they good ideas at the time which will now fall by the wayside? Agency leaders will debate what’s really going to stick and what’s not.
In addition to these topics, there will be sessions on when it's time to sell your agency and why being a "small" agency is an asset. And there will be creative inspiration: We Believers will give a case study of its work for client Burger King, which is ripping up the awards circuit—and changing the world one cow fart at a time.
The event will be capped with our virtual Small Agency Awards ceremony honoring the very best small agencies of the year.