5 Lessons From Advertising Week 2018 To Take Into 2019

  • by SalientMG Team
  • Nov 19, 2018

Over a month ago, I had the opportunity to go to my first Advertising Week. Although this was a “first,” it wasn’t a first major marketing conference I had gone to. I was half-expecting to take away similar ideas like I always have after events like this; however, I took away much more. I was blown away at the caliber of speakers and how in tune many of them were to their customers and overall experience. Even though it may seem like this roundup of thoughts is long overdue, there were some big ideas, tactics, and action items that go beyond Advertising Week and I’m ready to implement them in the new year. Here are the 5 lessons from Advertising Week 2018 that we should all take into 2019: 

1. Customer experience will leave a lasting impression or a bad scar

No matter what industry you are in, there will likely be a new competitor popping up almost every day. With each new competitor, differentiation becomes almost impossible. (Almost being the keyword).

One of the rare, although it shouldn’t be, ways to stand out from your competitors is to provide an unparalleled customer experience. I came across an example of this when I saw one of the co-founders of Bark, Henrik Werdelin, makers of Barkbox, speak on the panel “Direct to Consumer AllStars.”

Currently, I am a very happy customer of Bark with a puppy who has a penchant certain toys from the company. I first noticed this great customer experience when they emailed me to ask what she likes about these particular toys after I left a review for them. Not only that, when I posted a picture on Instagram Stories of my pup and her new favorite toys, Bark took the time to respond to me with a personalized message. This has really left an impression on me and probably a dent in my wallet, as I’ve placed three other orders since.  

My exchange with Bark on Instagram


Because I was so impressed with this customer service, I got excited about the chance to ask Henrik a question on how they manage this experience. He answered very simply, but it made so much sense — they use a system of tagging in their CRM to help gather this feedback and to drive personalization. This operation scales while still providing a way for customers to feel that the company isn’t “too big” to know who they are.

From a marketers perspective, I can see that they looked to personalize each point in my journey as a customer and tried to meet me in the best ways they could either to get the feedback they wanted to make things better or to delight me. Although, this isn’t a new, innovative idea that I took from that panel, it still shows that the best companies, even in saturated spaces, are focused on ways to create the best customer experiences.

2. Power of sound doesn’t only reside with podcasting

It seems like over the last two years, podcasts have really exploded and I really feel like I can barely keep up. Especially now, when a marketer thinks about sounds, our first thought is probably goes to a podcast, which is funny because 5 years ago, this type of sound marketing wouldn’t have crossed our minds.

I attended a mini-summit put on by NPR inside of Advertising Week that wrapped multiple panels around the topic of sound. As mentioned earlier, when we think of marketing through sound in 2018, we immediately think of podcasting; however, that does not take majority share of listenership. Digital only makes up 7% of all listening, while broadcast radio makes up the other 93%.


Radio won’t work for every company and marketing campaign, but neither will podcasts. Marketers need to take a closer look where their audiences are and who they are. And for example, from there they can determine if they need a more localized approach with ads running on radio for commuters in the morning. It goes to show that even though there are newer channels for marketers to reach their customers, some of the more traditional channels reach millions of people.

3. Lack of diversity is an entire company problem

We all frequently hear how companies aren’t hiring diverse enough talent and how the problem resides with human resources or recruitment. Yet, what we aren’t hearing is that it’s actually a problem with not just those internal departments, but throughout many of the external parts of the business.

A panel I saw earlier in the week, “Black Gay Men in Advertising and Media” touched on all of those points and more. All of the men mentioned that before they even started in their careers (and even still today), they didn’t see very many people who looked like them on TV or in the media. From advertisements to actors on TV, everything and everyone looked the same and catered to the same group of people. They wanted to be a change in this, which is why they ventured in careers in advertising and media.  

Taking a look at who you are reaching, who you want to be reaching, and who buys your products — you can then try to determine if you are implementing the best marketing to reach them. Is your marketing pulling them in? Is it inclusive to your entire audience? Do your ads include people of color, multiple genders, and all gender-inclusive terminology? Also, with the advertising spots and other areas, can your audience access these points?  

These questions and more are ones we should be asking ourselves when we are marketing to our entire audience. We can’t shut out one set of individuals because we are oblivious in how we are targeting. Instead, the onus is on all everyone internally and externally to ensure all parts of the business are diverse.

4. Creators are more than just influencers

I had the chance to attend several panels with creators on stage or industry leaders talking about their brands’ relationships with these individuals. Often, creators are pegged as just “influencers” and how they are just one point at the top of the funnel to help drive awareness of a product or service. However, they aren’t just this one point in the buying cycle, instead they are often their own full-fledged company rapidly meeting their own customers with high-quality content, offering personalized experiences, and scaling to reach millions of fans.


One of my favorite YouTube creators is James Charles and I got to see him in person on a panel during the week. One point that he made that really resonated with me was how he doesn’t work with brands that do not align with his own brand no matter how much money they offer him. He doesn’t want to work with a brand who sells products that he doesn’t use because he stated that he uses the same products and that’s not what his audience is looking for when they come to his channel.

Before 2019 is here and even more creators rise up through the ranks, marketers need to take a serious look in how they work with “influencers.” Does their brand align with yours? How engaged is their audience? What type of content do they produce and does it pair well with yours? Many of these “influencers” capture the attention of millions of people and collectively receive billions of views each month. With just those numbers alone, many have the same audience size or bigger to many big brands; which, makes the argument that they are their own big brand themselves. Rather than treating creators like they are just one small point in the customer’s journey, you should partner with them like they are another company or brand. More than likely, the ways a company partners with another company is vastly different in how they partner with a creator — this needs to change. They aren’t just one touchpoint, instead they are an active part of the entire funnel.  

5. Physical retail stores aren’t all dying

A few weeks prior to Advertising Week, a headline caught my attention on how Mattress Firm was contemplating filing for bankruptcy and Casper plans to open 200 stores across the nation. It was very ironic hearing this and also seeing how many of the once brick and mortar giants, like Toys-R-Us and Sears, are shuttering, while these new companies who excelled through ecommerce are breaking into the physical retail space.

In a similar vein to podcasts and radio, although it may seem like physical stores are dying, it’s still quite the opposite. Ecommerce only accounts for ~10% of sales compared to physical retail locations that still hold majority of this.

During the same panel with Henrik Werdelin, I also heard from the CMO of Casper, Jeff Brooks. Casper primarily started as an ecommerce company and helped completely change how many consumers buy mattresses. They are venturing beyond the online space, but not just opening traditional retail locations. Casper launched a new kind of store in New York called the Dreamery where you can pay $25 to take an all-inclusive “branded” nap (Equipped with Casper beds, sheets, pillows, etc). Maybe this sounds a little too kitschy or that they’ve gone overboard, but instead Jeff Brooks walked us through how this is the ultimate way for someone to experience all that Casper has to offer. Even though, ecommerce provides the consumer the convenience to shop in their own home, they can’t see, touch, or familiarize themselves with the entire product. Besides offering epic naps, the Dreamery gives a customer the firsthand, physical insight into what it’s like owning a Casper mattress and its fixings.

Although there are countless predictions when online shopping will overtake physical retail, I doubt the latter will ever cease to exist.   

Advertising Week 2018 and beyond 

Many of these lessons from Advertising Week will transcend beyond 2018 and into the new year. Some may fade, maybe brick and mortar will die at some point or maybe not; but, the most important lesson for all marketers is to consistently stay on top of what is happening in their space with their customers. I’m excited to see what the next year brings and I can’t wait to go back to Advertising Week in the future.   


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