Advertising Week New York 2023 has taken over Manhattan’s recently redeveloped PENN DISTRICT building for a jam-packed 19th edition of the event. Amidst the bustling throngs are some of the keenest minds in marketing, media, advertising, and communications.
Mediaweek continued their on the ground coverage, attending a number of key sessions throughout Wednesday. Here is a recap of some of the highlights from AWNewYork’s penultimate day:
The Renaissance Woman with Advertising Week
Presented by Group Black on the Culture Unleashed by Group Black stage, Renaissance Woman was an arena for impactful dialogue on the matters affecting women’s empowerment today: from entrepreneurship, purpose, and community building to fashion, creativity and representation. Moderator Akilah Ffriend, host of Dew Media Productions, led the discussions.
Speaking from her career learning curves to date, Brandice Daniel imparted the “underrated” importance of curiosity and taking action against the problems that are right in front of us. Daniel is the founder and CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR), and the latest recipient of FIT’s Outstanding Alumni Award.
It was the racial disparity she recognised in the fashion industry that compelled her to start HFR, a New York-based firm that supports retailers committed to equity for Black and LatinX designers by providing them business solutions.
Daniel recalled discovering that “less than 1% of the designers that were on every single major department store’s website was a designer of colour,” which she met with a belief that, “the intersection of problem and passion is where you find your purpose. And that for me was the case with HFR.”
Not diminishing the challenges for women that come with taking bold, purpose-led risks, Daniel championed adopting an “everything is in beta” or “let’s just see what happens” approach.
Zewiditu Jewel, president of The Brown Collective culinary food group (owner of Cloudy Donut Co), too drew upon her business acumen. She highlighted the challenges of committing to a “reverse-gentrification” practice with their store locations, opening the first Cloudy Donut Co in Brooklyn Heights.
She explained the self-coined term as “strategically bringing our Black-owned businesses into affluent white communities,” with the aim of challenging the status quo and promoting equity.
She elaborated, “It’s also understanding that there are going to be subtle things, little nuances that tell you that you don’t belong, but you have to remember who you are, and that’s about taking back that power.”
Jewel also addressed her sobriety as an act of reclaiming her power in and beyond the workplace: “That’s something that I really revel in. I’m taking my power back in that way, because I’m not allowing any obstacle, man, woman, person, thing to prevent me, from me.”
For content creator, on-camera host, and model Kayla Nicole, navigating the relentless public eye and noxious court of public opinion is a constant journey. Especially in her line of work, Nicole credits prioritising self-care, exercise and mindfulness to fostering a positive attitude. Said Nicole, “I’m constantly in my phone, and I have to be really intentional [to] take a step out, and be aware and present with what’s around me. Being where my feet are.”
Her dedication to protecting her inner peace prompted her to craft her heartfelt open letter to Black girls earlier in October, in the wake of the media storm that had recently engulfed her. Nicole shared, “In the narrative, I had no control over it at this point.
“And as someone who is a host, who wants to interject and wants to speak up, I found myself really just silencing myself, keeping the peace, keeping quiet, trying to make sure that everybody else in this scenario was okay… I just kind of hit a point where I had to ask myself, I know I’m keeping the peace for everyone else, but, what about the peace within you? I had to say something.”
The Creative Agency Identity Crisis
At a time where the newly announced WPP merger sunsets three advertising giants of the 20th century, JWT, VMLY&R and Wunderman, the narrative takes an interesting turn in the revival of former titan creative agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
Alison Weissbrot, US editor of Campaign, discussed the move with Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s new leadership team, global CEO, Brad Simms, and president of North America, Maggie Malek.
Believing that “in order to chart a path forward, you do have to go in the past a little bit,” Simms remembered Crispin as “what some would argue was one of the most influential marketing agencies that I think transformed how we thought about marketing.
“The way they connected earned and creativity, the way they made media connect with PR, with activations like MINI, and Truth, and Burger King.” He attributed the agency’s demise to its struggle to adapt to changing client needs, relying on “making ads” rather than genuine innovation, something CP&B are adamant to address in its next iteration.
Four specialty shops have been united under the CP&B name Crispin, Observatory, MMI and Vitro to evolve CP&B into a fully-integrated agency. Malek elaborated, “You have Observatory that is culture and brand entertainment, and it has redefined what ads look like.
“Then you have MMI that focuses on business orchestration and across media, creative and creator influencer, then you have Vitro, for really agile, disrupted creative for challenger brands who are all about stealing share.”
Ultimately the decision to maintain the Crispin name came about after noticing, during “six or seven months talking to a lot of folks,” as Simms recounted, “the opportunities that comes through Cirspin’s door and the brand is still super strong.”
In five years’ time, the pair hope to see the Cirspin name known for “innovation”, Malek envisions, as well as “that disruptive, unexpected way in which we put brands into culture,” as Simms predicts.
The Expanding Empire of Jonathan Van Ness’s Hit Podcast “Getting Curious”
Emily Rasek, SVP of podcast business development and operations at Sony Music Entertainment, brought UTA audio agent A.J. Leone and entrepreneur, TV personality, and host of the Getting Curious podcast, Jonathan Van Ness, to the Great Minds stage to explore podcasting with a purpose and discuss how it translates into a loyal and engaged fanbase.
First finding success as a hairdresser, Van Nass’ star rose as cast member of the Emmy-award winning TV show Queer Eye. Recently, Van Nass joined forces with UTA to grow the franchise of his popular general knowledge podcast, adding two episode tracks to target different listeners: Curious Now, and Pretty Curious.
The new iterations cover recent news by leveraging past podcast talent, and the beauty and self-care industry, respectively.
Unpacking the genesis of Getting Curious, Van Ness mentioned, “I wanted to explore what it was like to put together a product in this medium.” Expressing how he now wanted to tap into the potential “daily” listener with these new shows, Van Ness emphasised “especially for legacy shows, you need to be focussed on growth.
“It was like how do we diversify, reach people [when] maybe Getting Curious wasn’t for them, and give people more options.”
Rasek captured why the diversified content works for a devoted fanbase: “Everyone has multiple interests but they’d much rather see it through your eyes.”
Leone, who sits alongside a plethora of podcast talent, pinpointed what’s so special about Getting Curious that has driven eight years of fan engagement: “the podcast itself, the content, and then Jonathan as an amazing host.”
He continued, “A successful podcast isn’t just, let’s put out episodes every week, it’s how do we build a really empowered, safe and fun community and ultimately, that’s what makes great content.”
Moving deeper into the unique qualities of podcasting, Rasek pointed out the fact that “the most trustworthy medium is apparently Podcasters first and then YouTuber second.” Van Nass expanded on this with his own experience as a host, “The ability to converse with that [listener] or gain trust with that person is a lot more when you’re in a longer format.
“Podcasting is really exciting because you really get to like, connect with people, you get to learn more, and you get a lot more nuanced and information than what you would in social, and or in other media.”
Create What Matters with Issa Rae
A recurring theme that has been consistent throughout Advertising Week New York is authenticity in the creator economy; a refrain that aligns with the calibre of talent in its lineup. One such extraordinary speaker is actress, producer and entrepreneur, Issa Rae.
Now with a solid foothold in Hollywood, Rae was first recognised for her award-winning web series and accompanying New York Times best-seller, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Her ensuing Peabody-award-winning HBO series, INSECURE, received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nods.
Most recently, the CEO of HOORAE Media starred in Blockbuster hits Barbie and SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE.
In a fireside chat with Moira Forbes, executive vice president of Forbes, the pair talked entrepreneurship, creativity, and what brand alignment means to a renowned storyteller.
Reflecting on the honesty, bravery and integrity that she has demonstrated in her storytelling, Rae said: “I have such a strong belief that I’m here because of those stories, and I’m here because I know that those stories are needed.
She continued, “I’ve been fortunate enough to have now multiple platforms and advocates who have opened the door for me to be transparent and to be honest… I’m standing on the shoulders of so many people who did have it harder to articulate the need for our stories in that space, and that’s not lost on me as well.”
When asked by Forbes about the frustrations of having to “sell” stories that hold significance to the broader social construct, while also needing to demonstrate their audience appeal and commercial viability, Rae responded: “I don’t want to come across as a victim by any means, there are so many opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of.
“I think sometimes my frustration comes from just wanting to make sure that [investors] are committed to telling these stories. Not just my stories, but the stories of other people alongside me who come after me, because… there are so many moments throughout even just television history where we have these spurts of relevance, and then, it goes away.”
On the flip side, Rae criticised the inorganic attempts by the advertising industry to manufacture community, “which people can see through.”
“I don’t know why certain brands feel the need to have their products speak in a specific voice or target people who won’t necessarily benefit from their product… I guess what I’m trying to say is, not everybody needs to build a community”
In Forbes’ words, “there’s this huge tug of war and tension between fleeting success and lasting influence, the ability to achieve commercial success, while also remaining authentic.” In striking this delicate balance, Rae remarked, “I just have a deep fear of over saturation, and I’m really conscious about this.
“I’m just very conscious about my own place, and what I want, so that does come from collaborations that actually mean a lot to me.”
Rae’s next venture is her new Prosecco line, which the duo used to raise a toast to a better 2024.
Top Image: Jonathan Van Ness