Visiting the Old and New of the New York Ad World

I just returned from a weekend in New York where, alongside my colleague Debbie Yount, I had the opportunity to lead a group of 15 students to see eight different agencies and media companies in NYC. All credit goes to Debbie for organizing and our greater alumni network who helped coordinate the visits. I wanted to tag along simply because I had the desire to see it for myself and ensure that what I’m teaching is a proper reflection of industry trends, and for that I’m very thankful for the opportunity.The full list of organizations visited is below:

As someone who studies advertising, I appreciated the well-rounded nature of the agenda. We saw agencies that continue to New York staples (Grey, DDB, and McCann) while also seeing some fresh creative shops (Anomaly and 72andSunny). We also visit Golin, a PR firm largely based out of Chicago, and media company, VICE. Last, XAXIS is an agency primarily focused on programmatic advertising with their AI-driven tool Copilot,¬†which is touted as the future of ad media buying. I don’t disagree and was excited to learn more. Unfortunately, we weren’t shown the tool, which made it hard for our students to grasp, but it was still a good example of what an adtech firm looks like.

VICE in Brooklyn

Two of our stops took us to Brooklyn: VICE and 72andSunny. There’s definitely a different vibe to Brooklyn that I quite enjoy when contrasted with Manhattan. Brooklyn culture was reflected in both companies, which felt positive and a bit more relaxed. Each company is also doing work that I find quite compelling. 72andSunny only recently moved their offices to Brooklyn because that’s where the majority of their employees choose to live and because it’s a space with an amazing view.

Looking back at Manhattan from 72andSunny in Brooklyn.

It was also nice to get a mix of presentation styles. Some companies pitches were HR-driven, which was a good opportunity for students to get information on how to refine their resumes and prepare for internships and entry-level positions. Other companies such as DDB and Anomaly felt more like a mini-master class from senior leadership. I could watch these types of presentations all day long, but, of course, the trip isn’t just for me.

Keith Reinhard, Chairman emeritus, DDB Worldwide.

Being an advertising history nerd, hearing Keith Reinhard, former CEO and Chairman of DDB, give a short presentation on his predictions for the future of advertising was a major highlight. Keith is one of the few left from the “Mad Men” era of Madison Avenue, and he characterized three phases of advertising: the Creative Revolution (of which, he helped define vis-a-vis Bill Bernbach), Digital Disruption, and what he calls “the next revelation.” His presentation to our students was similar to one he gave at the CoreConnect conference below:

In advertising, one classic argument is whether you can better persuade consumers with emotional or fact-driven advertising. Many would argue that Bill Bernbach defined emotional driven (often referred to as “soft-sell” advertising) through humor and product-as-hero advertising. It should be of no surprise then that Keith would make the Bernbachian argument to our students that, rather than focus solely on big data, metrics, and unique selling propositions, brands can’t forget they must have a personality and a point-of-view. His argument climax was citing an IPA Effectiveness study that showed that emotional content performed about twice as well as rational content.

Chart source: YouTube.

I also want to highlight some of my favorite campaigns that were presented to students:¬†Fearless Girl (McCann). Super Bowl Babies (Grey). Strong is Beautiful – Dad-Do’s (Grey). Skittles: Exclusive the Rainbow (DDB). Anomaly also has some really interesting work that stretches beyond advertising to include IP such as the round EOS lip balms you see everywhere and Dosist cannabis pens.

At Anomaly

It was also a great opportunity to meet and catch up with several of the young alumni we have in the NYC area, many of which were critical in setting up our visits. There’s a lot of pride in how many of our students are getting placed all over in the Big Apple. There was an alumni watch party in Midtown for the OU-TCU game, which I was hesitant to go to knowing that I had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted to that day, and I watch OU football nearly every weekend. Against my better judgement, I left the MoMA and went to the Ainsworth to catch the second half, and I’m really glad I did. It was a fantastic atmosphere and a ton of fun to see all of the NYC-based alumni who come out for the game, so kudos to the OU Club of NYC on a successful club and event.

I’ve got a bit more to write from the trip, but that will be more on the personal stops I took while in town. For now, this will wrap up the professional side of the visit.

At Vice Media