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ADWKDC 2015On a misty, cold October 1st in Washington, D.C., Ad Week kicked off with an inspiring keynote by Senior Editor of The Atlantic, Derek Thompson, that delivered much-needed laughter to a packed house at the FHi360 conference center. Derek spoke about millenials as consumers and employees and touched on a major theme of the day: expectations. Millennials have the highest expectations in human history, but those expectations should be embraced, not purposefully misunderstood. “After all,” he noted, “the idea of generations is completely made up.”

In its 11th installment, Advertising Week is an annual gathering of marketing and communications professionals around the country to discuss trends and learn from the best and brightest in the field. This year’s panel discussions were broken into three paths with their own designated breakout rooms: Strategy, Creative, and Media. Each path had its own unique set of discussion topics aimed at providing a holistic view of current trends and future predictions for attendees in each discipline. I was on the Strategy track and we covered everything from intergenerational expectations in the workplace to the future of data and its impact on media buys and consumer targeting.

One of the highlights of the day occurred after lunch, from a presentation called, “Your Creativity and Innovation Journey,” given by Bob Johnston, innovation consultant with Insigniam. Bob took attendees through a few workshops with the goal of inspiring creative thinking to solve internal and external problems – something he has been doing with major Fortune 500 companies for almost 30 years. At one point, he divided the room by tables and requested that each team come up with a new product from a random assortment of items (like a lightbulb, hanger, rubber band or magnet) and brand it with a brief description of the value proposition. Johnston’s final points were clear: if your company does not have a mandate for including innovation into its processes, it will be swallowed up by the momentum of maintaining the status quo.

The last panel on the Strategy track was the most thorough of the day. Chief’s Director of Strategy, Amanda Nguyen, walked us through the ins-and-outs of marketing in the federal government space. She noted that you have to be aware of each department’s mission, look across agencies for possible partnerships and maintain a close relationship with the general counsel’s office. She explained that the most successful projects leverage a true pain point for the end user with timely and informative placements. Amanda admitted that dealing with federal agencies does require more patience because of the approval process, but she pointed to investing in strategy development upfront as the key to managing expectations for both parties as campaigns roll out.

I started the day with no expectations for what Ad Week DC had in store and ended it with a new appreciation for how to include many elements and stakeholders into strategy development.

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