Technology trended big at the 4As Transformation 2014 conference in Los Angeles last week, with the American Association of Advertising Agencies' annual event generating a lot of social network heat. Ad Age was so smitten by the online action that it ran a 25 Best Tweets story about the conference.
So the best way to sum up what stuck and what didn't at this year's conference is to tour the session tweets. And trending really big was talent—finding it, nurturing it, keeping it and using it. It's an old refrain in the ad business, but even more imperative today.
Tweeters ate up Bloomberg Media Group CEO Justin Smith's remarks in a session called "Talent as a Winning Ingredient." Smith talked about talent being such a critical element that all CEOs should be CTOs as well—Chief Talent Officers.
Our newest portfolio mash up, not as exhaustively publicized as CMOs becoming CIOs, certainly, but no less important.
One Tweeter noted Smith's admonition that "It's not talking about talent, but being obsessed by it." Another shared the farsighted media executive's advice to "get a group of talented people in the right environment to do something special."
Another well-shared session was a "Rising Stars" panel with agency Millennials in a discussion with Leo Burnett Chief Talent Officer Renetta McCann and Horizon Media CEO and Founder Bill Koenigsberg (two of the most astute evaluators of talent in the industry). My favorite tweet on the session was an enthusiastic "Most awesome and inspiring thing about #4AsTransformation rising Stars on stage now? All WOMEN."
A keynote address by American Express CEO John Hayes on "Igniting Growth" stirred up social chatter, with one tweeter sharing the Hayes quote "agencies must have the curiosity to understand, discipline to interpret and courage to challenge thinking." And then there was the delightfully iconoclastic Dana Anderson, Mondelez International senior vice president of marketing strategy and communication, whose presentations are becoming famous for her comic timing as much as her brilliance, spoke about the fascinating idea that generosity is a primary component of creating good work. With tweeps sharing her lesson, "Give 'til it hurts."
And really, how can you not love an industry speech that concluded, as Anderson's did, with a quote from Dr. Seuss?
As well, two interviews lived beyond the stage on social media. The first was GroupM Worldwide Chief Digital Officer Rob Norman's conversation with Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer. The second was my conversation with Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer regarding how he has evolved a media strategy in the today's content ecosystem.
Still, one of the most powerful themes from this year's conference wasn't a speech or a session but an evolution—the rise of holistic talent in the industry. It seems completely natural to have executives from full service shops and media agencies comingling now. You couldn't have said that a few years ago. You wouldn't have even seen it, since the 4As ran its management conference and its media conference separately until a few years ago.
This year, once again, the 4As produced a vibrant gathering with a lot to buzz about. Talent, technology and creativity, after all, are not bad overarching themes for a conference entitled "Transformation."
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Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New YorkCity-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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