AdWeek Recap: More Than Just Advertising

I headed to New York City a couple weeks ago to represent Hidden Woods at Advertising Week, the leading conference for marketing, brand, advertising, and technology professionals- and I started learning the moment I stepped out of my cab from the airport.

Walking up the crowded New York City streets felt a lot like human bumper cars. Backpacks, grocery carts, suitcases, suit jackets, celebrities- you name it, it hit me. There are a lot of famous people in New York and all my friends were telling me that there was a large chance that I would run into one, somewhere. And I did! On my way to the first day of events, I pin-balled my way down Broadway, from 54th to 65th, and ran right into the one and only Shaquille O’Neal.

I was looking the wrong way at a one way, stepped out to cross the street, and ran into one of those giant, moving truck ads for The General Insurance. It turned right in front of me from the other direction, resulting in a head on collision with Shaq’s knee. So I guess I technically didn’t run into a celebrity. I ran into a celebrity’s knee. On a billboard. It was embarrassing. Luckily, Shaquille, Katie and “The General” escaped the crash unscathed.

The collision was an interesting introduction to advertising week. I was actively annoyed and wondering- why are some ads so annoying? What does advertising do other than hassle and cajole people? Maybe it was the impact to the head, but I spiraled into a full existential crisis. Why do I work in advertising? What’s the point? What’s my purpose?

Luckily, the very first panel that I attended- a conversation between Corey Leff (Reporter, John Wall Street), João Chueiri (Vice President, Consumer Connections, Anheuser-Busch), and Russell Silvers (COO, AEG) about experiential marketing- planted seeds for answers to my dramatic, but existentially important, questions.

To give some background- experiential marketing is a strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate in the evolution of a brand. It was one of the most widely covered topics at AdWeek this year. It is a brilliant way to market that gets people to interact with advertisements on an intimate level. But instead of running people over with giant Shaquille O’Neal billboards, you can come face to face with a brand in other, more organic, less dangerous ways. Experiential marketing compliments culture. It actually craves and sometimes even drives culture.

The panel discussion between Corey, João and Russell quickly dove into the Bud Light (Anheuser-Busch) marketing campaign surrounding the 2017 Super Bowl. It was an experiential campaign- Anheuser-Busch’s most successful marketing campaign ever- but also a testament to how advertising can drive culture and write history.

It all started with a tweet. Lane Johnson, offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, told ESPN that he would buy beer for the entire city if his team won the Super Bowl. The NFL tweeted out his promise, to which Bud Light responded, “@LaneJohnson65 Let’s make a bet. Win it all and the party is on us. Deal?”

Well, to the surprise of many, the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl. And the citizens of Philadelphia did not forget Bud Light’s promise. Anheuser-Busch then released this one-minute spot to congratulate the Eagles for making the big dance.

Bud light put a unique twist on their tag line, changing the classic “Dilly Dilly” to “Philly Philly.” And then the Eagles did the impossible. They won the Super Bowl. And the winning touchdown play call from Nick Foles, Eagles quarterback, was none other than: “Philly Philly.”

That’s right- the Eagles actually named a play after the Bud Light marketing campaign. This was more than just advertising. Especially after Bud Light then made good on their promise, providing beer for the celebration in Philadelphia, it was clear. This was history.

Most advertising campaigns don’t have this type of fairytale story, but especially in today’s world, marketing campaigns can reach further than surface level. A business’ end goal is obviously to hit their KPIs and sell products and services, which will never change. It’s the how that matters. It’s the how that can stir emotion, bring people together, and bring the most beautiful parts of life into the light. Which is exactly what we do here at Hidden Woods. Good advertising is more than just advertising. It’s a stage for a higher purpose.

I felt a keen sense of direction walking out of that panel. So much direction, in fact, that I walked out the door, to the nearest grocery store (without bumping into one backpack or Shaq ad) and straight to the soda isle. Because what better way to celebrate an averted existential crisis than a nice, lukewarm La Croix? It was Key Lime, by the way. On the business. Thanks, HWM. Until next time, NYC.