“Creative Bravery” at The AdAge Small Agency Conference 2019

Every year that we’ve attended the AdAge Small Agency conference, we’ve come back with valuable information or insights that have shaped our agency.  In 2016, we came back embracing “small.”  It guided our agency’s positioning and set us on a rebranding path that breathed new life into our team and business. In 2017, we were struck by the conversations around diversity and inclusion in marketing.  The conference challenged us to do our part, and so we came back and started the Marketing Explorer’s collaboration with Career High School in New Haven.  In 2018, AdAge awarded us with “Digital Campaign of the Year” which gave us recognition that we never had before.

This year, we came back with one big theme of small agencies being smart, bold and confident, which we are calling, “Creative Bravery.”  Here are the people, companies and work that we felt were amazing examples of Creative Bravery.

  • MADONNA BADGER, OWNER BADGER & WINTERS, #NOKIDSINCAGES PROJECT.  Madonna Badger has refused to succumb to the darkness of losing her entire family in one horrific night.  Instead, she has found strength, love, and awe inspiring resiliency.  A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” sums up her determination to speak up, to act, to make a difference.  So, while traveling close to the Mexican boarder, she decided, there and then, that she had to do something about the families seeking asylum that are being ripped apart at the boarder, and came up with the #NoKidsInCages project.  In partnership with Raices, a non-profit dedicated to helping refugees and immigrants, Badger & Winters created installations of mannequin kids in cages to bring attention to this issue.   As  reported in AdAge,

“The 25 cages were strategically placed around Manhattan and Brooklyn, including in front of city landmarks, tourist destinations, high-traffic public spaces and outside of media companies including CNN, Fox News, NBC, Vice, Refinery29, HuffPost and Newsweek. Other locations included Madison Square Park, Union Square, Google/Chelsea Market, the Brooklyn Bridge entrance, the Natural Museum of History and the Bedford Ave subway stop in Williamsburg. Inside the installations, real audio of children detained by the U.S. (obtained by ProPublica) accompanied the harrowing scenes.”

The result was not only hundreds of millions of impressions in just 48 hours, but more importantly, millions of dollars raised for Raices to do their great work of bringing families back together.  We highly recommend reading this Bandt article, Madonna Badger Reveals New Emotional Campaign #nokidsincages to get the backstory and source of inspiration from Madonna herself.

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Today in NYC, we are protesting the separation of children from their families at the US/Mexico border with @raicestexas. These cages represent the real living conditions of children caged at our border. Sharing is an act of protest. We have to keep this conversation going. @nokidsincages was started to stop the travesty at our border. We cannot be a country that separates families. We cannot cage children. Tell your congressperson, our 2020 presidential candidates. This needs to stop, we need to pass Bill HR541. #NoKidsInCages #PassHR541 #KeepFamiliesTogether

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  • JOHNXHANNES, THE 2019 SMALL AGENCY OF THE YEAR.  JohnXHannes is a 12-person startup shop, essentially the same size as the Response team, based out of NYC and LA.  Their work on Expensify is more entertainment than marketing, which is why it worked.  Check it out for yourself.  Hannes Ciatti says,

“As the lines between advertising and entertainment continue to blur, we set our company up to be able to consistently make work people will choose to engage with.”

In their short tenure they’ve won an Emmy, several Lions at Cannes, Effies, Webbys, and now, Agency of the Year.

  • TBD AGENCY, THE “GIFT RAPPER” CAMPAIGN FOR STUBHUB.  TBD leveraged a consumer insight that was “hiding in plain sight” which is that we all love to give and get the gift of entertainment, but the delivery of a Stub Hub print out as a gift is underwhelming at best.  They created the most amazing, fun way to give the gift of StubHub for the holidays and that is with a Gift Rapper– specifically using MC Murs and AI to deliver a custom message with every StubHub holiday purchase.  Check out the StubHub Gift Wrapper Campaign.
  • DAVID DROGA, FOUNDER, DROGA5.  While David’s keynote focused on the agency’s growth and the eye-popping news that they recently sold to Accenture for nearly $500 million, what we took away was one key point he made. Which was something to the effect of “If I have an idea I really believe in, I’m not afraid to be laughed out of the room.”   We came back inspired by his work and words, vowing to be bolder, more fearless with our ideas.  Thanks David.
  • PROCTER & GAMBLE, THE ELEVATOR PITCH.  This year, Procter & Gamble invited all of the AdAge Small Agencies into a lottery for a chance to pitch P&G for 5 minutes.  They drew 50 agency names from the submissions.  We were one of the 50.  We decided to tell P&G a story that weaved their history of audio storytelling into a modern day opportunity.
P&G Elevator Pitch
Inside the “Elevator” for the elevator pitch to P&G.

We thank AdAge for a great conference and inspiring us to continue to lean into “Creative Bravery.”