50 of the Best Insights from Ad Age’s First Ever Small Agency Conference

Bourbon Street Painting by Debra Hurd

Direct from New Orleans, some fresh ideas and insights for small-to midsize advertising agencies that are worthy of your review.

Ad Age recently conducted its first-ever Small Agency Conference in New Orleans. They brought together a great group of group of speakers that shared their expertise delivering rich nuggets of information from the importance of having a unique agency culture; how to attract the best talent in the marketplace; using creativity to boost the bottom line; to the nuts and bolts of new business and getting the win.

Attendees have been Twittering from the conference using the Twitter hashtag #smallagency, sharing some of the best-of-the best information. Wish you could have been there? I thought the next best thing for those who missed it would be sharing some of those Tweets for you. Some excellent insights.

Enjoy these top 50 nuggets from the conference attendees:

  1. @sharondnapier The Brownstein Group has “Family” dinners with their key clients.awesome!
  2. @tjeffrey: What do clients want to be educated about most ? 1 – social media. 2 – analytics/measurement
  3. @adage: Everyone at @methodtweet takes turns answering phones, working front desk. “Keeps ego out of the org.” – Eric Ryan.
  4. @jeremyporter: Find a way to get people to audition for your job. Hire off of homework not the interview.
  5. bwaggoner#smallagency It’s not about an agency and a client. It’s about a bunch of smart people in a room with good ideas. – Eric Ryan of Method
  6. @rupalparekh Brand Jockey? Sure. If you work at Method (@methodtweet) you get to choose your own title
  7. @AdLawGuy: Rocketfish owns a coffee company – who knew?
  8. @jeremyporter: Very impressed by Rockfish. Lots of cool projects. They even make their own coffee to know what it’s like to be a CPG company
  9. tjeffrey: Eric Ryan – “Without a social strategy, you can’t succeed with social media.”
  10. AdLawGuy: Eric Ryan of Method: every brand in social media should have a social message
  11. @BartCleveland#smallagency speaker Eric Ryan: values ooze authenticity.
  12. @addieking Victors & Spoils’ @ClaudiaBatten explains why crowdsourcing is not a fad, it’s a paradigm shift.
  13. @addieking: Training is everyone’s job – Eric Ryan
  14. BartCleveland#smallagency speaker Eric Ryan: get new employee candidates to audition for the job i.e. what will you do to sustain Method’s culture?
  15. AndyGould: Eric Ryan of Method: our HR director is our real marketing director
  16. jacirusso: No social mission? No social media.
  17. @adage: Sharon Napier: to know who you want to be as an agency you have to know who you are. Purpose+values.
  18. @AdLawGuy: Rockfish licenses the technology it creates for clients; smart that agency retains ownership
  19. @scoutbranding: Getting inspired to launch our own products by @kennytomlin
  20. @adage: Miami Ad School survey asked ideal size shop grads want to work for. Top answer? 50-100 people
  21. @AndyGould Miami Ad School’s Pippa Seichrist: recent grads looking for culture foremost when deciding who to work for #smallagency
  22. amklaassen: Now THAT’S a dessert buffet! #smallagencyhttp://twitpic.com/25k0fv
  23. @tjeffrey Account people need to hone their digital knowledge in order to propose solutions for clients. #smallagency NOW!!!!
  24. @AndyGould Miami Ad School’s Pippa Seichrist: recent grads looking for culture foremost when deciding who to work for #smallagency
  25. @jacirusso: Employees really looking for culture first and foremost.
  26. @addieking: Ways to keep good talent: interesting projects, good culture and feeling appreciated
  27. addieking: Aol and @AdAge know how to host a tasty lunch session =)
  28. @AMPEDart: U don’t define an agency by the number of employees, but by the size of their ideas.
  29. @addieking: Client want silver bullets. They don’t exist.
  30. @bobbbyg: “What unites us more than our size is the fact that we are independent.” Phil Johnson, CEO, PJA Advertising
  31. sharondnapier: Small agency conference or independant angency. I vote Independant
  32. bwaggoner: Too much tactical work makes you into a machine.
  33. @liz_money: There is a need to understand trad marketing tactics as well as understanding social media.
  34. amklaassen: Digital experts/agencies serve as guides. Probably like how agencies felt in 50s, Mad Men era. Tom Martin.
  35. addieking: A #smallagency is there to guide clients thru this new digital age –@tommartin
  36. @AndyGould: panelist @TomMartin: hardest person in advertising to find is the digital-savvy AE
  37. jacirusso@tommartin wants “people who speak advertising like a native yet still fluent in digital”
  38. @jenmod#smallagency don’t only look at a prospect’s tool kit, look at the mechanic when hiring
  39. @sharondnapier success is shallow of it doesn’t have emotional meaning
  40. AmyP: Account folks need to have deep marketing knowledge as well as digital competency in order to provide the most client value.
  41. addieking: The lines between publishing & advertising are blurring
  42. AdLawGuy: Do young people understand how 2 market thru social media? Or do the just understand how to use the platform
  43. @jacirusso: Can’t even apply at these agencies if you don’t have digital skills
  44. @AndyGould: Seraj Bharwani: 3 categories of dialog-worthy content – branded entertainment, how-to and “video snacks”
  45. kenwheaton: Small agencies in non-major cities “have to own where you live.”
  46. tjeffrey: Sharon Napiers “There’s only one creative bar for all agencies.”
  47. kenwheaton: “Don’t you hate when you hear it’s great work for a small agency? It’s great work. Period.” Sharon Napier.
  48. @TomMartin: “We were their ‘and’ agency” – interesting way to look at being the 2nd agency on a roster.
  49. scoutbranding: Sharon Napier, CEO of Partners + Napier speaking. Her agency’s purpose: To liberate the promise of brands everywhere. Nice.
  50. tjeffrey: Vote Daisy – an example of how Method, a challenger brand, is taking on Clorox: http://bit.ly/8YY8go

A great resource for small-to midsize ad agencies is Ad Age’s SMALL AGENCY DIARY.

This is a side note: How to participate in conferences when you aren’t present by using Twitter:

I wasn’t able to attend the Small Agency Conference but I was able to share in it through live Twitter streams from the attendees. You could easily get a gist of some of the best-of-the-best parts of the conference speakers by what the Twittering attendees felt was important.

I was able to glean from the Tweets some of the best insights from the attendees themselves. It felt as though I was there in a sense. I knew that at the beginning of the conference the meeting space was to warm. Attendees were Tweeting their complaints. Someone with access to the thermostat eventually got the message. However, the thermostat was set to low for the women and they started Tweeting that the room was to cold! I knew that attendees didn’t much care for the lunch provided but the caterer redeemed himself providing a fabulous desert.

The camera guy offered advice, through Twitter, to the speakers. Speakers shared their impressions. Lots of behind-the-scenes info that you wouldn’t have gotten just through a live video stream.

I was even able to follow along during the Awards Banquet that evening.

More importantly, I was able to get on the “radar” of Ad Age and also personally network with a significant number of prospective clients.

How to enhance Twitter by Blogging:

A Tweet has a short “shelf-life” of a couple of hours. But by taking the information that was being shared via Twitter and converting it into a blog post it will have a much longer life cycle and be shared by others well beyond the conference. This is a reason to use a blog as your central social media platform.

I also help spread the word of the conference, create buzz and help generate traffic for the conference sponsors: AdAge and AOL Advertising which they will appreciate.

@adage And it’s not even over! RT @michaelgass 50 of the Best Insights from Ad Age’s First Small Agency Conf #smallagencyhttp://bit.ly/bTZqhL

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Thanks Michael, great Tweets.

    Lee – agencynewbusiness.com

  2. Thanks for sharing this information. I’m always looking for great resources to share with clients and my colleagues, and this post is absolutely worth sharing!

  3. I would have loved to attend.

    Great insights.

    Will you be coming to the BlogWorld Expo / Social Media Seminar in Las Vegas in October? Would love to see you there. Try the hastag #bwe10 on twitter.

  4. Thanks for sharing this great insight Michael. Did you use some kind of Twitter Automation App to pull the HashTag specific Tweets into your Blog?

%d bloggers like this: