The Ad Club Blog

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Month: March 2016

Look Inside First

This blog first appeared on Written by Amy Weber, Director of Business Development. 

“If you don’t bring a brand to life on the inside, it won’t survive on the outside.” – Libby Sartain

As the media marketplace has gotten more and more fragmented and consumers are harder to reach than ever, it’s easy for brands to focus entirely on their target consumer, while forgetting about other key constituents. What many forget is that often times, a key component of marketing a brand these days may be right under your nose. Following-up on our post looking at the importance of Wegmans employee actions, we are now looking at the importance of your internal team and how they can provide the key insight that you are looking for.

The impetus for this post came after I attended an Ad Club CMO Breakfast featuring the dressbarn Vice President of Marketing, Stephanie Garbarini. I was excited by the opportunity to take a morning away from the office and learn about fashion marketing, especially after their groundbreaking campaign last fall. Their out-of-home board in Downtown Crossing station literally stopped me in my tracks on my commute one evening. Not surprisingly, Stephanie did not disappoint.

Facing a retail landscape that was changing just as quickly as the marketing industry is, Stephanie spoke about how dressbarn wanted to return to their roots as a way to stand out from the new competition. Those roots led directly to their founder, Mrs. Jaffee, a woman who seems to possess equal parts innovation, tenacity, compassion and spitfire. Which, of course, made me wish that she was my Grandmother! What I also learned is that the team at dressbarn took a look back and discovered that she was onto something 51 years ago when she founded the organization. When auditing their internal audience, they had a strong company culture with many employees who had been with the organization for 30+ of those 51 years. There is a culture and personality among those who have dedicated their life to this company that needed to be harnessed to usher in the next generation of dressbarn consumers.

Armed with that perspective as a filter, dressbarn set out to change category perceptions among key influencers in the fashion space. Knowing they had to make a splash, they developed a campaign that was unapologetically proud. A characteristic that rang true across store clerks, managers and the leadership team. And because it was true to the internal brand, it made quite the splash with external constituents, leading to social influencers as noteworthy as Chrissy Teigen to feel inclined to start a discussion around dressbarn. As they move forward, dressbarn has already announced their next partnership with model and body activist, Ashley Graham and I, personally, am already on the lookout for their spring campaign.

So, what did I learn from my morning with dressbarn other than validating how well their marketing team is doing right now? While going through the effort of refreshing their brand, the best thing that dressbarn did was to start by looking internally. Yes, their work was unexpected and stood out for the category. But, no matter how edgy the work, if it hadn’t been genuine to their brand heritage and to their employees who live the company culture everyday, it wouldn’t sustain and ultimately drive their current and future business. So, when looking for the next big thing to help your brand standout, don’t forget to look inside, because the answer may be closer than you think.


#ShareYourStory – A Reflection on the 2016 Women’s Leadership Forum

“I’m a mess.” Reshma Saujina, founder of Girls Who Code informed the audience. Preach, Reshma, I thought to myself. “Be a mess,” she continues, “be authentic”.

The 2016 Women’s Leadership Forum was an inspirational and special day filled with wise words, sage advice and incredible stories. And it were the stories that most resonated with me. Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, shared moments of her days spent visiting classrooms and reading stories to young children. The McBride sisters, creators of exquisite and delicious wine, have scaled the steep hill of California Street in San Francisco carrying cases of wine – while wearing stilettos. Reshma Saujina perhaps one of the most poised and eloquent speakers I have had the privilege of listening to, is a mess.

Kelly Carlin, writer, actress, and performer, encouraged the 1,100 female dominated audience to share their stories’. Carlin challenged the audience to listen to the voice inside of us and to find our own story – for it is within our story that we discover self-awareness and our own inner truth.

Stories shared at the Forum were filled with humor, sentiment and, of course, failure. “Just because I failed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try too,” Saujina expressed. Failing is an integral part of the journey – it reflects an effort made or a risk taken. Every time I fail I grow in another capacity. This growth is what brings me closer to attaining goals and to deepening my own story.

Our stories continue to evolve. As I was swept in awe and inspiration at the Women’s Leadership Forum, I also felt a great deal of reassurance and comfort in knowing that being a mess is just fine.


This story first appeared on Written by Clare Durkin, Shopper Digital Specialist at AMP Agency

A Chat with Bill Concannon, Cofounder of Pilot

In my role as President of The Ad Club, I’m lucky enough to meet some incredibly amazing and talented people. Recently, I reconnected with Bill Concannon, the cofounder of Pilot. Pilot is a brand consulting company that focuses on asset development for brands, intellectual properties, and consumer products. Bill and his team have created branding for the likes of Transformers, Angry Orchard, and Nike.

Most recently, Pilot was given the not-so-easy task of branding toys for the new Star Wars film. I sat down with Bill to hear about the steps that were taken to achieve success, how their marketing strategies were implemented, and learn about the future of Pilot.

KK: When you talk about storytelling, “Star Wars” is the ultimate brand to work on. But talk to me a little bit about another brand or some of the other brands where your method of storytelling has been effective.

BC: It’s important that you think about those new products, where there is no existing story and you have to develop that story. So projects like Angry Orchard, the adult cider, seeing it first as a packaging project but also creating that story of that orchard first so that everyone on our team could get into that head space and start thinking about characters that live within the Angry Orchard. It’s a great driver for graphics and illustration.

KK: When I look at “Star Wars,” I think of huge millennial audience, and a huge audience, period. But some of your brands like Angry Orchard and with Nike, you seem to be heading down a really nice path targeting and marketing to millennials. Do you see that as something you’ll focus on in the future and something you’ll make as part of your mission?

BC: Yeah, I think the good fortune for us is our method of storytelling leads to authentic brand expressions and authentic expressions in art. And I think that with the millennials, authenticity is at the forefront of what they care about. Consumers see that authenticity. You didn’t make it about yourself. You made it about the product.

KK: So what’s next for Pilot?

BC: The moon. We are just now hitting our stride and realizing that the storytelling method that we started has uses beyond just creating great art.

KK: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for sitting with me today.

BC: It’s truly been a pleasure

To see the entire interview with Bill Concannon of Pilot check out the Big Orange Couch. The Big Orange Couch is an ongoing series from The Ad Club where Kathy Kiely, President of The Ad Club, invites thought leaders and senior brand executives from across the country to sit with her and share their thoughts on the latest trends and innovations in business today, as well as personal stories on how they make it to the top of the corporate ladder. The Big Orange Couch features interviews with some of the top movers and shakers in marketing, branding, and beyond.

Why I’m Still Thinking About the Women’s Leadership Forum Two Weeks Later

I’m still thinking about the Women’s Leadership Forum for a number of reasons, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. Wondering why? Great, because I’m here to tell you. Yes, you—whatever gender you are or identify with—because what I took away from the Women’s Leadership Forum is not only for women to hear, relate to, or act on.

I could write pages and pages about all of what I took away from the Forum and what each of those things mean, but ain’t nobody got time for that, not even me. So, I’m going to focus on the concept that I’ve come to realize has penetrated my daily thoughts ever since that empowering Tuesday afternoon at the Seaport World Trade Center.

Unleash your unapologetic tenacity. –The McBride Sisters, Co-Founders of Truvée Wines

The McBride Sister’s notion of being “unapologetically tenacious,” infused with the teachings each and every one of the Forum’s speakers shared, has shaped the way I actively think about myself as a woman, and as a woman in business. You may be wondering what the context of “unapologetic tenacity” is, or what exactly that means, so let me sum it up with another McBride Sisters quote: “If a big old fart gets in your way, go around him, blaze your own trail, and then come back with proof [that you were right].”

In other words it means never starting your sentences in a meeting with “I’m sorry—I could be wrong—but—and we don’t have to do this—but…” and ending them with “does that make sense?” It means never obstructing a great idea from escaping the confines of your own thoughts for fear of being dismissed. It means exploring your ideas, seeing them through, and refusing to relinquish your determination in the face of rejection, because as a woman you will experience a lot of it.

As a society we have been socialized to believe that women have less to offer than men—that they are less than—and so of course we, as women, start our sentences that way and of course we don’t always share our ideas, even when we know that they’re kickass. But a pledge to unapologetic tenacity is a rejection of that socially constructed norm, a recognition that we too have every right to be unapologetically tenacious, and a stride towards breaking the cycle of socialization. Since recognizing a desire in myself to make a commitment to being unapologetically tenacious two Tuesdays ago, I’ve realized how excessively and needlessly apologetic I actually am. I’ve also realized how excessively apologetic my female co-workers, friends, and family members are, too. Amy Poehler once said “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” I’m ready to unlearn, starting with myself, and then working towards influencing change in others.

These past two weeks, I’ve actively worked on changing the way that I outwardly communicate, whether it’s the manner in which I verbally share my ideas or the words I choose to write my emails. I try to avoid the “I could be wrong, but” introduction to an idea. I now actively think to delete the “sorrys” in my emails when they are not needed and keep the word “just” out of my vocabulary altogether because, no, I am NOT “just checking in to see if you’ve had the chance to blah blah,” I AM (definitively) checking in. Almost more importantly, I’m actively working on changing the way I inwardly communicate with myself. Changing “don’t say that because there’s a chance you’re wrong” to “be confident in the larger chance that you’re right and know that the smaller chance that you’re wrong won’t kill you; it’s okay to be wrong sometimes,” which leads me to my next point, so eloquently and succinctly expressed by Reshma Saujani as she closed out the Forum:

We’ve socialized our girls to be perfect, and we’ve socialized our boys to be brave. –Reshma Saujani, Founder & CEO of Girls Who Code

As I’ve proved, there is something unacceptably damaging about that truth, which should stir in us a desire to change it. This is the part of the post where I make good on the promise I made in my introduction, claiming that what I took away from the Women’s Leadership Forum is important for everyone. This is where I ask our men to let our women be unapologetically tenacious—not at all in the sense of permission, but rather in the spirit of respect where respect is due. I ask our women to commit to it. And I ask us all to encourage our young girls to commit to it as much as we encourage our young boys to already. I promise that the world will be better for it.

Your turn.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts—agree? Disagree? Let’s talk about it. As I’ve learned, it’s okay to be wrong.


This blog first appeared on . Written by Alyssa McBryar, Associate Account Executive at AMP Agency.

Key Lessons from the Ad Club’s 2016 Women’s Leadership Forum

The 2016 Women’s Leadership Forum organized by the Ad Club could be summed up by its hashtag: No Filter. 1,100 women gathered together to listen to empowering speakers discuss how they paved their way to success in male-dominated fields and got “shit done”. It was a forum to reflect on the challenges that we face as career women as well as a platform to discuss the implications of a cultural landscape that has been shaped by men and, thus, caters to men. It was an event to inspire women to act now— to run for office, to learn how to code, to speak up in general— because with men outnumbering women in the boardrooms, in tech, and in the government, the decisions that will shape our futures and the next generation’s futures will not be reflective of the other half of the population unless women support one another and rise to the occasion.

Below are three takeaways from the event in addition to insights that I’ve uncovered based on my own experiences as a woman pursuing a career in advertising. These are lessons we, as both businessmen and businesswomen, should begin to implement in our own workspace, so that we may (1) live with no filter and (2) get shit done.

1. Not just hoping for – but demanding a seat at the table.

“As women, as leaders, we need to start telling it like it is.” – Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General

“The world does not need another quiet, complicit daughter.”- Kelly Carlin, Performer / Storyteller

One of the challenges that was most often addressed during the forum was how women are pressured to conform to gender roles and expectations. Whether it was Sasha Digiulian being condescended by male climbers who told her that “little girls don’t climb the Eiger” or Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General, being doubted by her peers even though she was more qualified than her male rival, women in business are subjected to the kind of criticism that doesn’t focus on what they can bring to the table, but rather on whether they should even be at the table in the first place.

#NoFilter, in this case, means that women don’t just have the ability to stand up for themselves, they have an obligation to. As Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, stated, “We have socialized our girls to be perfect and our boys to be brave.” This particular quote struck a chord with me. I’ve always striven to be perfect: perfect grades, perfect appearance, and perfect career–everything laid out just so like a cropped and filtered Instagram photo. I was too afraid to take a chance and assert myself or else risk people possibly seeing me fail. But that’s just the thing… Saujani said in her speech that women need to risk failure more often, not just to be more authentic, but to accomplish great things. As someone working in a field where no day is truly the same, this piece of advice is important as I face new challenges.

2. Embracing leading female characters not as a rarity, but the norm.

“You cannot be what you cannot see.” – Reshma Saujani, Founder, CEO of Girls Who Code

As we grow up, our perspectives are often shaped by what we see on the screen. Saujani explained that women in tech are heavily outnumbered by men, a number that has actually decreased since the 70s. She believes it could very well be because girls literally don’t see themselves in tech— they only see men. TV shows and films depicting the tech industry don’t seem to be writing parts for females in tech that are playing pivotal roles. She explained how the number of women in professions such as medicine and law has increased perhaps because of TV shows and films that showcase bad-ass female characters with no filter.

When I think about how women are represented in the media, I’m struck by how limited they are by the roles they play. As a feminist, I am sometimes questioned as to why I even decided to take a job in advertising, an industry that is notorious for objectifying women and reinforcing gender stereotypes. I think, firstly, we’ve been seeing quite a few brands that have been embracing a more progressive stance in representing women in ads, from Always to Dove to Wells Fargo. There’s more work to be done, but I want to be a part of the movement that shapes the industry and ultimately rejects the idea of sexualizing and objectifying women. Likewise, I think that there have been more empowering roles for women in television and film, but I want to start living in a world that stops questioning why strong female characters exist in the first place.

There needs to be more of an effort on our marketers, our advertisers, our filmmakers, and our TV producers to create compelling female characters in roles that have typically been filled by men. Though gender stereotypes in the media are fortunately being called out more and more, I hope that as marketers, we can work together against reinforcing damaging heteronormative ideas.

3. Support one another as women unwaveringly

“Believe in the power of community and support other women.” – Robin and Andrea McBride, Founders of Truvee Wines

Women, who have been too often viewed through a masculine lens in business, are frequently subjected to criticism not just by their male peers, but by their female peers as well. Maura Healey explained that even women would question her choice to run as attorney general in addition to her style choices. As you can imagine, women cutting down other women is one of the least beneficial ways to represent ourselves, to respect ourselves, and to change the gender disparity in our respect professions.

Women like Linda Boff, the Chief Marketing Officer of GE, will actually set up networking events specifically for talented women to connect with other talented women. Reshma Saujani’s company Girls Who Code is based on the very idea of sisterhood and building a common bond through learning a new skill. Maura Healey will make an effort to reach out to other women at work events that are heavily outnumbered by men. I, myself, have experienced the power of women helping women when I joined a sorority, which connected me with women across the nation who gave me career advice and put me in touch with the right people. I continue to support my sisters to this day when they reach out to me and ask for my help. These are just a few examples of how we can foster that community of strong women and help each other succeed. It’s so incredibly important.

However, I feel that one thing missing from the forum was a discussion on how we, as women, can’t do this alone. As strong, intelligent, and independent as we might be, we need to work with men to get them to change their perspectives on working women. The cultural landscape cannot be shifted just on one side. We need to work together to change the ideas that women should look a certain way and act a certain way to pursue their careers.

The Women’s Leadership Forum left me feeling inspired to say the very least. I felt a rush of you-can-do-anything-ness, and as soon as I got home, I started writing down my goals and ideas— and the risks I am willing to take to achieve them. I loved this event, and I hope that there are more like it in the future.

So how do you think you can implement these lessons from the forum in your workspace and industry?


This blog first appeared on . Written by Mackenzie Lane, Associate Account Executive at AMP Agency.

It’s Our Turn

Written by Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts. This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, as part of a series produced by Havas Media (@HavasMediaUSA), in conjunction with The Ad Club’s Women’s Leadership Forum.



I started playing basketball when I was seven. I was short (still am) and my shot barely hit the rim. But I loved basketball.

Growing up in a small town, I was often out there with my four younger brothers and sisters, working on my ball handling and shooting drills. I loved it and I’m glad I stayed with it.

It got me through high school and my parents’ difficult divorce. It got me a tryout for the national team (I was cut right away). And it got me into college where I played. When I graduated, I wanted to keep playing. So I moved to Europe, played in a professional women’s league, saw the world, made lasting friendships and grew perspective.

I experienced new freedoms and new opportunities, things I had taken for granted – the right to speak your mind and the right to make your own decisions.

That experience led me to become an advocate for those same rights, so I applied to law school. In the 20 years since then, I’ve had the uncertainty many times that comes from starting down a new path.

I loved being a lawyer at a large law firm, but I took a risk to become a civil rights lawyer for the attorney general’s office and argued cases in court that people said we couldn’t win.

In 2009, Massachusetts sued the federal government, challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which told married same-sex couples that their marriages weren’t valid. I was proud to take on the case at a time when only two states allowed same-sex couples to marry. Most Americans were still opposed to that.

But we took a risk. We built a case about our values as a society. And we won. Our case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. And we won there too. We won a victory for equality in Massachusetts and across the country.

Running for Attorney General was the scariest and most uncertain thing I’ve done in my entire life. But I knew running was the right choice. And here I am today.

Now more than ever, women are taking risks, and following their hearts. They know their personal power in creating change, see the benefits of leaning into uncertainty, and aren’t ashamed to leave their filter behind. Women are louder, bolder, and less patient about closing the gender gap. Women are true leaders – and one will soon become our next President of the United States.

But we need to keep pushing. Here in Massachusetts, we’re taking on the skyrocketing cost of higher education and the crushing weight of student debt. We’re fighting to reform our criminal justice system and keep guns off our streets. We’re tackling the heroin and prescription drug epidemic.

We also need to level the playing field – which is why supporting policies like paid family leave and raising the minimum wage are important. It’s also why we need to ensure equal pay for equal work.

In Massachusetts, our simple vision of equal pay has proved hard to achieve. Despite the Equal Pay Act that was passed 71 years ago, wage disparities persist and they are significant. In Massachusetts, women still only earn 80 percent of what men earn for doing the same job. The gap is even wider for mothers and women of color. When women’s pay falls behind, families fall behind.

Today, we are working to make the first real update to our Equal Pay Act. We have the power to change these laws. If we don’t do it, no one will.

As women, as leaders, we have learned to start telling it like it is. There are big fights we need to take on, but many of them will be waged in State Houses and boardrooms and courthouses across the country. And we need a seat at the table.

That’s why from the steps of our health clinics to the halls of the Supreme Court, we’re fighting for reproductive freedom, to make sure that every woman in this state has access to birth control if she wants it – and health care when she needs it.

The simplest and most important thing we can do is support other women – whether that’s mentoring younger women, encouraging our female colleagues, or having honest conversations about the challenges we all face.

In the end, it all comes down to taking risks. When I decided to run for office, I had never been on a ballot, never raised a dollar, never asked for a vote.

People said it wasn’t my turn, but I guess they were wrong.

Now it’s OUR turn.


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