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4A's Conference: Brief Questions Yield Simple Truths

What would you change? What's essential?
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Sometimes the simplest questions yield the most interesting answers.

Such was the case today at the 4A's Transformation Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif. In separate panel discussions, ad industry leaders ticked off what they can't live without and the one thing they'd change about the business if they could. The brevity of the responses created a welcome clarity that's often lacking amid a sea of panelists, presenters and moderators at a multiday gathering like this one, which attracted about 1,200 attendees.

Once the change question—"What keeps you up at night?"—was posed, responses ranged from faster airplanes (Carat's Martin Cass) and more hours (co:collective's Ty Montague) to more diversity and inclusion (RPA's Bill Hagelstein).

TBWA's Tom Carroll was slightly more expansive when he said that he'd like to see "more time in the room talking about ideas and less time talking about money," adding that the birth of a great idea is "still the best part of the business. I just don't see enough of its anymore. It's a shame."

Silence and—believe it or not—limitations were among the things that a panel of female leaders ("Very Creative Women") cited as essential.

Explaining her need for parameters, Real Simple's Kristin van Ogtrop said, "I feel like I can be more creative if I have a deadline or a format." She noted that Green Eggs and Ham resulted from the directive, "Write a book using only 50 words."

Other panelists expressed a desire for feedback, inspiration and affirmation from peers, be it a strategist or creative staffer. As Leo Burnett's Susan Credle explained, "My career is recognizing talented people and pulling them close to me."

On a lighter note, van Ogtrop said she can't live without caffeine or running shoes, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky's Tiffany Rolfe ended her list—which included a deadline and critics—with "maybe a couple of hours of sleep." And who in an often exhausting industry like advertising couldn't relate to that?