By Noreen O'Leary
It's baaaaack. Just what every harried executive needs: Another weeklong event packed with panels, breakout sessions, freezing ballrooms and enough rubber-chicken dinners to rival a GOP fundraiser. But let's be fair. This is New York, and advertising isn't just any industry. As thousands of attendees don their lariats and descend on this, the seventh annual Advertising Week, they can be sure of one thing: Catching up on key business trends and actually having a good time aren't mutually exclusive.
"This year we have a sexier, high-profile group [of participants]," said Advertising Week executive director Matthew Scheckner. "We're broadening to general-interest lifestyle media." Added added event co-chair and Mediabrands CEO Matt Freeman: "The week offers a multi-dimensional view. You not only have ad people talking about advertising, you have people who are adjacent to it."
If the line between pop culture and advertising started blurring a few years ago, today it's a memory. And that has a huge effect on who'll be taking the podiums around town over the next five days—not just the sort of industry titans you'd expect from the worlds of marketing, agencies and media, but cultural luminaries who stand at the crossroads of art, entertainment and creativity itself. The week's 100 seminars will host the likes of Tina Brown, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Russell Simmons, Arianna Huffington, Tyra Banks, Richard Branson and Marky Ramone. Their presence is proof of a lot more than sponsors having ponied up to pay for the glitterati; it proves a maxim that the creators of today's most influential advertising efforts know very well: Marketing is no longer the stuff that comes between the entertainment; it is the entertainment.
Or, rather, it's part of it.
The convergence of advertising with the broader social terrain is a macro trend in every sense. Its ramifications range from the political (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will address marketing to women) to the psychological: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will discuss the importance of marketing's holy grail: The trust of the public.
"Advertising Week was [originally] conceived to celebrate advertising and excite the people who make it," said BBDO Worldwide CEO and event co-chair Andrew Robertson. "But now it's evolved to inform a whole larger world of advertising."
Make that the larger world, period. Just as New York is an international city, Advertising Week has become about an international, digitally borderless business. Many of this year's 60,000 attendees have come from as far as China, Korea, Vietnam and Brazil. Be sure to spend some time getting to know them; after all, their homes are your latest markets.