When June rolls around every year, I always look forward to attending the Advertising and Marketing Independent Network (AMIN) Global conference. This year our member agency in New Orleans, Peter Mayer, hosted the conference in true southern style as they paraded (literally) the spirit, music and food of their beloved city.

It was a perfect backdrop for our nearly 80 agency friends from around the world. Amidst the fanfare of NOLA, we shared valuable business, industry and marketing insights — all in an effort to strengthen our ability to bring value and success to our clients.

Here are a few takeaways from my time in the “Big Easy”:

Creating an Authentic Business

The theme of our conference, “Authenticity in a World of Fake News,” was a great launching point to discuss the need for businesses to double down on defining, articulating and living what they truly stand for.

Today, we must commit to further evolve our values and articulate them to employees and clients. But the real question is…are we really living them? What can we do to be more authentic and purposeful in our day-to-day business? Are our values just words on paper or are they recognizable by team members, clients and partners?

Raj Sisodia, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Conscious Capitalism Inc., spoke on the topic of capitalism and the undeniable positive impact it has had on our world. Yet, over the past 10 years, confidence in corporations is at its lowest, and that has a negative impact on business and society.  At the same time, company reinvestment in people vs. c-suite salaries is extremely disproportionate. Raj challenged us with the idea that the business of America is not just business (making money) but it is and always will be the business of people.

Companies must be willing to reinvest in people and change as the world changes. We need to be more mindful, have a finer sense of right and wrong and know the consequences of our actions (or non-actions). Our businesses must inspire more inclusion and harmony to appeal to the generations beyond. Defining our core beliefs and purpose, then truly demonstrating them from the top down is a good start.

This idea of authenticity has even further meaning when it comes to recruiting and retention.  Millennials and Generation Z will hold us more accountable to being truthful and real, and it will continue to be an important consideration when they look for job opportunities.

Building Authenticity into Your Creative Product

Webster defines agility as the “ability to move quickly and easily.” Clients and agencies alike are working toward more iterative environments, moving faster and more nimbly to solutions.

Tim Leake, Director of Growth and Innovation from RPA in California inspired us with a discussion on Authentic Creativity. As a previous improv artist, his presentation focused on how the same principles that apply to learning improv, apply to creative agility in our industry.

Listen, really listen and build on it.  If you’re too busy thinking about what to say next, you won’t hear what everyone is talking about. Same goes for great ideators. Get out of your head and listen to what your audience is talking about and how they are behaving. With absolutely no predetermined outcome.

Create a minimum viable product. The goal is to get an idea, or even many smaller ideas, to the market quickly. He compared our creative approaches to bowling vs. pinball. In bowling, we use one big ball and expect big results. But in a pinball, the smaller ball hits many things, each scoring points for the overall brand, some bigger than others. And it can stay in play.

When you hear the audience laugh loudest, do more of it. Figure out quickly what is driving strong response and then go there. This means optimizing in very fast order, likely faster than we are all accustomed to today. Maximizing what is working can reap big rewards in time and ROI.

Speed has become a basic requirement for clients. And digital and data driven work is the catalyst to get there quickly. It seems the days of long lead times and linear marketing plans are in the past. Everyone is “sprinting” and we all need to become better at planting small seeds of great ideas and growing the ones that take root.

Our Network is More Authentic than Ever.

What do I mean by that? If authenticity means being real, transparent and standing for something, then our members are ahead of the game. As a member of the executive team and past president of AMIN, I’m proud of where the network has come in the last eight years, and very excited about its future.  We are passionate about our clients’ success, cheer each other’s wins and openly discuss our challenges.

Many of the members shared stories of innovation and business smarts. And more than ever, agencies shared examples of how working together can forward a client’s success with:

  • Cultural relevance and reach
  • Agile deployment
  • Category expertise
  • Economic value

Beyond that, the network is growing and flexing its muscles.

It was a pleasure to meet new faces of AMIN. Our newest agency partners included agencies from Verona, Italy; Lisbon, Portugal; Mumbai, India and Detroit, U.S. All powerful agencies with key capabilities and expertise to share.

One thing is for sure, this business will never be the “Big Easy.”

Whether you work in an agency or on the client side of the equation, this industry will never stand still. Technology has assured that we are always on an accelerated learning curve. So, finding your mentors and peers in the midst of it all can help you move forward more rapidly and with more confidence.

At a time when our clients expect various agencies and service organizations to collaborate to meet their needs, independent agencies are poised to win big.

Collaboration is in our DNA. It’s always been. And that keeps us focused on bringing the A-game.

And, so is heart. The other day I ran into a client who casually commented, “Your team has incredible heart.” As an agency owner, I couldn’t have been prouder. It does take incredible heart to keep moving, changing and innovating in a tidal wave of constant change. And, I can say with certainty, heart is a defining trait all successful leaders and businesses share.

After all, isn’t it heart that truly makes you authentic?


AMIN Worldwide is a collaborative alliance of over 50 independent marketing agencies, packed with award winning talent and experience, across the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific.