A Tribute To The “Overflow Theatre” – Advertising Week

By Kelsey Whitaker, Partner, Associate Director, Content+, Mindshare NA

In a week full of grand stages, engaging sessions, and opportunities to see and hear top industry leaders with your very own eyes and ears… the “overflow theatre” was where most hoped to avoid. This was the place to listen in on your desired session if you couldn’t get in or (for some) opted for a little nap. Here, you were on the outside looking in, in the depths of the AMC basement, where not even a conference full of tech partners could solve for working service. In a week full of top choices, the “overflow theatre” was literally at the bottom.

Yet here we are, the least compelling theatre at Advertising Week getting its own day in the recap spotlight on the Mindshare blog. Why? Amid a week of inspirational sessions, my short but sweet minutes visiting the strange overflow theatre were surprisingly valuable.

I found myself first there trying to find Seth Godin’s session. Having wandered down the escalator I was ushered into the “overflow theatre,” which was a bit like a weird corporate silent disco and an episode of Black Mirror.  On the big screen were 12 separate smaller screens, live streaming above. While tuning into thought leadership on the evolution of modern technologies, it was a tad ironic that we were all wearing over-ear headsets the same model as my 1995 Discman.

From here, with a little remote we were free to flip through the channels of sessions. And in about an hour’s time (over a couple of days), I flipped through the Advertising Week channels and captured some quick-hit soundbites I found most succinctly summing up top themes of the week. What was so compelling about my time in the overflow theatre? Let me count the ways:

  1. “We need to go from marketing to mattering.” (On the rising, imperative importance of Purpose behind brands)
  2. “Every touchpoint is an opportunity to influence your consumer’s brand experience and, in turn, their loyalty.” (On the importance of building an experience around your brand; people don’t just buy things, they buy things from the things they like – brands must build loyalty and affinity to survive)
  3. “Good luck. Don’t f!@# it up.” (On disagreeing with this infamous quote from Ru Paul, and how something to achieve success it’s okay to f!@# it up; test and try new things)
  4. “We know we have to see beyond giving the cash register the credit for the sale.” (On the complexity of modern consumer journeys and funnel measurement, and being accountable for metrics and KPIs)
  5. “Our job isn’t to disrupt. That’s bullshit. Our job is to add value.” (On thinking consumer-first, using ads and media as wish fulfillment and value vs. consumer disruption)
  6. “People enjoy discovering ads from people.” (On the success and resonance of less “ad-y” ads from influencers of all kinds)
  7. “We’re in the time business. Why would anyone give us their time?” (On ads and marketing earning their place at the table)
  8. “We are all leaving here with a responsibility. A responsibility to create change, and to do something.” (On driving change toward gender equality in the industry and the workplace)
  9. “A brief is great when it can be distilled into ONE. LINE.” (On creating better briefs)
  10. “Culture is what makes us visible to each other.” (On the importance of inclusivity and marketing in the LGBTQ+ community)
  11. “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” (On the positive shift in representation being seen, while still much to be done)
  12. “Mass media now is an oxymoron.” (On modern media and the shift to niche media – being purposeful to your specific intended audience vs. the masses)