Last week’s Promax Conference in LA brought with it all things NEW. NEW faces. NEW experiences. NEW inspiration. Now that we are back at the office, we’re sharing all these new insights with our team and with you!

1. The unexpected trait for good leadership? Transparency

The A&E team were transparent about being transparent on all fronts. From a team perspective, transparency builds trust, enables teams to work toward a common goal and motivates people to innovate. From a partnership perspective, transparency means no holding back.

“Transparency means no holding back”

To achieve the most innovative creative, all parties must openly share all of the tools they have to apply toward a project. We find this revelation particularly poignant. It’s always our goal to make our clients shine. The idea of coming to the table and discussing everything we have at our disposal to do so is refreshing. Champion transparency, as it ultimately leads to the best creative solutions.

2. Be Kind in Seeking Solutions

As our industry continues to evolve and change, strong leadership is becoming increasingly important. Tuesday’s ‘Leadership Now’ pod focused on how creative leaders are tasked with transforming lemons into lemonade. Out of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity it is our job to develop Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility within our greater team.

“Out of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity it is our job to develop Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility “

Employ a ‘direct diplomacy’ leadership style to allow teams to thrive in this ever-changing business environment. How? Provide an open ear, empathetic approach and clear communication to encourage compromise. The clear and simple motto, “Be kind in seeking solutions.” This aligns particularly well with our core values and goal to always value and trust the team.

3. Don’t Forget to Take Time to Play, it’s Key for Creativity

Harry Potter World & Springfield USA! We took a moment to celebrate imagination and wonder at Universal Studios (without the long lines!). Exercising our creative muscles with childlike joy, we traveled through the Deathly Hallows and dominated a game of quidditch.

Excitement and spontaneity took over as we blindly hopped on a whimsical virtual reality rollercoaster tour of Springfield. And while we didn’t win big at the carnival games, the immersive and transformative experiences in both worlds inspire reflection. Just how can we bring these elements and emotions into our daily work?

Oh, and for the record, butterbeer is better with bourbon.

4. Writing a Better Blog: Would you give a sh*%?

Having recently launched our blog, this year’s Blogging for Entertainment session was a can’t miss. While much of this content was understandably tailored toward the network blog-o-sphere, speaker Josh Wolk of Fixate Digital shared a universal guiding principle for creating engaging content. Simply ask yourself, “If I saw this, would I give a sh*t?”

“The blogging audience is savvy and advertising averse”

Turns out blogging isn’t that different from network marketing. You want to get your audience’s attention, attract the attention of news sites and develop organic buzz. Headlines, visuals and worthwhile content help you stand out among the clutter. The key difference is that the blogging audience is savvy and advertising averse. You have to speak to them in a way that they feel understood, respected and valued. And most importantly, they must feel as though you, the blogger, are one of them. They get it. You get it. We all get it, but get this!

5. Theatrical Marketing is all about creating a shared (and shareable) experience

This year marked a Promax first as the conference sought to expand its offerings to include theatrical marketing. As a shop we are passionate about a good sizzle edit. And with a team history in movie trailer editing, we were excited to see how we might apply some of the latest industry tips and techniques to our upcoming work. While we were slightly disappointed that the session didn’t come with buttered popcorn, there were gold nuggets to be consumed; particularly the focus on the shared experience that we as entertainers and entertainment marketers create for our audience.

“We as marketers, can still take the opportunity to develop smaller, more budget friendly key moments in our campaigns that inspire conversation”

Disney and Universal may have the budgets to create impactful cultural moments like witnessing a Despicable Me 2 blimp soar through the skies or a real-life haunted house for the release of IT– but we as marketers, can still take the opportunity to develop smaller, more budget friendly key moments in our campaigns that inspire conversation around the water cooler or lunch table.

6. Viewer Obsession Advised: Prioritize emotions and make it personal

Welcome to the emotional economy. Marketing is no longer simply commercial, prescribed and transactional. Instead, we must capture and tap into the emotions people value to align and build our brand value. Engaging viewers means pursuing something that is personalized and organically interesting. A compelling story is a particularly helpful tool for developing these lasting relationships and meaning with our audiences. As a team who loves finding and developing authentic stories, we are excited to hear how important storytelling is within this new economy.

“With ‘protect,’ ‘cherish,’ and ‘elevate’ serving as their three tentpoles, Sony was able to break down creative walls and change mindsets”

And while Leslie Ghize of think tank TOBE introduced and expanded upon this theme with plenty of inspirational creative trends that are shaping our culture, the Sony Picture’s internal team provided us with an opportunity to see how these themes are implemented through company culture. With ‘protect,’ ‘cherish,’ and ‘elevate’ serving as their three tentpoles, Sony was able to break down the creative walls and change mindsets internally to connect the dots and support their vision. A true inspiration for those of us who strongly believe in never settling when it comes to pushing creative and delivering great work!

7. Continue to connect with consumers via empathy, a conversation with Pharrell

Let’s talk about how awesome Pharrell was! We were excited to hear him represent VA Beach and all of the amazing work he is doing there, especially since it’s our senior designer Jason Leta’s hometown.

Having worked on causes ranging from National Geographic’s ‘Planet or Plastic?’ to the CASE Foundation’s ‘Inclusive Entrepreneurship’ initiative, we love everything about his idea for a community festival that brings together entertainment, arts, businesses, job opportunities and philanthropy to a city seeking to improve and embrace diversity.

He left us with some sound marketing advice too, “Sometimes the coolest thing you can do is talk about what your customers are going through. Don’t be afraid to market good messages.”

8. Purposely learn about unconscious bias to help overcome it

Speaking of thinking of our customers, our friend Diana Dixon of the Dixon Collective, along with the talented Lori Hall of TV One and Lisa Tawil of ITVS had a mind-expanding conversation about confronting unconscious bias. Like it or not, we all see the world through a lens of unconscious bias. Deeply rooted in human survival, it is our brain’s predisposition to make quick judgements and assessments based on one’s background, cultural environment or life experiences.

“To recognize and overcome your unconscious bias, stop and think about others as your creative develops and evolves. Then invite true feedback “

To recognize and overcome your unconscious bias, stop and think about others as your creative develops and evolves. Then invite true feedback, encouraging others to poke holes in your creative. This allows you to gain a greater understanding of how your audience may think, feel and interpret your message. We loved the examples they shared, including the International Women’s Day ‘Adpology.’

It is also important to advocate for expanding hiring practices. Consider including transferable skills and diversifying where you search for candidates. Doing so can help you build a team that successfully broadens your point of view.

9. Lead by example. Be curious. And be sure to refuel.

Debra Langford, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at USC Marshall School of Business inspired us to be ‘catalyst leaders.’ While organizations have previously been designed for efficiency and effectiveness, today’s business environment requires speed, agility and adaptability. Her message emphasizes empowering people to transform vision to reality through curiosity and learning, flexibility and speed and self-care.

How can you become a catalyst leader? Langford suggests providing context for your team, eliciting input of all stakeholders, leading by example and embracing inclusivity. Now that we’re back at the office, these three questions are top of mind:

1) How do you demonstrate curiosity beyond your role and industry?

2) How can you telegraph both flexibility while maintaining speed and productivity? and

3) How do you refuel?

Sounds like something an Accidental Generalist could help answer…

10. Accidental Generalists don’t–and shouldn’t, settle as Specialists.

AlterEgo partners Heather Roymans and Justin Kanner made their Promax speaking debut with Noetic’s Nancie Ruder. Their conversation about the benefits of being an ‘Accidental Generalist’ in these times of industry change resonated with the crowd, which included the supportive and talented Washington, DC creative community (we can’t thank you enough!). But….what is an Accidental Generalist?

These are the Jacks and Jill’s of all trades who perhaps in spite of pressure to specialize, find their strength in the desire and ability to learn a lot about a lot. This is proving to be an invaluable skill in a changing climate that demands adaptability, innovation and agility.

As part of the ‘You Say Vendor, I say Partner’ content pod they spoke to how curiosity, mentorship and persistence in the face of fear and failure are key to becoming an accidental generalist. And while AlterEgo may have been up on stage, as lifelong learners, we couldn’t help but take away something from the experience; as it turns out, a lot of people feel this way and love this term! Where are you on the generalist scale? Take the quiz in Nancie’s book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science.

For more about the sessions we attended or to find out what other topics were covered, you can visit Promax’s site at

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