A Look Back: Had-to-be-There Moments from ADWKDC 2017

A scene from ADWKDC 2017. (Photo by Geoff Livingston of Livingston Campaigns)


Just like every ADWKDC conference, the 2017 version was jam-packed, with keynotes, hands-on workshops and insightful panels presented by proven industry talent. The focus was “INOV8”, and featured plenty of innovation.

Didn’t get to attend the 2017 conference? Attended but want a reminder of how inspiring it was? Today’s your lucky day. Below are five takeaways that sum up just how stimulating the speakers were and why we kept listening.

#1: Your best idea won’t be your first idea.

IBM’s Vera Rhoads discussing Design Thinking. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

In fact, you should take your first idea, crumple it up, and throw it across the room. Okay, maybe you don’t have to be that dramatic. But you’re encouraged to do that if your first idea isn’t going very far.

According to IBM’s Vera Rhoads and Steve Mealy, it’s best to “fail fast and succeed sooner.” Sometimes, getting those bad ideas out of the way first isn’t so bad after all. So the next time you’re at the drawing board, make sure you have plenty of ideas, plenty of paper, and a designated graveyard for the ideas that didn’t quite make it.

#2: Remember your brand value and stick to it.


This was easily the mantra for Nando’s PERi-PERi’s Everyone Is Welcome campaign. A brand that thrives on risk-taking, this restaurant chain began in South Africa and continually challenges the status quo.

Gia Bagherpour and DT French, an unforgettable pair who know Nando’s like the back of their hands, began their speech with this simple question: “How do brand values reflect a brand’s value?”

A question that seemed easy to answer was anything but that as French (from and Bagherpour proved how important it is to maintain a strong brand value through Nando’s moving case study.

The conclusion: A company that sticks to their brand value is a company that comes out on top in a world that is constantly transforming.

#3: “Don’t make content just to make content.”

The Content Creation panelists (l. to r.): Paul Tsigrikes, VP of Marketing at The Washington Post; Steven Jumper, Partner and President at the Ghost Note agency; Greg Kihlstrom, Founder and CEO at Carousel30; and Dan Higgins, Director of Social and Content Marketing at PlowShare Group. (Photo by Geoff Livingston of Livingston Campaigns)

Listen up, content fanatics. The above quote is by Dan Higgins of the PlowShare Group and it really resonated with the audience. Quality always comes before quantity.

Keeping this in mind, don’t feel obligated to crank out 10 blog posts a week for your company. You are more than welcome (and encouraged) to sit back and relax if your latest blog post: a) tells a story and b) solves a problem.

#4: Looks are just as important as substance.

Absorbing new insights at ADWKDC 2017. (Photo by Geoff Livingston of Livingston Campaigns)


This is complementary to creating good content. Why would someone listen to your story if you don’t know how to deliver it? A great example of this is The Washington Post’s coverage of Hurricane Harvey, presented to us by Jeremy Gilbert.

In order to put its audience in the shoes of Hurricane Harvey’s victims, the Post sent drones straight to Texas. Aerial footage showed devastation that went beyond words.

In a time when the public greatly mistrusts the media, storytelling that paints – and shows – a picture is crucial.

#5: Imperfection does not define success.

2017 AAF DC president Jodie Warren (left) presents HZDG founder Karen Zuckerman with the Silver Medal Award. (Photo by Geoff Livingston of Livingston Campaigns)


We tend to have this idea that everyone who’s ahead of the game is a superhuman who lives a flawless lifestyle.

But that’s not entirely true. And Karen Zuckerman, Chief Creative Officer of HZDG and recipient of this year’s ADWKDC Silver Medal Award, made a point to say just that.

“I drive too fast,” Zuckerman said during her riveting speech. “I don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. And I don’t cook.”

Yet Zuckerman stands proud and tall as founder of her very own agency. Not to mention she’s a mom during her time off. Zuckerman continually aims for the stars because she believes “you can have it all.”

“Becoming the Brand Authentic”

Join us for the 2018 ADWKDC conference which brings together influencers, tech gurus, marketing mavens, advertising connoisseurs, and professional communicators across DC. The theme is “Becoming the Brand Authentic.”

Come and celebrate ADWKDC—register now, while you’re thinking about it.

See you there!



Caroline McLoughlin is a communications professional currently living in Richmond, Virginia. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and Co-Chair of Ad 2 DC’s Communications Committee, she loves writing her heart out, spending quality time with her four-legged best friend, and exploring all that Richmond has to offer.


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