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Observations from Advertising Week New York 2019

Interestingly, the event itself was everything that brands, media, businesses and tech players have to face when trying to engage with their target audiences: chaotic, complex, anxious, and an overwhelming amount of content.

The over-arching theme, not surprisingly, was relentless disruption and transformation, from the impact of AI, data and programmatic, to purpose-driven marketing and issues of diversity. This intersection of human insights and tech is our passion at Yango so it was great to hear so many of the world’s biggest brands talk about just this.

There was a diverse range of opinion as to what constitutes creativity and creative thinking. Is it one big brand idea, or many brand expressions customised and contextualised? Is it the content itself or how the solutions are created? Is creativity the domain of a creative department or the organisation more broadly?


Even the AI peddlers were talking about the potential for machine learning to be human and empathetic, unleashing a new era of whole-brained creativity. Is it man or machine? Surely it must be a blend of both.

The outspoken and independent Gary Vaynerchuck is convinced the future is all about huge volumes of highly personalised, contextualised and iterative creative messages that business and brands must make and distribute efficiently at high quality.

Gary Vaynerchuck (CEO, VaynerMedia)

Everyone understands that accurate 1st party data is a must to survive. But who should own it? Dark clouds loom with tighter regulation and privacy concerns. It’s clear no one knows for certain what will really happen in a cookie-less opt-in world, but many people here are thinking and preparing for that.

Most acknowledged businesses can’t win the future with data alone. Many saw a return to creativity, big ideas and making people care as the new differentiation. Most talked about understanding and embracing culture and passions.


Of course there was much talk about talent and the skills needed to succeed in the future.


The smart people acknowledged the value of real diversity, constantly seeking out fresh and different perspectives to create empathy and find new insight and solutions.

Most talked about the importance of failure and continual iteration, perfection being the enemy of growth and progress. And many talked about the need for resilience, and the importance of mentorship and surrounding yourself with a network of diverse supporters.


Some of the most inspiring moments came from celebrities, sportspeople, humanitarians and academics – people who have become brands themselves.

Guru Gowrappan (CEO, Verizon Media), Serena Williams (Olympic Tennis Athlete & Entrepreneur) and Julia Boorstin (Entertainment & Media Correspondent, CNBC)

Serena Williams was a particular surprise. Absent was the aggression sometimes seen on the court. In its place was an ambitious but compassionate entrepreneur, eager to make a difference in her world. Constantly challenging herself and iterating. She’s keen to help more women become entrepreneurs and has invested in more than 30 business selected around her passion points and life motto of “less exclusive and more inclusive”. Brands can learn a lot from her. Impressive stuff.


In a week that coincided with world leaders meeting at the UN across town, there was also much talk about brand and company purpose, and the opportunity to step in and help solve local and global problems where governments were increasingly failing to do so.

Unilever claimed last week it is now carbon neutral on five continents, no mean feat. It may seem obvious, but understanding why you exist, helping to communicate that internally and externally, and doing some good in your community and the world is becoming important hygiene for successful companies.


At the end of a head-spinning week, it’s clear that the siloed industries of yesterday –  entertainment, advertising, marketing, technology, sport, science, consulting, media, culture and academia – are constantly blending and overlapping in new and fascinating ways.

It seems crazy there are so many still searching for the one-size-fits-all operating model of the future. Those days are gone. In an increasingly fragmented and iterating world, there will always be a myriad customer opportunities that require a myriad possible solutions and operating models.


It’s time we stopped trying to find neat homogenised solutions and leaned into the amazing times we live in.


Everyone is constantly challenged and needs help, but that means there is opportunity everywhere.

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