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SAIL 2020 – What Is the Advertising Industry Talking About?


I had the opportunity to attend the SAIL conference at Disney again this year. SAIL stands for Small Agency Idea Lab and Second Wind is the host organization. It’s an opportunity for small- to medium-size agencies from around the country to get together and share what’s going on in our unique industry.

ABC has belonged to Second Wind since 2000. We have taken advantage of many services they provide to us “little guys” and have attended many conferences from Baltimore to Costa Mesa. Some of our account managers will actually be in Chicago in April sucking up some Second Wind knowledge in the account service realm.

So, what happens when you get a bunch of ad agency owners in a room in the most magical place on earth? This year I was surprised at how upbeat it was. I’m not saying that all agency owners are cynical, beaten-down individuals, but this business is hard and not for the meek.

That’s why I find this conference so refreshing. I’m able to commiserate with other agencies in a place where I’m not constantly concerned they are trying to stab me in the back and take my clients. We share, we laugh, we cry. If anyone reading this is in the agency business, they will hear some themes that they are probably dealing with and for those of you not in the business here is a small snapshot of what’s up right now in our heads.

Video Marketing Is Essential

I know it’s nothing new, but it was a good conversation about the expanse and variety of video production available right now. Here at ABC, we have had a small video department for several years. We understood quickly that our clients needed video assets for content on web and social. Much of our content recommendations were leaning towards video content and telling their story through video. So, being storytellers, we knew we had to provide this service in some fashion.

Many considerations need to be made, however. A true large-scale production requires several cameras, a crew of potentially four to five pros and let’s not forget support staff such as producers and logistics. Oh, and money for all that fancy equipment.

With several production houses around, it made more sense for us to have the ability to develop what is called “snackable” content. With a smaller video department, we can handle those smaller content videos and even corporate videos in-house easily – even broadcast depending on the scope. Bottom line is everyone agrees that video content is and will continue to be a major factor in telling a brand story.

Don’t Forget the Analytics

Any agency can agree that analytics are one of the most important things to the success of a campaign, but they will also agree that providing those analytics to our clients is one of the biggest pains in the ass ever. Pages and pages of pie charts, graphs, clicks and impressions. It’s not just formatting them to look good for a client, but presenting them in a way that the client can understand them and determine if they are working or not.

I’m old enough to remember when we didn’t have anything to analyze, but still improved sales. If you are selling more, it’s because your advertising is working, right? Now every client wants those analytics whether they understand them or not, and it’s our job to make them understandable.

We were introduced to some great new software that ABC is reviewing now and implementing soon. It allows us to track everything a little better. It may not look a lot different than what we provide now to our client, but it saves us a lot of time in data collection.

Digital Trends

It wouldn’t be an agency conference if we didn’t talk digital. Being an old-timer, this stuff always gets me excited. It may also be the conspiracy theorist inside me that gets intrigued by the fact that us advertisers can track your every move and deliver you very focused content in a very intimate way.

Digital ad buying is getting very sophisticated and if you’re not exploring all of the different ways to connect with the consumer, you are missing out.

Yes, it’s all that big brother stuff. I won’t bore you with all of the items that we talked about in this session, but I can tell you that digital ad buying is getting very sophisticated and if you’re not exploring all of the different ways to connect with the consumer, you are missing out.

Not only can we hyper-target your potential customer but we can follow, show conversion and create lookalikes so we can also sell their family and friends. Yes, it’s all trackable through those wonderful analytics tools we mentioned earlier, so now it’s great when we can prove what we do is working.

How Do We Get Good People?

Said everyone with a groan. Now remember we had agencies from all around the country here, so think nationally. I talked to people from Little Rock to Osh Kosh, Toronto to Mission Viejo, and this is a concern everywhere.

Yes, there was a lot of rolling of the eyes when discussing this “new generation”, I won’t even say the “M” word. But even though everyone was complaining about how these kids don’t want to work past 5 o’clock, that they expect way too much money and that they demand unlimited time off, we all agreed there is a lot of talent out there. We also all agreed we have a hard time attracting and retaining them.

There was a lot of discussion on what kind of questions you can ask in the interview that will give you some insight into that person’s mentality. Because we all know the person you interview is not the person who shows up to work. We also discussed various personality testing services.

There was discussion about how many interviews should your potential candidate go through and who at your agency should be in those interviews. We talked about Glass Door and LinkedIn and all of the crazy things we have put into our agency to attract these young creatives like smoothie makers, video games, free food and booze and, of course, the endless avocado toast. What we all agreed is it’s hard.

If you know of an agency owner that you often see with bags under their eyes or a bourbon in their hand, go ahead and give them a pat on the back.

We had a handful of other topics and we even had small group roundtables that involved a lot of laughter. That is my favorite part. Hearing from agencies all around the country and knowing that I am not the only agency owner that lives, loves and breathes advertising and my client’s success but also agonize over the absolute frustrating nature of our wonderful industry. But that’s for another post.

So, if you know of an agency owner that you often see with bags under their eyes or a bourbon in their hand, go ahead and give them a pat on the back. Thank them for delivering you content on your favorite brands or introducing you to a completely new one. Thank them for creating instructional videos instead of an instructional booklet. Not all of them work for car dealerships and personal injury lawyers, so be kind – and maybe share a potential new hire. Stay Creative!

About The Author

Travis arrived at ABC back in 1995, when photography was his main creative outlet. That passion evolved over the next decade as Travis began thinking beyond imagery and pitching his broader ideas and strategies to clients. It was the birth of the idea-based marketing philosophy: Getting to know the client inside out, learning about the successes and failures, then spinning that into an idea that could build a better outcome. That’s the cornerstone he’s built his creative-first agency on since buying the place in 2005. ABC has grown exponentially since then both in terms of people and clients. Local, regional, national, banking, destinations, nonprofits: Travis has greatly expanded services over the years to accommodate them all. He’s also assembled a talented team. Just like them, he’s greeted each morning by a simple reminder etched on the wall: “Create Cool Sh!t Today!” He’s proud to run the kind of agency that does.