LAVIDGE Demonstrates Leadership by Advocating for Local Creative Community

Agency partnership with AIGA AZ boosts impact of 2019 PHXDW event

You get out of life—or anything, really—what you put into it.

That's why LAVIDGE, a full-service advertising agency, eagerly accepted the invitation from The Arizona chapter of the Professional Association of Design (AIGA) to assist with Phoenix Design Week 2019 and its two-day 2019 PHXDW Evolve Design Conference. Not surprisingly, our efforts serving as the annual event's Communications Agency Partner for Valley creative professionals did not disappoint.

For those new to Phoenix Design Week, it's worth noting that the fun begins each year with a kickoff party before the two-day conference, followed by a week's worth of additional social and educational events hosted throughout the state, capped off with a closing event. 

This year, those who attended the kickoff party on Friday received a playing card, and another one at every event they attended throughout the week. At the closing party there was a board for them to make a “poker hand.” Best hand won a ticket to next year’s conference. So the more events attended, the better their chances to win. 

The poker game was just one of the ways event planners tied each event to the next with a common theme running from start to finish. It was all designed to support this year’s official theme and mission statement:

“We do not stand still. We change. We grow. We adapt. And we embrace the ever-morphing craft of design. We learn. We experience. We experiment. And we never stop moving forward. We participate. We support. We engage. And we contribute to our bold and diverse design community. We evolve. We evolve together. Join the evolution at PHXDW.”

AIGA Arizona Chapter president Jenn Monroy, a Senior Art Director for LAVIDGE, and Chief Creative Officer Bob Case offer an inside look on what goes into staging the annual conference. They also explain how the creative community as a whole—as well as individuals—can benefit from getting involved.

Let’s take a look.

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PHXDW is a never-ending labor of love

Phoenix Design Week and the associated two-day PHXDW Conference might only last for eight days, but the work that goes into making each one a reality takes nearly an entire year. In fact, as post-event activities wound down last month AIGA Arizona was already ramping up for October 2020.

“As with any year, we’ll take attendee and team feedback and try to implement it for 2020,” Monroy said. “We start planning the next one within the month of it ending.”

Participant feedback heavily influences decisions

Planning for 2019 began in much the same fashion, with the starting point based loosely on last year—but with plenty of room to pivot. From there, event planners set goals and based strategy around ticket sales and awareness.

“We take the feedback of attendees very seriously and try to diversify the lineup to reflect their requests,” Monroy said.

AIGA Arizona has found what works best (at least for most) is to have the following breakdown with its Keynote speakers:

Additionally, for 2019, AIGA Arizona added another breakout session time (four total, meaning 24+ individual sessions) put on by local experts in tracks including Adobe, In-house Design, UX + design thinking, Business of Design, Diversity + Inclusion, and Creative collaboration and miscellaneous, or what they called the “Evolve” track this year.

“This all but guarantees there will be something for everyone,” Monroy said.

Agency participation in 2019 PHXDW a ‘natural extension’

Case noted that LAVIDGE had been heavily involved within the American Advertising Federation (AAF) club (ADDY Awards) and with the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the NATAS Emmy Awards), so it was a natural extension that we would get involved with Phoenix Design week as well—especially considering that Phoenix doesn't have a lot of career development/career inspiration moments. It was an easy decision to make.

“We were proud to be the Official Communications Agency Partner for this year’s event,” Case said. “It allowed us to continue to hone our skills while working on something that benefited the entire creative community.”

Pulling together PHXDW presents challenges

Hosting a well-planned event can appear deceptively effortless to those who show up after the hard work has been done. The same holds true for PHXDW and its related annual events.

“Naturally, vetting speakers is very hard,” Monroy said. “We don’t really know WHAT they’ll talk about until they talk about it, so some are a big hit, and sometimes we miss the mark.

“We also notice there are so many choices that people are bummed they can’t see them all, but that’s a good problem to have.”

LAVIDGE in-kind contributions exceed expectations

LAVIDGE leadership knew employees would contribute a significant amount of volunteer hours when they signed on as the Communications Agency Partner for the two-day conference. What they didn’t know was exactly how much time it would take to do the job right.

LAVIDGE employees spent countless hours planning and implementing social and paid media throughout the past year, which Monroy described as having been “a CRAP TON” of work—far more than even she had anticipated.

“This will be conveyed to the PHXDW team so they know the level of ‘in-kind sponsorship’ communications equates to in years to come when I’m NOT involved,” Monroy said, adding that this is the first year it has been done to this level. 

“We dedicated many, many hours as well as worked onsite the entire weekend of the conference,” Monroy said. “A few of us attended events during the week. Bearing with us as we worked on the many moving parts was the agency’s main area of support.

Communication campaign results hit the mark

Putting in the extra effort made a huge difference.

“The social media was commended numerous times, and we did paid media for the first time ever,” Monroy said, explaining that the main goal was to maintain or boost the number of tickets.  Improving awareness for the conference was secondary.

While the number of tickets sold did rise slightly, awareness was the clear winner when comparing post-conference statistics to those from six months prior.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • Doubled LinkedIn followers
  • Gained 439 Instagram followers
  • Gained 87 Facebook likes
  • Gained 17 Twitter followers
  • Grew email list by 277

In addition, LAVIDGE’s email marketing campaigns for PHXDW enjoyed a 24.5% open rate and 3.1% click rate which is higher (in some cases by several percent) than the averages of any industry PHXDW falls under.

Elyse Fornefeld, a LAVIDGE Digital Media Specialist, noted that this was the first year the conference ran an ad campaign on LinkedIn. Without any increase in budget year over year, LAVIDGE also served ads on sites such as ESPN.com, nytimes.com, and azcentral.com. In addition, paid media buys included programmatic and Facebook/Instagram.

Campaign success is about more than making great numbers

Solid social media and email marketing campaign results like these are only significant because of what they mean to the audience PHXDW serves.

The heart of PHXDW is to help designers, writers, editors and other creatives connect with current information, useful resources and each other. Learning about the business side of the industry, for example, can make all the difference when it comes to launching a career as a freelancer or establishing a new agency.

“Most people go into this industry by mastering their creative abilities and not focusing much the business side,” Monroy said. “For a very long time it put everyone in a box—explaining why some believe in the myth that to be a creative one must be a “starving artist.

“This is not the case,” Monroy said. “Very powerful professional folks run creative businesses but learning to do that correctly is challenging. These sorts of insights are vital.”

Good design goes beyond making things ‘pretty’

Those outside of the design industry might wonder why supporting it matters. It turns out that great design matters a great deal more than one might initially think.

It can even change the world.

“Who doesn’t want to do that?” Monroy said. “Once we all figured out that we could do so much more than make things pretty, it was a game-changer. So now we focus a great deal of effort on using these abilities and creative thinking skills to fix serious problems.”

The AIGA Arizona board demonstrates its commitment to doing just that by through Design for Good (D4G), a committee headed up by LAVIDGE Junior Graphic Designer Morgan Clark.

The AIGA Arizona Design for Good team creates memorable events such as Creatathon, a 24-hour creative marathon where volunteers come together to provide design, marketing, and strategic services for nonprofits. Events like these create impactful work that serve all of Arizona.

PHXDW conference impact extends beyond ‘purely professional’

Clark is an excellent example of someone whose efforts to give back to the community through PHXDW have benefited her just as much in return. A first-year employee with LAVIDGE who frequently attends meetings for the agency sponsored Ad Libs chapter of Toastmasters, Clark took to the stage on Day 2 during Lightning Talks in hopes of impacting fellow attendees’ non-professional lives.

“What really propelled me to speak was a conversation I had earlier in the week with Mike Watts (a local graphic designer and previous member of AIGA Arizona’s Design for Good),” Clark said. “We discussed how a lot of designers we know have anxiety, depression, or general woe and yet mental health doesn’t seem like it’s talked about enough in the creative community. A lightning talk seemed like the right place to get the conversation started within this community.”

Clark said the response was “absolutely wonderful.”

“Creatives started approaching me and suddenly we were engaging in very vulnerable conversations within moments of meeting each other,” she said. “I learned that a lot of people around me had struggled, or were struggling, but just talking to one another about it seemed like this feat of strength. It was absolutely worth the restless night and last-minute speech writing. This opportunity introduced me to a community I had always been a part of, but never really known.“

LAVIDGE presence prominent on (and off) PHXDW conference stage

Clark was not the only LAVDIGIAN to take the stage during the Evolve conference.

As part of her role as AIGA Arizona chapter president, Monroy delivered a welcome address on Saturday afternoon from the Main Stage.

“As well as heading up our team that handled the social media (and first paid media) for the event, Jenn spoke beautifully about AIGA Arizona,” Case said. “Her passion for the creative community was evident. Jenn’s a great leader and someone we should all be proud to know.” 

Nearly 24 hours later and from the same stage, Case delivered a keynote address, The Creative Evolution of One Anxiety-Ridden-People-Pleasing-Jack-of-all-Trades-Master-of-None-Introverted-Hermit.”

Case has been involved with Phoenix Design week (and AIGA) for about  seven years as an event attendee, breakout speaker, pop-up shop presenter and panel participant.

Monroy has been an AIGA member since college but became heavily involved with the local chapter when she moved to Arizona in 2016.

“I was working full-time freelance and needed a tribe,” Monroy said. “I joined the board almost immediately.”

Since then, Monroy’s held numerous positions with AIGA Arizona including Volunteer Coordinator and Chapter Manager (secretary), and took over as President in July of this year. She became involved with PHXDW right away, coordinating 35+ event volunteers the first two years and then was the Director of the entire program in 2018.

When she joined LAVIDGE, Monroy asked to be supported in fulfilling her role for throughout the two-year term of her presidency—and beyond.

“Needless to say, it’s a HUGE part of my life and I was so excited that LAVIDGE not only supported me but wanted to be involved,” Monroy said.

LAVIDGE (and LAVIDGIANs) reap rewards by being involved

While Case, Monroy and Clark were the most visible by virtue of their roles, many LAVIDGIANs participated in the conference, and continued to stay involved throughout the rest of the week.

One of them was Senior Art Director Randy Schultz, whose work finished in the top three of the AIGA Arizona retrospective show.

“The conference is a chance to listen to some inspiring speakers who are all creative peers in varying industries,” said Schultz, who had also attended the conference twice before. “This recharges the batteries and gives me a fresh take on problem-solving.”

Case, who also ran a pop-up shop, agreed that participating was a pleasure.

“This was the first time I'd been invited to be a keynote speaker and was thrilled to do it,” Case said. “Speaking to your peers is always an honor. I hope I was able to share some worthwhile information and inspiration. I'm a proud member of AIGA and believe strongly in what they stand for in advocating for the creative industry.”

Monroy added that she expects the agency to gain additional insight that can help future social media clients once analytics are available from running six months’ worth of continuous social media campaigns.

Not to mention all of the team building that took place along the way—before, during and after the events.

“This team was so helpful and excited to contribute whenever they could,” Monroy said. And everyone was absolutely amazing to work with during the conference itself. Stepping up whenever asked and making the whole process fun and easy.”

Schultz echoed her sentiments.

“It’s always nice to work and play with your coworkers outside of the office,” Schultz said. “It’s great team building and reminds you that you have a cool job.”

In short, the massive amount of effort it took to contribute to the overall success of the conference was worth every minute.

“LAVIDGE believes in being an active member of the creative community, and there is nothing better than seeing our team work together, bond and just enjoy each other’s company while making an impact at the event and getting some great inspiration,” Case said. “I’m so happy we did this, and thankful for LAVIDGE's support in being part of it.”

Anyone can get more out of PHXDW by getting involved

One doesn’t need to get as involved at the level of an agency partner to get something valuable back.

In fact, AIGA Arizona leadership encourages all attendees to take notes and meet as many people as they can, including the speakers, to keep those connections moving forward. This way they can carry what they learn beyond the week, Monroy said, adding that becoming individually involved with the two-day conference and week-long roster of events can benefit both the personal and professional lives of all participants.

“We find most are pretty hooked from there and will continue to come back,” Monroy said.

3 Tangible Takeaways to Apply to Your Career

 

Feedback from past Design Week Conference attendees revealed a desire for presentations which include actionable insights based on real-world experience.

LAVIDGE Chief Creative Officer Bob Case’s presentation given on day two of “2019 PHXDW Conference: Evolve Design” included numerous such takeaways. He identified the following as his top three:

  1. Staying inspired - Tangible ways I've kept my head in the game during the past 30 years range from simple things (such as keeping a sketchbook) to the complex (figuring out what inspires you and how to tap into that).
  2. Moving up - I've found over the course of my career that having certain skills has allowed me to move ahead and elevate within the companies where I've worked.
  3. Getting where you want to be – Understand that getting to work in the job you want in the place you want requires planning and strategy. And, there are a few secrets to being happy—regardless of where you work. 

 

 

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