Finding Sunshine in the Sunshine

By Carolyn Hadlock, ECD / Principal, Young & Laramore on Mar 01, 2017

Even though we’ve not had much of a winter, getting away to sunny Scottsdale is always a welcome change. This was my third time to attend the retreat. I was pleased to see several other repeat attendees (and mentors). Agencies are now sending multiple people to hear the messages firsthand and take them back to their respective agencies and departments. The retreat has become a touchstone for many of us in an industry that continues to evolve at a rapid rate.

This year was the first year of the ADC / One Show merger. The main difference was having mentors who came from the branding / design side, as well as advertising mentors. The mix made for a more dynamic, holistic experience. I learned how to build a Chabot. Who knew? Another notable difference was the increased number of client side attendees. No longer is it seen as a step backwards to be on the client side, especially when the brands are iconic like Barbie, Nickelodeon and Taco Bell. We're going to continue to see more fluidity across agency and brand, which will only make the work better. And perhaps instill a little empathy.

This year, there was a welcome thread of optimism throughout the retreat. Not naïve idealism— there are still universal issues that agencies of all sizes face, but the rise of proactive creativity was palpable across the board. Agencies are beginning to figure out content creation, some even using it as an experimental space for their employees and clients. They are putting legitimate processes and incentives in place to not only retain employees, but also motivate and inspire them.

Many of the discussions, both in and out of sessions, were lively with divergent points of view on topics like pitching, staffing and culture. This is a sign that the industry is alive and creative again. Agencies are finding what works for them and adopting their own passionate point of view. DNA is defined from the inside out even if you’re owned by a holding company. In the past, there’s been an undercurrent of clients controlling growth and agency makeup. We’ve come to realize that playing a game of defense is not a creative endeavor. And it’s not good business. Agencies are also taking measures to control their own destiny by creating independent ventures that double as culture magnets for employees.

Recruiting continues to be a challenge with more avenues available to top talent than ever before. It’s imperative that agencies stay competitive by having an attractive roster of clients and unique culture since talent is the life-blood of any good agency. All agencies, including the agencies the mentors were from, contend with this issue. As cliché as it sounds, it really is about the people.

As I reflect on the retreat this year, I realize it wasn’t earth shattering. There weren’t any revelations or call to arms for change. It was more nuanced, more mature. Maybe it’s because the world is so volatile and we are all looking for a safe harbor to keep steady. Or maybe we’re learning that we can either lead the industry or follow the bottom line. It’s a choice we make every day.

The clarity, focus, and honesty are what truly make this a retreat, not a conference. I walked away, like I always do, with an arsenal of wisdom from both mentors and attendees that I can’t wait to implement.

Carolyn Hadlock is principle/executive creative director at Young & Laramore in Indianapolis. You can read more about her at

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