The American Association of Advertising Agencies, 4A’s, held its 2018 StratFest in the Big Apple last week. Held in a universal meeting space in the heart of the Financial District, strategist, planners, and creatives came together not only to celebrate 50 years of planning, but to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the next 50.

Speakers and session leaders were as diverse and engaging as the topics they covered, from Genius Steals’ ‘The Gemini Agenda – A Playbook for the Future’ and Eliza Esquivel’s ‘Altered States of Planning’ keynotes to Twitter Brand Strategist Tom Chirico’s ‘Human-Centric Ideas That Get People Talking’ and NACCI founder Dionna McPhatter’s ‘With The Power Of Storytelling, Data Can Become Kryptonite For Any Barrier You Face’ workshops. Attendees learned that while technology may be changing, diverse human-developed creative ideas paired with an ability to push boundaries will be key to brands’ survival in this a post-technological revolution era.

This theme was further echoed in L’Oreal Group Chief Curiosity Officer Sarah DaVanzo’s ‘The Future of Planning 2030’ keynote and ‘The Future-Planner’s Toolkit’ workshop. After entering the conference in full astronaut gear, she later explained her ensemble and message were inspired by spending the summer attending NASA astronaut training. DaVanzo confirmed that robots will not be taking our jobs, but they will instead be like coworkers, making our roles easier and allowing us to expand our creative and innovation muscles. On the topic of VR, DaVanzo showcased how by pairing virtual reality technology with ethnographic research, teams can explore consumer’s lives in unprecedented ways. She also shared how breakthroughs with chatbot technology through apps like Quartz are helping the healthcare industry create applications allowing patients and healthcare professionals to interact in ways never before possible.

After the initial shock of learning about numerous technological advances and the challenges they bring, this year’s StratFest then put the power of the future back into the hands of humans. Equipped with the aspirational charge from 4A’s Strategy Committee Chair, and BSSP Chief Strategy Officer Ed Cotton’s closing remarks to “remember why we got into this business in the first place, to create inspiring work that does a little good in the world” this attendee left feeling optimistic and even looking forward to what the next 50 years of planning will bring.

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