DAC Blog Authors Survival of the Savviest: Top Insights from the AdAge Survival Summit
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Survival of the Savviest: Top Insights from the AdAge Survival Summit

Survival of the Savviest: Top Insights from the AdAge Survival Summit

Monday, May 07, 2018
Eli Grant

I recently had the opportunity to kick off the Ad Age Survival Summit in Chicago. The summit addressed how brands face an exceedingly high number of potential crises in today’s digital age and how CMOs should prepare and react when facing these issues. Brand leaders from JPMorgan Chase, McDonald’s, Nestle, and Kraft Heinz were joined by agency and industry experts from VML, Weber Shandwick, and DAC to share stories and advice on how to survive and thrive through all these challenges.

My presentation focused on how brands should manage their reputation online in the critical moment of the customer journey when a consumer is deciding which local business to transact with. I shared some example reviews left on Google, Yelp, and Facebook that described poor customer service from some of the largest restaurant, retail, and financial services brands in North America.


These are clearly not the type of experiences brands are seeking to create for their consumers.

Next, I talked about some important statistics concerning the value of reviews in today’s customer journey. These stats demonstrate not only the importance of creating an outstanding experience every time, but of closely managing the feedback that is received when consumers don’t receive this high level of service.


Finally, and most importantly, I shared four recommendations on how local businesses can prepare for and handle negative feedback when it is received.

  1. Actively participate in the conversation about the experience, respond to reviews, and show the necessary attentiveness and willingness to make things better for the consumer.
  2. Consistently and proactively build a base of positive content by making gathering customer feedback a core part of your brand and customer service experience.
  3. Use this feedback internally to fuel change within the organization, avoid duplicating issues, and make things better for future customers.
  4. Leverage local teams in your stores, branches, and dealerships to participate in this dialog for a more authentic, valuable conversation with customers.


Here are some other highlights from the summit:

  • While all of the speakers and presentations had their own perspectives on the best ways to handle potential brand crises, there was one common theme present throughout: Prepare, Listen, Act, and Learn.
  • Kelly Stepno, Senior Director and Washington, D.C. Practice Lead with Apco Worldwide, reiterated the importance of being prepared and having solid plans in place to handle various scenarios should they arise. Tara Carraro, Executive VP and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Nestle Waters North America, reiterated that by saying, “If you have the right plan in place, that helps with the speed.” Many times, brands find themselves in a state of internal paralysis, which can be avoided with the proper preparation and processes in place.
  • Looking at data and listening to what consumers are actually saying is critical. There is often pressure to immediately respond to a situation, but taking a closer look at the data could inform an alternative reaction by a brand. Doing this allows brands to determine if there truly is a risk at hand or if it should be seen as a creative opportunity. Mark Renshaw, Global Chair of Brand Practice at Edelman, shared the brilliant comeback of Crock-Pot following its potential downfall after NBC’s hit drama This Is Us revealed (SPOLIER ALERT) fan-favorite fictional dad, Jack Pearson, had died in a house fire due to a faulty Crock-Pot. A combination of quick response by the brand via social media and celebrity influence turned this potential crisis into a creative opportunity. #crockpotisinnocent
  • Second City Works taught us how to utilize improv’s “Yes, and…” technique, along with others to help listen to and accept what is being said and expand upon it by adding new information to the dialogue.
  • Michelle St. Jacques, Head of U.S. Brand and R&D at Kraft Heinz Co., shared her thoughts on how to learn from what you put there. Some campaigns will stick, others won’t, but there is always something to learn. “Social comments can be a nuisance or a gift. Treat them as a gift,” she says.
  • God-is Rivera, VML’s Director of Inclusion and Cultural Resonance, shared a strong presentation about why diversity is not just an HR problem, but one the entire industry needs to address to escalate progress. In adversity lies creativity and we need to do our jobs to exploit that more. We all need to be aware, accountable, and take action if we want to see more inclusion in our industry.

Eli Grant is Vice President and General Manager of DAC Chicago. If you were at the AdAge Survival Summit and would like to share your thoughts, or if you’d like to learn more about how DAC can help your organization prepare, listen, act, and learn through your campaigns, contact DAC. 

Eli Grant
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