What We Learned From The Largest Gathering Of Independent Agencies In 2023

Last month, members of Brownstein and Red Thread PR traveled to Montreal for Worldwide Partners’ largest event of the year, WPI Re:Connect 2023. In attendance were leaders of independent agencies from all over the world, sharing their insights across a variety of topics and discussing the future of our industry.

This month, we sat down with two of our attendees, AVP of Red Thread PR, Meagan Sloan, and Account Director at Brownstein, Alia Cohan, to talk about their time at Re:Connect 2023.

Why, in your opinion, is it important for independent agencies to have an organization like Worldwide Partners?

Meagan Sloan: Being part of Worldwide Partners provides independent agencies the open opportunity to connect with other like-minded indie shops. No matter the size, the specialty, or the location, we all face similar opportunities and similar challenges, so it’s refreshing to engage with other agencies to share insights, collaborate on projects, work through obstacles, grow our capabilities or just celebrate our independence and what it offers. It supports our clients, our talent, our pipeline — a win all around.

Alia Cohan: There was a tangible sense of pride and positivity surrounding all the events in Montreal — pride in representing an independent agency and positivity in the willingness to collaborate, share openly, and learn from each other. I see the importance of being part of the WPI network as three-fold.

For clients, an independent agency backed by a global network is a huge strength. For our expertise, because we have access to agencies in 80+ countries, we‘re able to learn about the niche capabilities and specialty agencies within WPI. For camaraderie, having 125 people in a room who all share similar successes and pain points of being part of an independent agency is invaluable.

What was your favorite seminar from WPI Re:Connect 2023? What was your biggest takeaway?

Meagan Sloan: I felt inspired and energized after the session with Greg Hoffman, former CMO of Nike. It’s one of the most iconic brands in the world, and hearing firsthand how some of its campaigns were ideated and came to life reset my perspective on great marketing. No matter what we’re selling, we’re creating a story. And tapping into elements like curiosity, empathy, courage and collaboration — not just professionally but personally — can help generate an idea that sparks a bigger story to tell for the brands we work with.

Greg shared his perspective on creativity as a team sport, referencing the Barcelona football team’s “tiki-taka” approach to the sport, characterized by short passes and constant movement on the field. Creativity is not dissimilar; one idea can lead to a thought from another team member, which can create a domino effect until the idea is ready.

Greg Hoffman, Former CMO of Nike

Alia Cohan: My favorite seminar was led by John Deschner, CSO of Maximum Effort. He shared ME’s principles for how they make work, which I believe speak for themselves:

  • Too much time and too much money ruin everything
  • Character over spectacle
  • Necessity is the mother of invention
  • Drop the artifice
  • Run toward what everyone else is running away from
  • Advertising should be fun

What do you anticipate as the biggest change coming to independent agencies in the near future?

Alia Cohan: It seems as though a shift from the AOR/retainer model to a more flexible, project-driven partnership between agencies & brands is coming. This was a common theme among the keynote speakers and it continued in our conversations during dinners and breaks throughout the day. It sounds scary from a financial security standpoint but if we can be agile, embrace the change, and show up as on-demand experts & leaders for our clients, Brownstein Group will win big.

Meagan Sloan: To Alia’s point, flexibility — in all ways. Flexibility with payment models and alternative arrangements beyond traditional retainers and project fees, but also flexibility with talent who are looking for more remote or hybrid opportunities to join teams. Flexibility with processes and being more courageous to upend traditional ways of working to be more nimble and agile. And flexibility in how agencies and brands collaborate, including more opportunities to partner with other shops within the Worldwide Partners network.

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