Exciting times in ATL! This past April, we relocated our Atlanta office to the trendy, up-and-coming Westside neighborhood, and have added a few key members to our team, as Atlanta’s capabilities get a little refresher, as well. First, meet Amy Small — our new senior creative director at the Anthem office in Atlanta, GA.
Recently, we spoke with Amy about life in ATL (where creative folks and work is on the rise), digital marketing trends, and how the brand engagement agency space in North America is changing:
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and your new role at Anthem:
A: I’ve been in advertising for my entire adult life. My first job out of school was writing radio spots for car dealerships. And my previous one before joining Anthem earlier this year was as Creative Director across all social, digital, and .com work for Keurig, Kleenex, Krispy Kreme, and several Atlanta non-profits, among others. I’ve also played the role of strategist in many of my positions, and I think that flexibility and range of experience is going to be key in helping to reposition our Atlanta office as a brand engagement agency.
Q: Which begs the question — what exactly IS “brand engagement?”
A: To me, brand engagement is about creating relationships by understanding things from the consumer’s perspective first. What’s their day like? What do they need and want? How do they think? What makes them laugh, and what turns them off? But it’s more than thinking of them as data points or consumers of whatever product we’re selling. It’s getting to know them as real, human, unpredictable people, then figuring out how our brand’s purpose and promise intersects with that. It’s not a new concept, but it’s a less traditional approach in the sense that we’re not pushing product messaging at all times—we’re creating ideas, stories, and experiences that people will be drawn to on a more honest and emotional level.
Q: Getting personal — what kind of hobbies or activities do you participate in outside of work?
A: I have two kids, 6 and 3, so my hobbies are their hobbies at this point. But when I do get some downtime, I read. Fiction, humor (LOVE David Sedaris), tech magazines, ad blogs, you name it. I also owned a small online bakery for a while before having kids, so I try to spend time in the kitchen whenever possible. My colleagues down here in ATL get to enjoy the benefits of that one.
Q: If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
A: Can I give you two answers? First, I’d learn how to code. Second, I’d learn to have more patience. That second one would probably help with the first.
Q: How is the democratization of content—where anyone and everyone can be their own publisher—changing the digital media landscape?
A: Even though it makes it tougher for us as marketers to grab our share of voice, I think it’s had a positive impact on the landscape overall. Because literally anyone with an internet connection can call themselves a publisher, a content creator, or even an influencer, it’s forcing brands to cut through some of the typical advertising BS to find a real way to connect with their audiences. In just the last few years, we’ve had to shift the conversation with our clients from “how can we be the loudest?” to “how can we be the most relevant and the most human?” That’s a good step forward.
Q: What do you believe makes a great leader?
A: There are so many things that make a great leader, and it can be different depending on the dynamic, the skill set, and the motivation of the team you’re leading. But personally, one of the things I try to strive for is accepting that I’m not going to know all the answers, all of the time. Being open and honest with my team, and being comfortable asking for help. That kind of give and take relationship builds trust and respect regardless of title, and that’s the best way I’ve seen to inspire great work.
Q: What do you love most about Atlanta?
A: The food scene. I grew up in South Florida, where Olive Garden was considered fine dining (funny enough, they were one of my clients for a while). But in Atlanta, there’s some new, trendy, already-raved-about restaurant opening every other week. I’ve lived here for ten years, and still have a three-page list of places I need to try. It’s ridiculous and addicting at the same time.
Q: How does the new ATL office reflect the rebranding of a ‘Different Anthem’?
A: Our new space is open, modern, imperfect, flexible, and somewhat of a blank slate, but with really solid, established bones. It’s similar to how we’re shifting our focus as an office from activation design to brand engagement—the bones of the agency are already in place, but we’re getting to redefine the details as we go.
Q: What does the digital marketing scene in ATL look like, and why is it an exciting place to be for an agency?
A: Atlanta has one of the biggest creative communities in the South, but it gets a bad rap. We have outposts of nearly every major digital and traditional agency, a ton of really successful niche shops, and an incredible community of artists and makers and innovators who are constantly influencing our culture. We’re also flooded with TV and film crews these days, so there’s no shortage of opportunities or resources for creativity. Or for attracting new clients.
Q: Name a person or place that has inspired you:
A: It’s actually a thing: AdAge’s 2005 “Most Creative People of the Year” issue. I was looking at the two-page spread of all the honorees in the middle of the magazine, and realized that every single one of them was male. I made a black and white photocopy of it, hung it up in my cube at the time, and promised myself I’d be part of that feature one day. I haven’t given up yet.
About Amy Small: Amy Small brings nearly 15 years of creative experience in traditional and digital advertising, branding, social content, and .com platform experiences to her new role at Anthem Atlanta. Her work has been recognized by the Webbys, Effies, Addys, and NY Festivals, and she is an active participant in the 3% Movement for the advancement of female creative leadership in advertising.
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