RECAP: Equitable Marketing Panel Discussion

This past Tuesday, AAF Buffalo held a first-of-its-kind Equitable Marketing panel discussion on developing inclusive communications for people with disabilities. AAF Buffalo Treasurer Sam Burfiend and Sean Ryan, Communications Manager at Leadership Buffalo, moderated the conversation. We were proud to host a diverse set of panelists, Elizabeth Kahn, Vice President of Marketing & Communications at People, Inc., David Wantuck, Community Engagement Specialist at Deaf Access Services, and Ray Zylinski, Education and Development Coordinator at Visually Impaired Advancement (VIA).

Panelists shared their expertise on a wide variety of accessibility topics, including diverse representation in advertising, marketing with empathy, asset-based storytelling, available tools and resources for ADA-compliant websites, strategies for improving accessibility in digital media, and the ever-evolving nature of language.

In this powerful, honest conversation, attendees went home with several key takeaways. 

  • Ask questions and admit if you don’t know something! It’s totally ok. We’re all human and make mistakes, but we need to be open to learning. 
  • Involve people with disabilities in your communications. For example, invite a person with visual impairments to review your website while it’s still in the development phase. The earlier on, the better!
  • Companies need to practice what they preach. Empower your employees to speak out when they see injustices and be open to feedback on how to improve your DEI initiatives. 
  • Get creative with your hiring and onboarding practices! This shouldn’t be hard for us marketers. For instance, if a person with autism applies for a job posting but is uncomfortable with the workspace, be flexible about the working environment and make necessary adjustments to their set-up.

The Equitable Marketing panel challenged us all to take part in the ongoing conversation around improved accessibility in advertising. AAF Buffalo looks forward to building on this momentum and has plans to host many DEI panels in the months and years to come!


2023 American Advertising Awards Recap

Big hair, bigger hearts. The Buffalo advertising community gathered for a night of shoulder pads, spiked punch and synth-pop jams as we threw it back to 1984 for the 2023 American Advertising Awards: Promenade.

This year’s show was a huge collaborative effort, beginning with graphic design seniors at Villa Maria College. Each student concepted a theme idea, coming up with everything from a catchy name and sweet logo treatment to ways the theme could be executed on show night.

When the concepts were complete, AAF Buffalo board members crowned Kelsey Sikora’s Promenade concept, this year’s winning theme. The board, led by President Caroline Buchas and AAA co-chairs Chelsea Carney and Lindsay Neilson, worked closely with Kelsey throughout the many months of show planning, establishing the logo, color palette and overall vision for show night.

Almost two-dozen Buffalo advertising agencies and marketing companies gathered at Buffalo State University in March. One of our most successful shows yet, Promenade saw 366 attendees put on their best ‘80s fits to celebrate this past year’s work—thanks to a record-breaking 500 award submissions.

We all had fun, but these winners just might’ve had the best night of their lives. Take a look at prom night’s big winners (including work as unforgettable as The Breakfast Club’s final scene).

Professional Winners

Judges from Georgia, Tampa, Chicago and Pennsylvania scored this year’s professional entries. Among many incredible advertising pieces, The Martin Group took home a total of 26 awards, Crowley Webb received a total of 24 awards and Mower rounded out the top three with 21 awards.

Best of Show

Show night’s prom kings and queens were the folks at White Bicycle, earning Best of Show for their Rich Products Baked in Business Book. 

Special Awards

In addition to each company’s entries, we recognize four outstanding individuals for their contributions and accomplishments in the Buffalo creative community. The 2023 special award recipients were:

  • The Levy-Osborn Award for Excellence in Communications went to Matt Low, Chief Creative Officer at Crowley Webb.
  • The Joe Crowley Award for Service went to Josh Gumulak, Account Supervisor at FARM and former President of AAF Buffalo.
  • The Future Star Award went to Lindsay Neilson, Art Director at Mr. Smith Agency and AAF Buffalo AAA co-chair.
  • The Mosaic Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion went to the VIA Marketing Department, led by Samantha Burfiend, Director of Marketing and Communications at VIA and AAF Buffalo Treasurer.
Local Awards

FARM took home The Creative Use of Paper Award for their paper flower box.

The CommUNITY Award for Inclusive Advertising recognizes advertising that addresses issues experienced by under-represented communities and gives voice to groups that have been stereotyped or ignored in media and by society, increasing perceptions and understanding of multicultural communities. This year’s award went to Mower for their One Hundred Black Men of New York “Open Every Door” Campaign.

Student Winners

Our own local judges, Evan Pease, Brittney Sikora and Jeff Pappalardo, judged this year’s student entries.

Awards went to undergraduates from Daemen College, Villa Maria College and Buffalo State College. Kelsey Sikora from Villa Maria College took home the Student Best of Show Award for her Buffalo Monopoly.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Our sponsors are the bee’s knees. This year was truly a collaborative effort. Thank you to our show sponsors—Villa Maria College, dPost, and Mr. Smith Agency, as well as our volunteers and supporters—Lemur Studios, The Pickle Ship for the showbook printing and Shannon Silva. 

Congratulations to this year’s winners, and cheers to all who entered work and attended the AAA Promenade 2023 show.


RECAP: Jingle Bowl 2022

Twas’ the night of the AAA’s reveal, while agencies competed for the golden pin, endless cans of food were donated, and one agency took home a win. 

Mower, The Martin Group, Crowley Webb, Fifteen, Gelia, Mr. Smith, FARM, Luminus and more gathered for an incredible night of bowling at Transit Lanes. So, who rocked the competition? Gelia! Congrats to Gelia on winning a second year in a row.

Attendees donated to FeedMore WNY upon entering the event. Together, we collected an amazing amount of non-perishables to help feed families in our community during the holiday season. Let’s go, Buffalo!

The grand finale of the night was an epic promposal, revealing 2023’s AAA theme: Promenade. For the first time ever, the AAF Buffalo Board collaborated with Villa Maria College on the award show. Villa Maria’s graphic design senior class worked together to come up with a variety of creative and unique show themes. Ultimately, Promenade, developed by Kelsey Sikora was chosen. It’s going to be an awards night to remember, celebrating work we’ll never forget!

Thank you to all who came in their most festive attire and helped us spread some holiday cheer. We’re wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year!


Recap: 2022 Brand Hack

This year’s Brand Hack event featured a local non-profit looking for a new logo, a new color palette, and potentially a new letterhead. The Coalition of Adoption and Foster Family Agencies (CAFFA) is a non-profit organization that supports foster and adoptive families in Western New York. CAFFA collaborates with agencies and local social services departments that provide foster care and adoption services in the eight counties of WNY.

Five teams of students from all over Western New York were tasked with creating these deliverables. The event took place at UB’s Center for the Arts. Leading the teams were seasoned professionals from the area, including designers from Mower, Crowley Webb, FARM, FIFTEEN, and The Arc Erie County. 

Teams had three hours to organize and create their ideas before pitching them to our representatives from CAFFA. Time was broken up into introductions, analysis, sketching (no computers allowed), rendering, and developing their final pitch decks. 

Each team beat the clock and produced some well-executed, unique work along the way. Ultimately, the representatives at CAFFA were blown away by the thoughtful design of each group.  

“We were hoping to redefine ourselves and redefine our mission,” said CAFFA representative Mary Ann LoPiccolo. “Everything you all did will help push us in that direction. We can tell you all worked really hard.”

The winners included FARM Graphic Designer Katie Steckstor and students Jack Qu and Mia Mahar. Congrats to all the students and captains for producing another great event!


RECAP: 2022 Portfolio Seminar

Portfolio Seminar Recap

This weekend, on November 19th, AAF Buffalo hosted its annual Portfolio Seminar event, where three advertising pros from the Buffalo area talked about their experience crafting, presenting, and sharing a killer portfolio. This year we were joined by Katie Hazel a Group Creative Director at Crowley Webb with over 20 years of experience in the field. Brittney Sikora, Freelance Designer & Art Director with nearly ten years of great projects under her belt, joined us as well. Last but not least, we were also joined by recent Buffalo State graduate Jennifer Leising, who’s been loving her first year of design experience at Fourth Idea. Each speaker brought unique experiences to the table and shared what’s been successful for them and what might work for students as they hunt for that first job.

From networking tips to the amount of work you should include in your portfolio to which website builder to choose tons of tips were shared during our time together. Below are some quick takeaways:

  • Quality over quantity of projects always! 
  • Push your project’s concept into different mediums uniquely instead of creating more mockups with the same graphic.
  • Pace yourself and celebrate the small victories. Portfolios aren’t created overnight.
  • Get out there! Networking is challenging, but coming to AAF events and making small steps to put yourself out there can have a huge benefit when you take the next step in your career. 
  • Submit your work to the American Advertising Awards and the Don Nichols Scholarship Competition. Agencies keep their eyes on this (Katie included).
  • Be yourself. Create projects you’re passionate about and let that authentic love for your work come through when sharing it. This makes it easy to find a work environment that you truly feel comfortable in.

The tips in the bullets above represent a fraction of what Katie, Brittney, and Jennifer covered over the weekend, so mark your calendars for next November when three more Buffalo creatives will talk about what they think makes a killer portfolio. 


ADWEEK DAY 4: Culture + Typography

We had a full house for our final AdWeek event: CULTURE+TYPOGRAPHY by Nikki Villagomez! Attendees were engaged and entertained by Nikki’s long-standing blog that got her to where she is today and her analysis of urban typography across the United States.

What does she think of Buffalo? Well, our manhole covers are trash compared to Japan. The good news is that she was blown away by our vibrant murals and marquees. Her historical analysis of neon motel signs on Niagara Falls Boulevard amused the crowd and her Buffalo research paid off as she concluded with a “Go Bills!”

The healthy Q&A session was a sign of solid audience engagement and her book, CULTURE+TYPOGRAPHY, sold out! Great success! Check out for more information.

We hope to see you next year at any (or all) of our AdWeek events. 


ADWEEK DAY 3: Speed Networking

On Wednesday, October 5th, we brought our annual Speed Networking back for an appearance on the Ad Week event schedule! Understanding that most industries are still facing challenges with hiring and staffing—freelancers and professionals came to Jack Rabbit on Elmwood Avenue to get a drink while pursuing a series of one-on-one conversations.

The event was ideal for businesses and agencies wishing to grow their shortlist of freelancers. It was a fantastic opportunity for freelancers to network with businesses that may be looking for fresh talent for their team or forthcoming project. 

Although networking has been complex in recent years, we saw long-lasting connections established in various fields from the chats and banter that persisted after the signal to rotate.

Are you disappointed that you couldn’t attend Speed Networking 2022? Keep a watch out and bring your business cards to the 2023 Ad Week. 

We appreciate everyone who came, and we hope to see you again next year!


ADWEEK DAY 2: Ad’s Best Friend

Woof Woof! AdWeek day two at Barkology was a heckin’ good time! Doggo’s and dog friends did some productive networking. Where are the best bones? What’s the best way to leverage social media to attract new clients? Attendees had great discussions and great fun.

The dogs had little to say about the future of advertising in the metaverse, but they really got a workout! We’ve established that they’re more brawn than brains. Attendees enjoyed some cold beers on a crisp beautiful buffalo fall evening. Who’s dog was the best? Rude question! They were all amazing… but look at that doodle in the back left!



AAF Buffalo kicked off AdWeek with a bang! Lauren Molenda of Riveter hosted us at their gorgeous new office to learn about freelancing! How much money do freelancers make? What’s the best way to get new clients? How do I know if I’m cut out for freelancing? Lauren and her panel had a packed house, with close to 40 attendees, on the edges of their seats. 

Lauren Molenda, Co-Owner of Riveter

Our guests were delighted with drinks and apps prior to the event and ended the evening with quick tours of Riveter’s spaces. Who from this crowd is going to take the leap into the freelance world?!



On September 15th, 2022, AAF Buffalo hosted our annual Agency Tour event. This event focused on giving current college students the opportunity to visit local ad agencies in the downtown Buffalo area. Ranging from some of the biggest agencies to one most concise studios in the area, students got the chance to see a variety of environments, to help them make an informed decision on where they’d like to land in the future.

Our first stop downtown was at the Sweeney Building to visit Crowley Webb. Starting downstairs at the agency’s bar (crazy right?), Chief Creative Officer Matt Low and VP Creative Director Andalyn Courtney walked us through a thorough presentation of the ins-and-outs of the agency’s structure, process and some exciting plans for the future. We then made our way upstairs to peek into offices and cubicles, meeting team members that ranged from data analysts to videographers all the way to graphic designers.

After we saw how “hard work works hard” at Crowley Webb, we made our way to Fountain Plaza, where we met up with Senior Vice President, Group Creative Director Michael Baron, Senior Art Director Amanda Widzinski and Copywriter Emmy Kolbe at Mower, where we were served some pizza and a ton of great info. Michael walked us through another in-depth presentation on Mower’s philosophy, structure and work. We even got to see an exclusive rough cut of a video from an upcoming campaign. Outside of learning just about Mower, students learned about the advertising industry as a whole from Michael, where he shared his perspective on key things to get involved with (AAF Buffalo included), smart things to avoid and gave some things to work towards in the future.

Stuffed with pizza and info we walked a couple more more blocks to our last stop of the tour, White Bicycle, at their new home on Ellicott Street. Unlike the other agencies of the tour, which consist of teams in the hundreds, with multiple offices, sometimes in different states, White Bicycle consists of 7 killer creatives that pack an equally as large punch as the other guys. Here, students spoke with self-professed “Design Monger” and Partner Kyle Morrissey and Owner Brian Grunert about the differences between what “agencies” and “studios” look like. Students got to see their unique process, their love for print, learn some more exclusive studio news and even jumped on a call with Kyle (even if it wasn’t necessarily planned, thanks Brian).