AdWeek Events Students


ADWEEK always holds a special place in our hearts and is a week we always look forward to from the planning and preparation all the way to the night of and the stories and connections made that we get to hear about after. With a variety of events, all in one week, you’re bound to attend one (if not all!). This years ADWEEK, sponsored by Basis Technologies, included a returning fan favorite of course and a few new ones that are sure to make an appearance in 2024. Dig into the details below!

Stephen Gabris taking a headshot photo

ADWEEK Day 1: Headshots & Hops
Fresh off a massive Bills win against the Dolphins, AAF set up shop in the lobby of Seneca One to celebrate Victory Monday with Buffalo Advertising’s best game faces.

The Headshots & Hops event is one of the year’s favorites; a chance to network and drink and update our LinkedIn profile pics with something way better than your onboarding photo from seven years ago. 

While we chatted and clinked our pint glasses, Stephen Gabrus was on tap with some impressive glass of his own. This dude came prepared with multiple setups and gave everyone two different badass photos; one super professional neat & clean pic with traditional 3-point lighting (this is the one you show your parents and CEOs) and one rad multi-colored statement piece for the creative in all of us (this is the one you show everyone else).

Headshots & Hops was an awesome time and AAF Buffalo brought a whole new meaning to mugging for the camera. If you missed this event, you missed a good one – don’t sleep on it next year.

ADWEEK Day 2: Internship Skillshop
We spent AdWeek Day 2 at Riveter listening to a rockin’ panel share advice on landing internships. We heard from a variety of professionals including:

  • Jordan Hegyi, Partner + Creative Director at Riveter Design
  • Natalie Ryan, Account Manager at The Martin Group
  • Makenzie Fintak, Buffalo State Class of 2020 Grad + Fellowship Participant at White Bike
  • Dora Jones, Talent Acquisition Sourcing Specialist at Univera Healthcare
  • Moderator Noah Herman, AAF Buffalo Education Chair, Adjunct Professor of Graphic Design at Daemen, and freelance UX Designer 

Our panel spoke to an audience of nearly 30 students and ad professionals, giving everyone insight into finding—and succeeding at—internships in the marketing and advertising world. After an evening of great questions and conversation, attendees left with some important advice in their back pockets:

  • Know who you’re talking to—research the company and their work, along with the person who’s interviewing you.
  • Paid or unpaid isn’t everything—weigh the benefits of each including the experience you’ll get and the connections you’ll make.
  • Google yourself—because employers will too!
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date—this is the first place employers will reference.
  • Have someone you’re comfortable going to with concerns—this doesn’t have to be your direct boss, but open communication with a colleague makes a big difference.

Here’s to our attendees landing some awesome internships in the future!

ADWEEK Day 3: Spelling B-e-e


The first documented spelling bee in the United States took place in 1825, in a small town in Kentucky, organized by teachers as a way to promote literacy and education.

The first-ever AAF Buffalo Spelling Bee took place in 2023, pitting five contestants from the Western New York advertising community under the spotlight at Cole’s on Elmwood Avenue.

Ryan Weatherbee, content developer at Crowley Webb, came in as a highly touted speller and led off the order of participants. Scott Bartels, past AAF Buffalo President and senior digital product manager at KeyBank, returned to the club to join the festivities of AdWeek. AAF Buffalo VP of Communications Chelsea Carney joined the Spelling Bee along with her White Bicycle Colleague, brand strategist Jillian McGarry. Rounding out the competitors was Renee Helda, Senior Art Director at Mr. Smith Agency.


A challenging slate of opening words led to Weatherbee bowing out of the competition first, shortly followed out by Bartels.


A few words for the competition drew inspiration from our 2023 AdWeek sponsor, Basis Technologies, a digital media automation and intelligence company.


Some more familiar words led to a fast back-and-forth as McGarry, Carney, and Helda took their turns in swift succession.


An interjection of some of the hardest-to-spell words from across the Buffalo region caught the contestants off guard, leading to McGarry’s elimination and leaving Carney and Helda in a one-on-one for the championship.


The hard-fought battle lasted longer than 60 words, but in the end, Renee Helda took home the title of Spelling Bee Champion when Chelsea Carney spelled “transformative” wrong in sudden death. Let’s just say that the stage has been set for the ultimate redemption in 2024.

ADWEEK Day 4: American Advertising Awards Q & A
On Thursday, October 5th, AAF Buffalo closed out AdWeek with an American Advertising Awards Q & A over at dPost.

Eager pros looking to shine this award season showed up and our seriously insightful panelists answered the community’s burning questions about the submission process, show night, and more.

 Here’s who sat on the panel:

  • Caroline Buchas (past AAF Buffalo President, Digital Operations Manager at Catholic Health)
  • Chelsea Carney (2x past Awards Chair, Senior Designer at White Bicycle)
  • Lindsay Neilson (current and past Awards Chair, Art Director at Mr. Smith Agency)
  • Adina Delmar (past Awards Chair, Senior Account Manager at Crowley Webb)

Emcee, Evan Pease (board member, Director of Post Production at dPost) kept the questions flowing for about an hour – sharing FAQs and taking live questions from the crowd.

The night ended with a bit of post-panel conversation, and attendees left with much more confidence leading up to the awards.

If you couldn’t make the event or have more questions as you start getting your entries in line, please send your questions to We’d love to help!

Submissions are now open and our biggest piece of advice to those entering is to start early! The platform automatically saves your work and won’t be entered for judging until you click “submit” so you can do a little here and there!

And no, the theme for the beloved AAF Buffalo American Advertising Awards was not revealed at this event. Our lips are sealed ’til Jingle Bowl on that one. 

Special thanks to our sponsors, @basistechnologies and for this event and a huge thank you to everyone who came out for AdWeek. It wouldn’t have been the same without you!

Make sure to plan for 2024 ADWEEK in early October!

AdWeek Events


And just like that, it was day three of AAF Buffalo’s annual Adweek. On Wednesday, October 6 our members gathered together at the famous Seneca One tour to learn about the happenings at 43North and a full tour of the new and improved building. 

To kick-off the evening, participants were invited to enjoy a drink at the Seneca One Lobby Bar before heading up to the 24th floor for a fun visit with 43North. The one and only Maura Devlin,    vice president of marketing and public relations at 43North provided an informative presentation of all the great work the company is doing to build a strong startup and tech ecosystem within the city. Members were able to participate in a Q&A to learn more about the creation of 43North and what’s to come for Buffalo. 

Following the Q&A, members received a tour of Seneca One and got a live-look of the stunning views of downtown Buffalo. A shout-out to Joe Konze of Seneca One for providing an inside look into how the building has become the new wave of energy downtown and then most anticipated development in the city’s modern history. 

A huge thank you for everyone who attended or participated in any of this year’s AdWeek events! For more info on all of our programming for the club year, check out

Not a member? No worries! You can get access to member-exclusive events and special discounts by becoming a member today.

AdWeek Events

Recap: 2021 Speed Networking

With the entire nation facing challenges with hiring and staffing, spanning across most if not all industries, we felt strongly that everyone’s favorite AdWeek event should be brought back. Our Speed Networking event was held On Tuesday, October 5 with more than 10 freelancers and pros showing up to Jack Rabbit on Elmwood Avenue to grab a drink and chat one on one.This event is perfect for companies and agencies looking to expand their freelancer shortlist, and it’s a great way for freelancers to connect with companies that may need some new talent for their team or upcoming project. Networking has been a challenge over the last couple of years, but from the conversations and chatter that lingered past the signal to rotate we could see lasting connections forming across a variety of areas.

If Speed Networking is something you would like to see again next year, please drop us a line and let us know! We’re always looking for ways to bring value to our members, and we’d love to hear from you.

Thank you to all who joined us and we hope to see you next year!

AdWeek Events Social Media Speaker Speaker Series


The prominence of social media has not only altered the way in which we communicate personally, it has reshaped the information we consume, distorted emotional responses, and manipulated the visual identities of its users. In an ever-connected world, everyone struggles to balance competing priorities, remain engaged, and retain authenticity.

For this year’s AdWeek 2020 Spotlight Speaker, we invited Nikki Sunstrum, University of Michigan Director of Social Media and Public Engagement, to discuss methods for addressing the ever-increasing demands of pandemic communications, and how to deal with online negativity, competing interests, and mental fatigue. Although virtual, we were all able to carve out an evening and hear from Nikki on what this past year has taught her.

*insert “This is Fine” meme*

Throughout her hour-long talk, Nikki covered a range of topics, but first, she addressed the giant non-elephant in the room: the pandemic. While it’s no secret that the pandemic quickly impacted the way we live, learn, work, and interact with each other, Nikki focused her presentation on the impact the pandemic has had on marketers and communicators. Namely, how we speak to our audiences and communities. The way we approach our content was starkly changed, instead of encouraging users to participate with brands, and engage with us, strategies quickly became more about advocating for them to stay away, and thus stay safe. The emotions and reactions we were trying to evoke from our communities were now incredibly different than what we had been planning for, and we were left with no instructions on how to forge ahead.

Reality Check

Nikki described the pandemic as a reality check for us all, it was important to address the reality of the situation and address these alterations both internally and externally. She reminded us that social media is likely the first-place people connect, the first people complain, and the first-place people celebrate. Nikki suggested that as professional communicators we stop treating social as a solution, but rather a tool to navigate the uncertain days ahead. It was important to ask ourselves “what are we trying to accomplish by communicating outside of our organization?”. The answer? To strengthen our communities.

Another few key takeaways she shared were:

• Social media requires wit, wisdom, and wherewithal
• Social media demands proactive, preventative, and passionate messaging
• Social media necessities continuous connectivity, customer service and societal awareness
• Social media is strategic communication, and not a last resort

Although we couldn’t host her in our city and show her that city of good neighbors’ spirit, we’d like to send a big thank you to Nikki for taking the time to chat with us virtually. And thank you for everyone who attended or participated in any of this year’s AdWeek events! For more info on all of our programming for the club year, check out

AdWeek Events Industry Updates


Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have been the subject of many conversations over the past few months. We recently had the opportunity to speak with leaders from the Buffalo community and dig deeper into DEI: what it means, how it can be incorporated into the workplace, what the biases and barriers are, and how we can take action.

It is important to remember that with DEI, you cannot have one without the other two. Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be present and maintained in all aspects of life in order to progress forward, so stopping to assess how DEI fits in and plays (or could play) an active role in your workplace is imperative.

What are diversity, equity, and inclusion? 

Ekua Mends-Aidoo, chief equity and inclusion officer at Evergreen Health, recommends keeping organizations top of mind when defining these words.

As Ekua explained:

  • Diversity is a fact – either you have it within an organization or you do not.
  • Inclusion is a choice. It is up to the organization to decide and choose how they want to include people and make them feel embraced.
  • Equity is a policy that should become part of the organization’s practice. Equity is not It is about ensuring that people are getting the necessary and optimal resources that they need to achieve and succeed.

Incorporating DEI in the workplace.

Learning what these words mean is the first step, but organizations should be thinking about incorporating DEI in the workplace from the onset of the hiring process to onboarding and throughout career development. To maintain this mind-set and have DEI become a foundational part of your company, education is key. Whether it is a training series, a review of your company’s policies and structure, or a collaboration with groups and organizations to gain a better understanding of diversity issues, education introduces new conversations and poses questions for the future. These exercises may uncover certain biases that were never noticed before. But as was said by David Johnson, director of college counseling at Buffalo Prep, it is important that we are comfortable with being uncomfortable during the process in order to do the work that is necessary.

Taking action.

It is easy to stick with the status quo. Change can be difficult for everybody, and this work you are setting out to do can be challenging, but organizations cannot be afraid to have these conversations and seek out diversity. We need to be innovative and intentional with what we desire to do and how we are going to make that happen.

A special thank-you to our panel for taking the time to speak with us and for all that you do in our community:

  • Lisa Napier, Founder and President of WNY Media House
  • David Johnson, Director of College Counseling at Buffalo Prep
  • Ekua Mends-Aidoo, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Evergreen Health
  • Greg Addo, Director, Producer, Videographer, and Editor at Addo Productions

AdWeek Skillshop


We put some marketers and an attorney in a [virtual] room and kicked off this year’s AdWeek with a Skillshop hosted by Katie Markert, an attorney within Barclay Damon LLP’s Branding, Trademarks, and Copyrights practice group. 

Katie laid down the law to help us understand what goes into developing a strong brand name, and it turns out, not all trademarks are created equal—they actually reside on a spectrum. She walked us through this spectrum and showed us, from worst to best, how trademarks can be created with strong legal backing. From generic trademarks to the fanciful, Katie described the varying levels of trademark strength and gave some real-world examples. 

Another big takeaway…beware of genericide! Did you own a “return top” as a kid? How about a “yoyo”? Well Katie asked us if we could think of the generic term for yoyo, and we were stumped. Turns out, YO-YO was actually a brand name trademarked by Duncan Co. in 1932 for “return top” toys. This product eventually fell victim to genericide due to a faulty trademark registration, and all of these toys could legally be referred to as yo-yos, and they were. The name continued to spread as the generic term, and thus, you probably owned a yo-yo as a kid–not a “return top”.

Katie concluded her SkillShop with a Q&A that answered our deepest branding and trademark questions. Thank you Katie! Learn more about Katie’s legal experience here.

AdWeek Events Speaker Series


To help us rethink our approach to culture, Keni Thacker joined us on Thursday, October 10 to be our first presenter in this year’s Spotlight Speaker Series.

Taking a page from a Tina Turner classic, Keni began his talk by asking attendees, “What’s culture got to do with it?” The answer: everything. Culture has everything to do with diversity and inclusion. From there, Keni illustrated what diversity, culture, and inclusion mean for our industry and what we can do to be better.

The Intersectionality of Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion

He asserted that diversity is one of our biggest dilemmas in advertising, with people of color sharing only 30% representation in our industry. To combat that, Keni suggest you assess your pipeline and consider new ways to recruit employees.

Next, he described culture as a balance of learning, caring, purpose, and enjoyment. Keni urged companies and agencies to show your people you care. Take an active part in their lives and get involved in what your employees are doing, inside and outside of work.

Lastly, Keni discussed inclusion and what we could be doing to make people feel that they are a part of our organization. He encourages us to partake in team building exercise and give people experience they’ll never get anywhere else.

Food for Thought

To improve the advertising workspace, Keni recommended you think of diversity, culture, and inclusion as a constant, reflective process. Always look for ways to evolve and reexamine what you could do better. He also suggested that decision-makers take a stand. If you have a seat at the table, use your influence to include more voices and keep your company progressing.

Keni concluded his talk with an engaging Q&A session that left the audience with plenty of ways to consider how culture makes an impact.

AdWeek Events

Recap: Speed Networking

After the success of last year’s inaugural event, we brought back Speed Networking for a repeat slot in the Ad Week event lineup.

On Wednesday, October 9, 20 people showed up to Resurgence Brewery on Chicago St., grabbed a drink, and casually sat down at tables across from one another for a series of one-on-one chats. One hour and 10 new business cards later, attendees lingered at the bar to continue conversations and discuss projects more in-depth.

This year we added a few new specialties to the mix, including video and analytics, as well as some new, non-agency companies. As time ran out on the final rotation, attendees continued to chat long after we concluded the “official” portion of the event (making it a solid success in our book since that’s the goal). 

Upset that you missed out on Speed Networking 2019? Keep your eyes peeled next Ad Week for the 2020 edition.

AdWeek Events

Top Buffalo ad professionals join AAF panel

Last night, we hosted a panel event at Shea’s Smith Theatre comprised of some of the top names in the Buffalo advertising industry.

The panel included:
Jim Hettich, CEO, Crowley Webb
Zach Schneider, partner, Fifteen
Patrick Finan, co-founder and principal, Block Club
Carolyn Human, Carolyn Human Communications
Bill Patterson, VP/executive creative director, Gelia
Christine Dougherty, senior vice president and managing director, Mower

The panel answered audience questions on a wide range of questions.

On the RFP process

Many on the panel agreed on being picky when responding to RFPs, not just to manage staff time, but also to be realistic about what a future with that client would look like.

On retaining talent

Each panelist discussed maintaining a work/life balance for employees to increase happiness. They each prioritized transparency throughout the agency, to further empower employees. Some ideas like flexible scheduling, dogs in the office, and even an abroad residency program were discussed.

On making mistakes

Misspellllllings, tpyos, and human resource mistakes colored the past of each participant. The main emphasis was to learn from mistakes. Advertising and creative endeavors are inherently risky. Mistakes happen. Though inevitable, the key is to not repeat mistakes.


Ad Week isn’t over! We’ve got more events, including our Spotlight Speaker Series on Thursday.

AdWeek Blog Events Stuff

Recap: Speed Networking, Ad Week Edition

Once upon a time, 90 percent of our events consisted of just showing up at a bar and chatting with people. Now, our events are focused around shared experiences, like industry speakers, skill-based lectures, and mentoring the next generation of advertisers. We love it, and based on those surveys we send you periodically, you seem to be on board too.

But we missed the freeform networking, and members from smaller companies started mentioning it’s hard to network at some of our largest events of the year. To top it off, it was becoming commonplace to hear someone ask a friend at the agency across the street, “Know of any freelancers looking for projects right now?”

Based on all that, we set out to do something about it. Cue the creation of Speed Networking: Ad Week Edition.

We had no clue if it would work. Networking is a love-hate relationship for a lot of people. But we knew the need was there, so we decided to give it a shot. If it flopped, then at least we could show up to the Member Appreciation party and say we tried. If it worked, well, that’s why there’s a colon built into the naming structure already.

On Wednesday, October 17th, 20 people showed up to Buffalo Distilling Co. down in Larkinville, grabbed a drink, and awkwardly sat down at tables across from one another. One hour and ten rounds of self-imposed networking later, attendees lingered at the bar to continue conversations and discuss projects more in-depth.

On paper, it looked like a success. Ten companies, including six agencies, sent familiar faces (at least to anyone who has interviewed in the local ad scene lately). And ten freelancers with skill sets ranging from copywriting to videography to media education brought their A-game and elevator pitches. No one quit halfway and dozens of business cards were passed across tables.

The real proof came a few days later, when emails and text messages started trickling in from participants on both sides, thanking us for hosting the event. Real business connections were made that night, and actual working relationships had begun as a result.

Keep an eye out for more Speed Networking events in the future. If you want to see a different match-up, (perhaps companies and agencies looking for students interested in internships) let us know.