2023 Portfolio Seminar

On the morning of November 11th at Daemen University, AAF Buffalo hosted its annual Portfolio Seminar. Students from all over Buffalo converged at Daemen’s Tower Gallery where Emma Lonnen, a Graphic Designer at Crowley Webb, Chelsea Turton, a Graphic Designer at Fisher Price, and Andy Rose, Vice President and Brand Development specialist at dPost, discussed the ins-and-outs of a great portfolio. With nearly 50 years experience between the three presenters, students gathered an array of input ranging from the technical to personal sides of presenting work.

Below are some takeaways and highlights:

  • Quality projects over the quantity of projects always! Every presenter agreed that showing even just 4 projects with interesting ideas, integrated or cross-channel solutions, and quality mockups went much further to recruiters than bombarding them with 10+ “small” pieces (those might be worth putting on social media).
  • Get out there! Networking is challenging, but coming to events like the ones AAF Buffalo hosts will help recruiters and agency professionals know who you are before applying and see that you’re out there and interested. It’s all about creating a connection, so don’t feel the need to be overly professional—strike up a conversation and say hello. You never know where it might go.
  • Submit your work in competitions. Competitions like the American Advertising Awards or the Don Nichols Scholarship Competition get tons of eyes on your work (and you!) without you having to wait for a formal job opening. Sometimes professionals at local agencies will make a note of the work they see and who it was by in case an opportunity opens up in the future. 
  • LinkedIn is a great place to be. Almost all the presenters have used LinkedIn in a professional capacity to find talent, connect with colleagues, or apply for jobs. LinkedIn is a great way to get your work, and yourself, out there—you’d be surprised who’s browsing for talent.
  • Be yourself. Each presenter noted they often see young professionals try to be “professional” or mimic the behavior of people they look up to. Show off who you are! Employers are looking for a diverse perspective to add to their team. They’re looking for a person who they’d like to spend 40 hours a week with, every week. Don’t be afraid to loosen up your shoulders and act natural, it’ll land you in a spot that’s a better fit for you and for them.

The tips in the bullets above represent a fraction of what Emma, Chelsea, and Andy covered this year, so mark your calendars for next November when three more Buffalo creatives will talk about what they think makes a killer portfolio.

Events Students Stuff

RECAP: Fall Agency Tour

On September 15th, 2023, AAF Buffalo hosted its annual Agency Tour event for our student membership. This year we focused on showcasing concise studios in downtown Buffalo with a specialized focus. Our first stop of the day was Mr. Smith, then to dPost, and then to White Bicycle. We had some great conversations, marveled at some great downtown views, and shared a lot of smiles.

Stop 1: Mr. Smith
Mr. Smith is located in downtown Buffalo on the intersection of Washington and Mohawk Street across the street from the Western New York Book Arts Center. This powerhouse agency, although compact in size, boasts an impressive portfolio, including collaborations with Labatt Brewing, Buffalo Collegiate, and Big Brothers Big Sister, among others. During our visit, we were captivated by the wisdom shared by Art Director Lindsay Neilson and Creative Director and Partner Chrissy Pyne. Their secret sauce? A genuine passion for building enduring client relationships, understanding brands from the inside out, and a work environment that’s both functional and inspiring.

Stop 2: dPost
After we got to meet the people behind the Mr. Smith name, we huffed it on foot over to dPost on Main Street just steps away from Shea’s Performing Arts Center. DPost describes themselves as a “modern content company” on their website, but after taking a trip around their studio, there’s way more to them than that. From editing to post-production, animation, 3D rendering, content capturing, studio space, content strategy, and more, dPost fits a lot behind the doors of their Main Street address. DPost has clients like Lowe’s, Ford, Wegmans, Fisher Price, and New Era and the material they make for them had us all blown away. We also had a blast seeing how they shoot slow motion and food commercials. (Pro tip from Shannon Silva: don’t eat the foot being filmed! It won’t be appetizing.)

Stop 3: White Bicycle
And just like that, we arrived at White Bicycle, at their new(ish) space on Ellicott Street. Like Mr. Smith and dPost, White Bicycle consists of a tight-knit team of creatives. Unlike Mr. Smith and dPost, White Bicycle describes their bread and butter as print design. While the studio develops numerous integrated campaigns and works on several branding projects a year, their print work for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, posters, and numerous album packaging designs always catch the attention of students’ eyes. Here, students spoke with Partner and “Design Monger” Kyle Morrissey and Senior Designer Chelsea Carney about how their team collaborates with digital whiteboards and a whole lot of post-its.

Thank you to everyone who came out to this year’s Agency Tour! Great questions were asked, valuable connections were made, and interesting conversations transpired between stops. We also want to express our gratitude to the agencies that took part and shared inspiring information. Their contributions not only benefit students on their college journey but also strengthen the local industry as a whole. We’re already excited for our next trip!

Events Students Stuff


Wednesday, August 23rd was a “hump day” for the books as AAF Buffalo hosted its annual Big Tip-Off event. No, we’re not talking about tips of advice. We’re talking about bar tips that go to a good cause! That’s right, The Big Tip-Off is a night where advertising and marketing pros volunteer to bartend, and their colleagues, friends, and families tip them as they compete to raise the most money for AAF Buffalo’s Scholarship Fund.

Crowd of industry professionals talking  Crowd gathers on the rooftop of Soho as they raise money for scholarships

This year, we headed back to the beautiful rooftop of Soho. Eight people represented their companies behind the pine, where they had 45 minutes to collect as many tips as possible. To raise the most money possible, agencies did what they do best – got creative. Amanda Widzinski of Mower went with a tattoo theme, handing out tattoos for tips. Devan Brady of Ingram Micro capitalized on the Barbie craze with a signature glittery pink drink. And Andy Rose of dPost, dressed as a unicorn. We’re not sure that theme had much rhyme or reason to it, other than unicorns never go out of style.

Amanda Widzinski from Mower behind the bar covered in (fake) tattoosBy the end of the night we raised $3,800! All of the tips went directly to the AAF Buffalo scholarship fund and will be used to support high school and college students interested in continuing their studies in advertising.

So, who took home the glittery gold trophy this year?

  1. Crowley Webb came in 1st place for money raised
  2. dPost came in 2nd place
  3. and Mower came in 3rd place

Scanning the QR codes to tip their favorite bartenderHuge shout out to the participating companies for lending their bartending talents for the night and adding their own personal touches to the open bar.

  •   The Martin Group
  •   Mr. Smith Agency
  •   Farm
  •   dPost
  •   Mower
  •   Crowley Webb
  •   Ingram Micro

Thank you to all who came out and donated. It’s always fun to close out the Buffalo summer with some hot competition.

Agency bartenders dressed for the competition

It’s not too soon to practice your bartending skills for next year! 

Events Students Stuff

RECAP: Buffalo Prep Student Tour

Buffalo Prep Day kicked off Wednesday, 8/9 with 13 students from Buffalo Prep touring local agencies. The Martin Group was the first stop on the list, where the students enjoyed some breakfast and got to know some members of the agency. They heard from TMG’s creative director who spoke to them about a PUMA x Footlocker campaign that the agency worked on a while back. The students were filled with curiosity of what it’s like to work at an agency and had a variety of insightful questions.

Next stop, just on the other side of Shea’s, dPost welcomed the kids from Buff Prep and took them on a tour of the post facilities and our studio spaces. They were engaged, asked all the right questions and champed at the bit to dive into the workshops we set up. They sprinkled shredded paper in slow motion, dressed a set, and talked gear before heading to our green room to break down some of our favorite projects. They were hungry for lunch but even hungrier to learn. Still, we know better than to get between teenagers and pizza so onto Crowley Webb for a lunch ‘n learn!

Students at Crowley WebbTo end the journey, Crowley Webb was thrilled to welcome Buffalo Prep students, providing an overview of Crowley Webb, showcasing some of the recent work, and highlighting ways to get involved in the advertising industry no matter what your passions are. We finished the afternoon with pizza and a tour of our agency, including our latest video addition, CW Studios!

AAF Buffalo is proud to have a strong partnership with Buffalo Prep, providing educational opportunities for the students to learn from some of the most talented professionals in Buffalo. Until next time!

Events Stuff

RECAP: 2023 Membership Appreciation

Every year we like to take time to thank all of our members for our past year successes and celebrate with one another the new year to come.

This year we held our thank you and celebration at one of the newest trendy spots in Buffalo—Twin Petrels Seltzer Co.—where members were able to catch up with another over refreshing, creative, seltzer-based mocktails and cocktails as well as a delicious spread of food. This event brings the opportunity for our members to look back on the year and the accomplishments that came with it as well as what to look forward to as we kick off the new board year.

Thank you again to all of our members and sponsors! We would not be able to do this without your continued support and dedication to the Buffalo advertising community. 

Make sure to sign up for our newsletter mailing list at and follow us on our social channels to stay up to date on all of our events and happenings.


RECAP: Portfolio Review 2023

AAF Buffalo was back in person at UB’s Center for the Arts for its annual Portfolio Review event on April 29th from 10 AM – 1 PM. As always, students presented their best work to some of Buffalo’s brightest advertising pros and got invaluable feedback to take their work to the next level. 

This year, the club returned the event to its speed dating style, where students met with 15 pros in 15-minute 1-on-1 sessions for two and a half hours. Each participant presented their top 3 pieces, received feedback, and continued showing the rest of their portfolio. Pros from Crowley Webb, the Martin Group, Community Beer Works, White Bicycle, and more met with students this year and raved about students’ ability to communicate their design decisions effectively. 

Each year after students share their work with all the professional volunteers, the pros nominate two portfolio review scholarships for outstanding work, portfolio craftsmanship, and presentation skills. So please join us in congratulating the following students:

Portfolio Review Scholarship: Hannah Smith – LinkedIn
Portfolio Review Scholarship: Rachel Tranter
Honorable Mention: Julia Fay –  juliafayonline.comLinkedIn

The AAF board would like to thank all professional volunteers and give a major high five to all student participants. We can’t wait for next year!

(Pictured Left to Right: Julia Fay, Noah Herman, Hannah Smith, Rachel Tranter)

(Pictured: All student participants, professional volunteers, and resident buffoon Noah Herman)


RECAP: Don Nichols Scholarship 2023

AAF Buffalo hosts a scholarship competition annually honoring the late Buffalo great Don Nichols. Don Nichols began teaching at the Albright Art School and founded its Graphic Design Program in 1950. He brought it to UB, where he served as the program’s head until his death on July 7, 1987. He was an extraordinarily dedicated teacher who educated hundreds of graphic designers, several of whom attained national prominence. Nichols received the Osborn Award for Creative Excellence from Buffalo’s Art Directors/Communicators and the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching from UB in 1982.

The scholarship competition presents students studying fine arts, marketing & communications, design, photography, writing arts, and illustration with a theme and encourages them to submit work that comments on that theme. This year’s theme focused on information overload. Below is this year’s statement:

“To say we are constantly distracted is an understatement. We are all the time in front of at least two or three screens – with even more going on all around us. How does one concentrate, let alone disconnect? What’s your take on all this noise, or perhaps ways to escape it? Bring to life your thoughts and opinions in any medium you choose.”

After reviewing submissions, the AAF Buffalo Board tallied the votes and is excited to congratulate this year’s Don Nichols Scholarship Competition winners.

1st: Grace Amborski – Villa Maria College

2nd: Andre Smith – Villa Maria College

3rd: Michael Blake – Villa Maria College

Honorable Mention: Olivia Ebers – Villa Maria College

Honorable Mention: Chris Weitz – Villa Maria College


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!