What Digitas Chicago & SF Strategists learned at UNTHINK LIVE

Chicago, IL

39 Strategists from Chicago and San Francisco’s Social Strategy, Connections Strategy, Experience Strategy and Creative Strategy teams came together in downtown Chicago last week to form the first annual UNTHINK LIVE event.

UNTHINK was established by David “Chizzy” Chriswick (SVP, Creative Strategy) in late 2017 as an “under the radar” strategists’ forum to discuss more evidence-based marketing, drawing from the world of marketing science and using published data that meets academic standards.

“There’s so much BS floating around our industry these days as we desperately try to stay relevant, and prove our worth. UNTHINK is a refreshingly simple, level-headed review and debate around real facts that cuts through all those fads and fashions that can too often distract us from the more timeless principles of advertising effectiveness and brand growth.” – David Chriswick, SVP Creative Strategy

The event was hosted by sponsor Mediascience Labs (https://www.mediasciencelabs.com/), an innovative research company that uses neuroscience techniques to measure and improve content in many forms. Founder Dr. Duane Veran said “we were delighted to host a bunch of smart and curious strategists from Digitas at our Chicago facility – an appropriate setting for their scientific curiosity and pursuit of real truth for more evidence-based strategies to help brands better connect with people.”

Throughout the day the team enjoyed talks from Strategist peers, highlighted below: 

  • Ryan Shaw (Chicago Media) talked about how Digitas’ UNTHINK initiatives -- to promote the value of empirical evidence in their strategic offering -- have helped make the Whirlpool team think differently about media strategy and be encouraged by the early signs of success on brand and business to date.
  • Morgan Pomish (Chicago Connections Strategy) discussed the multi-layered topic of personalization, and used examples of the many ways one can personalize for greater relevancy, with evidence in support of personalization as a strategy to greater ad effectiveness. With this attendees were forced to UNTHINK the definition of “Personalization”.
  • Monica Loomba (San Francisco Creative Strategy) took the audience through the science of a first impression – a methodical perspective on making an impact with clients and colleagues alike that encouraged everyone to UNTHINK these often overlooked critical success factors in selling strategy recommendations.
  • Caitlin Cody (Chicago Creative Strategy) opened eyes to lessons learned, insights uncovered and guidance offered by the most unexpected non-business, non-advertising books. As a result, the team is now UNTHINKING their reading choices.
  • Rachael Datz and Kate Newman (Chicago Social Strategy) spurred an in-depth conversation around “instagrammable experiences” and the way that Instagram plays a role in how public spaces, restaurants, museums, hotels, and even food packaging are now being built with social sharing in mind.  
  • Stephanie Kelly (Chicago Creative Strategy) made many UNTHINK their negative impressions (with good reason) of the good old “brainstorm”. With some simple tools and tricks that Steph outlined, the team was convinced that with better planning and purpose, brainstorms can still be a tool to expedite hatching big ideas.
  • Marton Harsanyi (Chicago Creative Strategy) highlighted that belonging is a fundamental human and societal need, and it’s being eroded in multiple ways, including by the size of the economy and accelerated by technology and policies. With examples, he urged audience members to UNTHINK the way brands can and should cultivate a sense of community and belonging.
  • Caroline James (Chicago Creative Strategy) introduced the wider group to her Cookies from the Cookie Jar newsletter that she sends out biweekly. With these ‘treats for the brain’, Caroline made everyone UNTHINK their media habits, encouraging curiosity beyond the marketing world; to seek out information, inspiration and stimulus and become more serendipitous and creative thinkers.
  • Justina Nyguen (Chicago Experience Strategy) pulled a wealth of published evidence to discuss habit-breaking and habit-forming, and things to UNTHINK when looking to build behavior change.
  • Alex Stuessey (Chicago Creative Strategy) pulled out his passion and flare for improv to help UNTHINK familiar frameworks, processes, and unchecked best practices that he believes endanger true creativity. In this final session Alex has everyone out of their seats to explore new patterns and new stories for more unexpected connections and better work.

At the end of the day, participants were asked to vote for their favorite UNTHINK Live talk based on interest and ‘unthinkiness’. Prizes were given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place: First place went to Stephanie Kelly for her talk that made everyone UNTHINK brainstorming; second and third prize went to Caitlin Cody and Morgan Pomish (respectively) for their riveting contributions.