What I learnt at AANA Reset 2022: Purpose, Priorities, Pop Culture and Perspective

Joyce Tan
By Joyce Tan | 1 June 2022
Joyce Tan

GroupM’s Young Leaders Committee NCo joined clients and execs at AANA RESET this year. Mindshare’s Joyce Tan reflects on the powerful, challenging and actionable insights from the day.

Bigger. Bolder. Braver. These were the three words that rang clear as day in my head as I stepped out of a packed domestic terminal airport to head home, instantaneously greeted by a gust of crisp Melbourne breeze.  

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending AANA Reset Live in Sydney along with GroupM’s Young Leaders Committee nCo. GroupM has partnered with AANA as the first Pay it Forward partner for RESET this year. This partnership aligns with GroupM’s vision to shape the next era of media and make advertising better for people.

And we invited more than 200 students and young people from diverse backgrounds to access the live stream for free, which I believe is a brilliant initiative to build up the next generation of passionate and talented people in our industry.

With an impressive line-up of speakers including 2022 Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott, Luke Pearson, Founder and CEO of IndigenousX, international speakers such as Gus Balbontin and Beto Fernandez Co-Founder & Creative of purpose-drive creative agency Activista LA and more, I knew we were in for a day of being challenged and inspired – boy, I was ready!  

As I walked across the beautiful outdoor terrace with the sun shining down, the buzz of being at an in-person event was palpable.

Indistinct chatter, reunion hugs and beaming faces filled the atmosphere with an energy like no other. I was reminded of how lucky we are to be part of a vibrant industry that is better together. We’re better as a collective when there’s meaningful connections and collaboration, enabling us to create greater innovation that drives impact.  

The man, the legend, Dylan Alcott, opened the event with a powerful talk. He said that while the word ‘disabled’ is often seen as a bad word, actually, ‘being different is not a bad thing’. I paused to reflect on this as he shared that many people feel embarrassed talking about disability.

I wondered how often we’ve chosen to ignore the elephant in the room because we felt uncomfortable bringing up the topic of disability out of fear or indifference? How powerful would it be if we recognise that the best way to learn is to ask the questions we don’t have the answers to – especially the difficult ones?

Dylan’s life purpose is to help people with disability live the life they deserve to live, and help them to unleash their full potential and achieve their dreams. It’s a true reflection of an intentional life filled with Purpose and Passion.

As I looked at this man who radiated authenticity and warmth from across the room, it struck me that the circumstances in our lives do not dictate the life we live. Rather, it’s how and what we make of life that truly matters. We all have a choice, we always do.  

His story also reminded me of the importance of disability representation and inclusion within all our workplaces. This reiterates the significance of what GroupM Young Leaders Committee nCo are doing in this space to bridge this gap and advocate for better visibility for people with disability across the industry.

The demonstration of bravery, resilience and leadership continued to emerge as key themes as Julie Stevanja, founder of Style Runner, Edwina McCann, former Vogue editor, and Luke Pearson, the founder of IndigenousX, took the stage and spoke of the power of purpose-led marketing - that’s when the magic happens.

We were joined by Beto Fernandez, founder and creative director of Activista Los Angeles,  virtually and his profound one-liner ‘nothing is better than an idea whose time has come’ captivated me right from the start. A principle of Activista LA which stood out to me was using tricks of advertising to connect Purpose and Pop Culture.

This got me thinking as pop culture can often be dismissed as frivolous or shallow. However, we forget that pop culture is actually meaningful, lived culture. It has the ability to impact and shape society – particularly when coupled with impactful and provocative ideas.

Do we take the time to step away from the grind? Are we deliberate in drawing inspiration from people, places or things that give us that little spark of excitement? Beto’s talk was a timely reminder to me of how inspiration comes from the outside, and to prioritise consistency and progress instead of perfection.

As the afternoon unfolded and we settled back into our seats with post-lunch treats (chocolate coated Tim Tam fingers- ahh pure genius!), Dee Madigan’s advice to do less, but do it well, had me nodding in agreement. Her concise and practical articulation of how agencies and clients can work better, to do better work was tremendously insightful.

When Futurist and former CTO of Lonely Planet, Gus Balbontin stepped up for the last session of the day, as soon as he spoke, everything stopped. This man graced the stage with his charisma, humour and wit, speaking to the crowd on the future of marketing from Web3 to blockchain technology, NFTs and Bitcoin. He urged us all to have a think about the last time we demonstrated courage in our lives, because if we don’t give our minds novelty or stimulation we slip into a sense of false comfort.

As I pondered on Gus’ words, it dawned on me that AANA RESET could easily be seen as just another marketing conference to file away, as we get back to the office. There are many distractions in life that rob our attention. It’s easy to fall back into our familiar routines as we carry on with our day-to-day and bursting inbox.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way.  

AANA Reset was undoubtedly inspiring and thought-provoking. To make the most of it, however, I believe it’s important to identify the key learnings and action points that we can bring to work and life in practical ways.

It could be a new habit to cultivate, a shift in ways of working, or a call for help. My advice? Share at least one action point with a friend, colleague or family who can help keep you accountable. That’s how change takes place.

For me, RESET has been a catalyst that has allowed me to rethink my purpose, redefine my priorities and realign my perspective in small yet actionable ways.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and change doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, or which career stage you’re at. We can all do this, and that is to live Bigger, Bolder and Braver each day – one step at a time. 

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