Griffin Farley’s Search For Beautiful Minds – From NYC to Toronto

Margarita Marshall is a freelance Brand Planning and Digital Strategy Consultant in Toronto. She was a participant in the Griffin Farley Search For Beautiful Minds in 2014 and returned to New York City this July with the mission of launching similar event in Toronto.

Beautiful Minds NYC2New York City is a lot of things: Crowded. Fast-paced. Exhilarating. It’s also home to the Griffin Farley Search For Beautiful Minds (GFBM), an annual hybrid strategy and planning bootcamp and competition run by ad agency Bartle, Bogle, and Hegarty (BBH) July 24 – 29. I recently came back from a whirlwind trip where I attended the showcase gala to watch the finalist teams pitch their best to a packed house at Google, having participated in the program myself last summer.

Power networker that I am, I filled my trip with a ton of meetings to connect with new contacts and refresh existing ones, all while dealing with the famously oppressive NYC summer heat.

Day 1 – Future Breakfast

I landed late on a Monday night and headed to my friend Jacklyn’s place in West Harlem where I was staying, where we immediately nerded out and talked strategy for half the night. Somehow managed to get myself out the door at 7 a.m. the next morning to head over to Hyper Island for a Future Breakfast session.

Beautiful Minds NYC1
Future Breakfast – photo courtesy of Hyper Island

It’s basically a free demo and networking event where some of their faculty give a taste of their teaching methodology. For me, it turned out to be a great way to jumpstart my networking trip by forcing me to collaborate with a group of strangers to draw parallels between digital platforms and presenting what we came up with. Plus get some free coffee and bagels!

My next stop was 360i to meet with Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Lee Maicon to hear more about his perspective on planning. Turned out Lee was in the mood for an impromptu, and much appreciated, portfolio review. I got some great feedback about the thinking behind some recent work for freelance clients, and an insider’s view on what it takes to stand out in NYC as a planner-strategist in front of someone as smart and experienced as Lee.

After that, I popped down to the financial district to meet up with an old friend for a few pints at one of New Yorks’s oldest bars, before Jacklyn and I both got seriously lost trying to find each other for a late pho dinner in Chinatown.

Day 2 – The Showcase

Did you know the security badges for visitors to BBDO’s New York office are printed with invisible ink? Red stripes show up on the badges several hours after printing to prevent re-entry. I was there to meet up with Senior Strategist Jonathan Colmenares, one of the founders of OpenStrategy to find out more about his motivation for that project. OpenStrategy, a fantastic resource hub for free tools that planners and strategists can use in their work, is designed to help minimise the time spent looking for tools. Their awesome newsletter highlights new tools as well as helpful articles. Props to Faris Yakob for suggesting I reach out to connect with Jonathan!

That night, some of my fellow GFBM alumni and I headed over to Google’s NYC headquarters for the 2015 GFBM showcase. I was lucky enough to find myself in conversation with Suzanne Powers, CSO of McCann Worldwide, during the networking session, before we headed to the (un-)official GFBM showcase after-party at The Tippler to catch up with friends from the program.

Day 3 – Heading To BBH

Margarita at McCann
Margarita Marshall (right) and former colleague Jacklyn at McCann NYC.

Day 3 was fueled by delicious flautas in Soho with my fellow GFBM alum Garett Levy, who gave me a great primer on research start-up L2, that focuses on luxury brands. Not to sound all sales-y, but if you’re working on a luxury brand or category, Garett can hook you up with a number of research report options at different budget levels to fuel your discovery phase.

Last, but certainly not least, I headed to BBH for the presentation of my life. Anyone who knows me, knows how often I talk about how much fun and how much I learned at GFBM 2014. The very last thing I did in NYC, literally before getting on the bus to head back to the airport, was deliver a presentation to Sarah Watson, CSO of BBH, who founded GFBM as a way of honouring the memory of the late Griffin Farley.

Announcing GFBM Canada

What was the presentation about? Well, I’m very proud to announce that when it comes to GFBM, some things don’t happen “only in New York.” I will be leading the expansion of GFBM to Canada! Sarah was so impressed with the presentation (thanks, Izzy, for helping design the deck!) that she gave me full ownership of the program.

So with that, meet team GFBM Canada:

Margarita Marshall, Event Director
Team: Izzy Hegazy, Chelsea Thompson-O’Brien, Ben Myers, Khrystyna Horstka, and Umar Ghumman.

So make sure to mark November 11, 2015, in your calendars, the showcase night in Toronto where our fresh thinking participants will be pitching their hearts out to a live client in front of a room full of some the greatest minds in Canadian marketing, advertising, technology, and innovation.

Additional details of the program will be announced as the event approaches. See the GFBM Canada website for more.
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About Margarita Marshall

Margarita Marshall is a freelance Brand Planning and Digital Strategy Consultant in Toronto.

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