For the last forty years, Davis Elen has sent a few selected employees to take part in the 4A’s Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies (IAAS) annual training program. IAAS is the advertising industry’s longest-running and arguably the most highly regarded training program, enabling rising, promising agency professionals to work in a real-life marketing environment and challenging them to greater creative thinking. This year we had two employees participate, one of whose team was named the winning team. Here’s their takeaway from the program.

What was your first impression of the course?

Lara Sassounian, Assistant Account Executive: The first class, I could tell it was a commitment. It was an opportunity to learn more, to be outside of one particular department, and delve into media, strategy, insights, which really excited me.

Did your impression of the course change over time?

Molly Davis, Account Executive: A lot of the time we felt like we were scrambling since it was a lot of information to take in. But I ended up gaining so much more than I could have ever possibly imagined. It became less about trying to absorb everything from the lectures and more about working together as a team. 

Lara: My team and I just kept thinking, okay, we have this foundation now but let’s go back and do more research and talk to more focus groups. I don’t think you can ever stop building on what you’re doing in advertising. I think it all kind of blends together and this was an opportunity to take a campaign from start to finish and present it.

How did your team prepare for the “big idea” pitch?

Lara: It was an ongoing process. Like the week and a half leading up to the presentation, we were looking at our idea with a critical eye, thinking about what can stay and what is essential to telling this narrative. What is fluff that isn’t contributing and is actually diluting our strong messaging? 

Molly: Yes, I can definitely relate to that. I think about the last week or so I was kind of losing my mind just editing, editing, editing. Our team was so motivated to provide the best possible argument and the best possible work. Whether or not we were able to execute that, who knows! But we were still actively striving for that which was a really great experience. 

How was working with your team?

Lara: All teams have their ebbs and flows and as long as you’re putting your best foot forward, that’s what counts. 

Molly: This program helped me find my voice and feel creative. In this setting, I found the motivation and support to let my mind go there and see what I could come up with. I left feeling pretty creative at the end of the day, which was great!

As being a part of the winning team, you have the opportunity to come back next year and be a mentor to another competing team in the program. Are you looking forward to it?

Lara: Even just taking part in it was something that I treasured so winning was just an opportunity to show all of this work and present it in a way that we all felt proud as a team. Next year, I will be a mentor for one of the teams and I am looking forward to imparting my experience and also the message of what happens when you put your different specializations aside and you all just focus on a common goal. Of course, this experience would not have been the same without my team members and the mentor I had myself. And now I get to pay it forward.

Were you motivated to win? Early on, this course was presented as a challenge, as a competition. Was this something as a team that you all spoke about and desired? 

Lara: That’s a great question. I did not think about winning at all. My team and I never spoke about winning. We focused on the task and took each week as it came and over time. We put in all this work and effort to put out the best possible work, and it was only after we presented that we thought “Oh, we really want to win.”

Thanks to Molly and Lara for their excellent work. Congratulations to the winning team and we look forward to next year!


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