FALL 2017 - NYC

The SoDA Academy is a two-day, invitation-only learning conference built on the dual roles of senior staff within the agency community: Making and Managing.

SoDA collaborates with leaders at top digital agencies, entrepreneurs, education experts and client-side marketers to design and develop an experience that is truly unique – not the usual conference, nor a one-size-fits-some executive training session.

The Academy’s mission is to transform professional education for digital marketing leaders through radical collaboration and hands-on, peer-to-peer learning in a way that allows delegates to emerge more capable, more successful and more connected with their peers from around the globe.

Opening Reception

Drinks and conversation among delegates and faculty in Manhattan. We’re finalizing the location from an array of very cool venue options, so stay tuned for more details as the event approaches!

Day One is designed to introduce attendees to new ways of interacting in a learning environment - within their subject matter tracks, attendees will engage in open and frank discussions of pressing challenges, unmet needs, and emerging opportunities. We’ll look at both trends affecting the disciplines and the roles of each discipline in agency management, growth, and thought leadership.

  • NEW IN 2016 SoDA has a broad range of member companies, not only in terms of geographic location and areas of digital expertise, but also in terms of size. However, in this track, we’ll focus on the unique needs, challenges and opportunities faced by leaders of shops in the <50 FTE range. Session topics will include:

    • Start a Fire: Leading People and Establishing a Great Culture
    • Cultivating a Winning Environment and Business Model—Choosing and Articulating a Destination for the Enterprise
    • Assessing Team Engagement: Identifying and Retaining the People Most Responsible for Success
    • Moving From a Project Business to a Relationship-Based Business
    • Organizing through Phases of Growth & Evolving the Role of the CEO to Meet Changing Requirements
    • The Common Risks Faced by Digital Agencies, and How to Mitigate Them
    • Business Models that Meet the Long-Term Needs of Owners
    • Defining Expectations…How to Realize Financial Value from Years of Hard Work


  • In this track, senior business development talent will leverage the insight and expertise of the SoDA community in developing the business of digital agencies. Session topics will include:

    • Effective Strategies & Best Practices for Lead Generation
    • Analysis of the RFP Process & How Clients Search for and Evaluate Agency Partners
    • The Art of Pitching—What Wins & Why
    • Optimum Strategies for Evaluating Opportunities & Tracking Business Development
    • Client Development & Upselling—What Metrics to Employ
    • Leveraging New Clients: Nurturing Long-Term Relationships and Repeat Business
    • Pricing Strategies and Alternative Compensation Approaches
    • Evolving from Project-Based New Business to AOR Engagements


  • In this track, delegates will address the overlap of digital design and user experience, and the growing influence of design thinking on agency practice. Session topics will include:

    • Instilling and Nurturing Innovative Design Thinking
    • Personal Branding & Professional Growth for Design Leaders
    • Approaches to Collaborative Design & the Growing Role of Generative Design
    • Applying Experience Design Tenets to Different Types of Emerging Digital Experiences
    • Incorporating a Design Thinking Approach throughout the Entire Agency
    • Exploring the Intersection of Design, Data Science and Business Understanding
    • Looking at Businesses through the Lens of Design


  • In this track, delegates will focus on the role of finance in guiding growth and innovation for digital agencies. Session topics will include:

    • The Base Operating Model for Agencies: Best Practices for Establishing your Rate Card, Utilization, Overhead, and EBIT Targets
    • Revenue: Balancing Capacity and Demand: Tracking Contracted Projects, Resourcing, Contingent Labor and Integrating your Pipeline
    • The Metrics We Track and Tools We Use: Implications for Information Systems
    • Project Pricing: How to Use Gross Margin Analysis as a Tool to Manage Project Profitability from Pricing through Completion
    • Managing Cash: Build Confidence in your Ability to Forecast your Cash Balance and Develop Skills to Avoid Cash Crunches
    • Driving Agency Valuation: What Are, and How to Report on, the Key Drivers for Enterprise Value as well as Secondary Factors that Enhance or Detract from Stakeholder Value


  • In this track, delegates will focus on improving the way agencies, production companies and others in our industry operate, structure teams, and orchestrate workflows to create innovative, collaborative and effective businesses. Session topics will include:

    • Navigating Key Operational Pivot Points: Achieving Efficient Operational Growth
    • Refining and Improving the Procurement Process
    • Analyzing & Implementing Various Workflow Models
    • Achieving the Right Agency Environment: Balancing Collaboration with Accountability
    • Managing Operations During Times of Crisis; Navigating the Downturns
    • Emerging Estimation Methods and Alternative Compensation Models
    • Selecting and Optimally Employing the Best Tools for Operational Measurement
    • Determining the Efficacy of Outsourcing


  • In this track, participants will explore the models, practice and value of project management and production in digital agencies. Session topics will include:

    • Best Practices for Planning, Scoping & Resourcing
    • Optimizing Tools and Methods for QA & Workflow Management
    • Understanding the Distinction Between Project Managers and General Operations
    • Recruiting & Developing Project Managers During Times of Increasing Complexity
    • Navigating the Most Common Obstacles & Potential Mistakes
    • Scoping in Agile or Non-Fixed Cost Environments
    • Effectively Partnering with Account Management to Drive Successful Client Relationships
    • Seamless Collaboration to Enhance Quality throughout the Project Lifecycle


  • In this track, participants will be challenged to rethink and 'level up' their skills and practice when it comes to strategy within a digital agency setting. Session topics will include:

    • Running a Strategy Discipline: Incorporating Strategy throughout Your Agency
    • Understanding How Other Agencies are Implementing Strategy
    • Best Methods to Hire & Mentor Strategists
    • Where Strategy Fits into a Process (or Lack of Process)
    • Sharing Best Practice Deliverables and Activities
    • What the Next Wave of Strategy and Strategists Look Like

    Note: On Day 3, we will offer a separate Master Class on Business Strategy for Digital Agencies, including a focus on how to evolve your company strategy based on a variety of factors (including agency growth, changes in the marketplace, and other variables). Such business strategy topics will not be covered in the Day 2 track described above.


  • NEW IN 2016 In this track, delegates will explore the models and ‘best known’ practices top digital agencies are using to recruit, cultivate and retain talent. Session topics will include:

    • Recruiting & Staging for Future Innovation: Incorporating Design Thinking into Talent
    • Future Workforces: Their Development & Composition
    • Acquiring Top Talent Amidst Increasing Competition
    • Training for Creative Leadership: Education & Mentorship to Optimize Talent
    • Creating a Winning Culture: Building Agency Innovation & Purpose
    • The Employee Experience—Establishing Key Benchmarks & Milestones
    • Developing & Implementing Effective Diversity Initiatives
    • Five Top Trends in Agency Compensation


  • In this track, delegates will share best practices on fundamental issues and challenges agency tech teams face - both today and in the foreseeable future. Session topics will include:

    • Using Modern Workflows to Deliver Effectiveness
    • Tooling to Maintain Efficiency
    • The Role of Technology Within a Collaborative Agency Environment
    • Managing Libraries and Frameworks (Combating JavaScript Fatigue)
    • Recruiting, Developing & Retaining Technology Teams
    • Optimizing Process: How to Properly Estimate and Maintain Development Projects
    • Developing Technology for Mobile & Wearables
    • Implementing Effective Post-Project Support Initiatives
    • Directing Efforts to Achieve Consistent Compliance with Disability Legislation


New in 2016, delegates will be able to choose their own adventure on Day 2 from a broad mix of interdisciplinary as well as discipline-specific sessions.

Delegates who wish to remain in a discipline-specific environment (with other Design & Design Thinking leads, for example) will be able to select from an array of Master Classes that will be even more intimate than the Day 1 tracks, allowing participants to dive deeper and to explore additional topics within a rigorous collaborative learning environment.

Meanwhile, cognizant of the fact that work within modern digital agencies is not brought to fruition within a silo at the individual discipline level, delegates will also be able to choose from interdisciplinary sessions focused on the multiple, cross-cutting ways practice areas within agencies intersect and overlap. We’ll offer sessions around agency leadership and innovation, as well as focused workshops on how disciplines such as strategy, analytics and design thinking (for example) should collaborate to produce the most impactful digital experiences possible.


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Museum of the Moving Image

We are thrilled to announce that New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image will serve as our headquarters for the 2016 edition of The SoDA Academy. The museum’s inspiring architecture, light-filled gallery spaces, digital learning suites and expansive courtyard will serve as the perfect backdrop for this year’s event.

The recently transformed museum features a stunning, modern and versatile building by architect Thomas Leeser with spaces that will enable even greater levels of collaboration and delegate interaction this year.

The Academy’s Opening Reception will take place on Sunday evening in Manhattan (November 13, 6-9PM). The location is being finalized from an array of fantastic venue options, so stay tuned for more details as the event approaches!

And in true SoDA style, the conversations initiated during the daytime sessions will continue in a more social setting on the evenings of November 14-15. Details on evening activities will be released in the coming months.


Located less than 10 minutes away from midtown Manhattan by subway or car, the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) is situated on the campus of the historic Kaufman Astoria Studios in Long Island City (LIC).

LIC has quickly emerged as one of NYC’s most vibrant neighborhoods and exciting cultural centers. With celebrated artist studios and galleries, popular eateries, historic beer gardens and cultural institutions (including MoMA PS1, The Noguchi Museum, SculptureCenter, and Socrates Sculpture Park, among others), we’re thrilled to bring our international audience of digital visionaries to this thriving area of NYC.

Hotel Accomodations

Academy delegates will be able to choose from a variety of hotels in midtown Manhattan and Long Island City, including the trendy Paper Factory Hotel which is two short blocks from the Museum where the daytime events will be held. Details on discounted hotel pricing will be provided after delegates complete the pre-qualification and registration process.


SoDA serves as a network and voice for entrepreneurs and innovators around the globe who are creating the future of marketing and digital experiences.

Adobe is the Official Founding Sponsor of SoDA.


If you have questions about The SoDA Academy or SoDA as an organization please contact communications@sodaspeaks.com

SoDA will be working with a small number of partners on The SoDA Academy on an invite-only basis. If you are interested in discussing partnership opportunities, please contact Pamela Strother at pamela.strother@sodaspeaks.com and 202-486-5990.