Color photo of outdoor Acquia signage at Engage Miami

Honoring Dreamers, Builders, and Doers: The Acquia Engage Digital Freedom Tour

October 28, 2022 7 minute read
The annual Acquia Engage event takes a roadshow format in 2022, kicking off in Miami
Color photo of outdoor Acquia signage at Engage Miami

Engage, our yearly customer and partner event, returned to an in-person format this week with one important change: It’s now on the road. Instead of a two-day event in one location, Engage will take place live in four cities — Miami, Chicago, New York, and London — through mid 2023.

We’re calling it the Digital Freedom Tour because the roadshow celebrates the creative potential that Acquia’s products enable and realize. With Acquia, organizations and partners are no longer held back by limitations — like gummed up workflows or chaotic data and content — that keep them from producing ambitious digital experiences. Our open products and digital experience platform (DXP) enable customers to compose and create digital experiences, free from technical constraints.

We recognize the work of our customers and partners through the Engage Awards. Honoring dreamers, builders, and doers across industries and geographies, as well as organizations of all sizes, the Engage Awards spotlight digital experiences that illustrate the best examples in marketing creativity, technical innovation, and business outcomes today. Categories like Reimagining Customer Experience (see the collaboration between Shake Shack and Bounteous), Quickest to Launch (check out the speedy effort from Molson Coors and Ameex), and Strongest Brand Activation (a can’t-miss story from Autodesk) point to the many exciting digital experiences our customers and partners regularly deliver.

While rightfully applauding these inspiring winners, Engage offers plenty more. From panel discussions and customer stories to roundtables and exhibition booths, there are numerous opportunities for attendees to network and learn from each other. Proof was in the multiple times that presenters and participants cited one another during the Engage Digital Freedom Tour kickoff in Miami. In a panel discussion, for instance, Melissa Torres, Advisor, Digital Publishing, at Phillips 66, referenced the approach that McCormick took when using Acquia DAM for its many sub-brands as she related her own company’s experience with Acquia DAM.

But that’s just one of many takeaways from Engage Miami. Let’s recap other highlights.

Acquia shares exciting news

The start of the Digital Freedom Tour coincided with the release of the annual Acquia Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report. Acquia leadership noted its findings throughout the proceedings, particularly the growing importance of a composable martech stack that allows organizations to mix and match business components from different sources.

Recently released product updates were also reviewed, such as major updates to Acquia Code Studio. Now, users can enjoy automatic updates to Composer packages, as well as automatic builds, tests, and deployments of Drupal applications through continuous integration pipelines in Code Studio. These functions are just a few of the enhancements that the updates provide.

Then there’s the open source, Headless Starter Kit for Drupal. With it, users can expect build time for Drupal applications to shrink by up to 50%.

Acquia co-founder, CTO, and Drupal creator Dries Buytaert, as well as Senior Vice President of DXP Products Deanna Ballew, also looked ahead to coming innovations, such as Code Assembly early next year and Project Browser in Drupal 10, set for release in December. The Acquia product roadmap has never been so exciting.

Customer stories lead the way

Capabilities and features only suggest how and in what direction a user may take a product. Customer stories tell us how they actually used the product and the success they enjoyed. Engage was filled with such stories, with each illustrating unique end points that organizations can achieve with Acquia’s products and partners.


Joe Hansen, Vice President of Digital Communications at Novavax, for instance, explained how the company faced an extreme time crunch at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. A relatively small biotech company at the time, Novavax had to quickly prepare for the digital world stage when its vaccine was approved in late December 2020 by a number of regulatory bodies worldwide. The company knew it would soon have to not only refresh its existing website to accommodate an expected increase in site traffic but launch other sites just as quickly on the same timeline.

Supported by Publicis Sapient, Novavax used multiple Acquia solutions to reach its goal. In fact, Hansen said composability was key to their efforts, as was the ability to prototype in a dev environment, which Drupal allows. Novavax developers no longer had to use Figma or Sketch, saving them time.

Acquia DAM also gave the company a single source of truth for regulatory documents worldwide. “The key to a successful DAM is the taxonomy,” Hansen said.

Sun & Ski Sports

Joining Hansen on stage was Alec Fumurescu, Data Analyst at Sun & Ski Sports. The specialty outdoor retailer is big on acquiring first-party data and, increasingly, zero-party data, he said. Acquia CDP helps them sift through and de-dupe that data because the company interacts with customers through multiple channels — in-store, social media, email, and so on.

You want to get customers the information they want and only that information, so you’re not overwhelming them, he continued.

To that end, Acquia CDP helps tremendously, especially the machine learning capabilities of its ML Studio. Its integration with Klaviyo takes the personalization that ML Studio facilitates and helps it scale. The combination of the two has saved Sun & Ski Sports time and allowed the company to deliver better CX through email targeting. 

Fumurescu reported that, with Acquia CDP in place, the company has seen a 200% increase in responses to its digital ads, as well as a 2,000% — “if that even is such a thing,” he said as attendees chuckled — jump in responses to direct mail, which is typically an expensive outreach effort. In short, the results have been outstanding.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Demonstrating the impact of another Acquia product, Julia King, Vice President, Internet Services Group for Sony Pictures Entertainment, explained how critical Acquia Cloud Next, our Kubernetes-native Drupal hosting platform created through Acquia’s collaboration with AWS, has been to the organization. Pointing to the example of a major game show that her division supports, King noted how viewers tend to log in to the show’s website two to five minutes after an announcement is made about potential winnings even though they might have two days to do so. That tendency means the site can expect upwards of 45,000 origin requests per minute.

Anticipating such spikes, King reaches out to Acquia leadership for support and receives it time and time again. As a result, when asked what freedoms Acquia products afforded her, King responded, “The freedom to walk away from my computer at 6 o’clock at night.” Rather than working past normal business hours, King said she and her teammates could gather and prepare for the traffic spikes — and be done in 15 minutes.

A note of gratitude

Examples of successful customers and partners were plentiful at Engage Miami, with Acquia President and CEO Mike Sullivan saying that their stories are his favorite part of the event each time.

None of it would be possible, however, without the generous support of our sponsors, who deserve every ounce of our gratitude. We are thankful to Platinum sponsor Bounteous; Diamond+ sponsors TA Digital and commercetools; roundtable and bespoke sponsors Genuine, Lingotek, SearchStax, and Velir; workshop sponsors Ameex, EPAM, Third and Grove, and VMLY&R; as well as exhibitors CI&T, Elevated Third, FFW, Perficient, Phase2, and Srijan. Without their partnership, Engage would not be, well, engaging in quite the same way. We thank them endlessly.

Where to go from here

Miami was just the first in the five-city Digital Freedom Tour that is Engage. Be sure to join us for the remaining legs of the tour, which will feature new customer stories and partners, as well as not-to-be-missed announcements from Acquia leadership.

Next up: the Windy City. See you there and in New York City and London!

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