Redefining 2018 With A Sense Of Purpose: Year-End Agency Survey
Ad biz provides contrast to a “toxic” lexicon fraught with “misinformation”

Looking back on the language of 2018 provides cause for pause. picked “misinformation” as its word of the year, on the heels of Oxford Dictionaries choosing “toxic.”

While misinformation has always existed, it became more prevalent in 2018, fueled in part by the rise of often intentionally misleading social media where “alternate facts” found receptive audiences. cited such examples as: Parkland school students becoming crisis actors instead of victims of violence; unfounded rumors about child kidnappers on WhatsApp leading to mob violence in India; and false news in Sri Lanka triggering riots that set the country’s Buddhist majority against Muslims.

Meanwhile “toxic” was chosen by Oxford as the word that reflected the ethos, mood and/or preoccupations of the passing year. Toxicity marked relationships, the political climate, manifested itself in character assassination and a lack of open-mindedness and civility.

Still, there’s cause for optimism based on some of what transpired this past year as the ad/filmmaking industry pushed back against “misinformation” and toxicity in a bid to redefine the conversation, and figuratively shape a more positive lexicon.

This mission and sense of purpose were evident in SHOOT’s Year-end Survey of advertising creatives and professionals. For example, Madison Wharton, global board member, integrated production for Forsman & Bodenfors, assessed, “What an intense year this has been. Our country is divided. The daily news is equally heartbreaking and terrifying. The planet is on a dangerous path. But in our industry, we have had moments of greatness. In our best moments, we’ve used our power for good.  We’ve asked brands to define their purpose and stand up for what they believe in. We’ve celebrated good deeds, courage, love, family, and compassion. We’ve focused on creating inclusive communities within our agency environments and worked to make our industry make-up more diverse. We’ve put our damn foot down on sexual harassment. We gained greater awareness of the impact of our buying power and are taking significant measures to diversify our production partners. We are using technology in new ways to enhance our production possibilities, making what used to be impossible now possible. And we’re using technology to simplify the lives of our audiences. I’m reminded of Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I’d like to think that our industry is more aware of its power and working towards a positive reaction now when it’s needed most.”

That positivity has yielded greater diversity and a pushback against gender discrimination. Gavin Lester, partner/chief creative officer at Zambezi, observed, “There were many things that shaped the year. Advancement in diversity and equality was one positive force, and it’s encouraging to see more women get the recognition and opportunities they deserve, in advertising and in culture at large, and for voices that were once suppressed to now be heard and affect change. In the ad world specifically, we’re continuing to see the agency model evolve dramatically. Smaller to mid-size firms are now at an advantage given their ability to do more with smaller budgets, pivot and adapt in ways that clients need to move at the speed of culture. We’re also seeing new players coming into the advertising space, from consultancies to production companies, looking to do and offer more, and creating new service options for marketers. Regardless of this evolution in our industry, true creative talent, breakthrough strategy and powerful ideas will always reign.”

Hilary Coate, head of integrated production at Venables Bell & Partners, added, “As a result of the #MeToo and Time’s Up Movements, brands are taking a harder look at themselves and the consumers with whom they are trying to connect, and making strides in engaging with female consumers in positive and constructive ways. Given this, we’re seeing an increase in campaigns with pro-female messages, and imagery to empower women and girls, which has helped to insert positive messages into the public narrative. There are new rules for marketing to women, and I imagine this will be very prevalent in 2019 as well.”

And progressive change can come in practical ways within the agency itself. When asked what work she was most proud of in 2018, Tasha Dean, head of integrated production at The Martin Agency, responded, “Eliminating the gender pay gap at the agency. I’ve learned that strong and focused leaders can make things happen fast and change the environment around them. Making progress versus talking about progress is very empowering. It’s encouraging for us all.”

SHOOT surveyed a cross-section of high-level ad agency professionals to gain their assessments of the trends, developments and work that highlighted 2018.

What follows are excerpts from feedback provided by agency respondents. Their full responses will appear on SHOOTonline. Links to that full article will appear in the 12/14 SHOOT Dailies and SHOOT>e.dition. For our Year-End Survey on the agency side, the following five questions were posed:

1) What industry trends or developments were most significant in 2018? 

2) How did your agency, network, service or studio adjust/adapt to the marketplace in 2018? (diversification, new resources/talent/technology, new strategies, etc.) You are welcome to cite a specific piece of work which shows how lessons learned in 2018 were applied.

3) What work in 2018 are you most proud of? 

4) Gazing into your crystal ball, what do you envision for the industry--creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint--in 2019? 

5) What’s your New Year’s resolution, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your agency or division? Do you have a personal New Year’s resolution that you can share? And if you like, tell us about a project you’ll be working on in early 2019


Click here for a slideshow of survey responses, or click on the headshots below.

Name Title Company
Andy Bird Chief Creative Officer Publicis New York
Gerard Caputo Chief Creative Officer BBH NY
Hilary Coate Head of Integrated Production Venables Bell & Partners
Matthew Curry Chief Creative Officer BSSP
Tasha Dean Head Of Integrated Production The Martin Agency
Mariota Essery Executive Creative Director Sid Lee
Erica Fite Co-Founder/Chief Creative Officer Fancy
Matt Ian Chief Creative Officer mcgarrybowen New York
Eric David Johnson SVP, Executive Music Producer McCann NY
Mae Karwowski CEO & Founder Obviously
Dan Kelleher Chief Creative Officer Deutsch NY
Phil Koutsis Executive Creative Director We’re Magnetic
Rob Lambrechts Chief Creative Officer Pereira O’Dell
Gavin Lester Partner + Chief Creative Officer Zambezi
Al Moseley Global President & CCO 180
Madison Wharton Global Board Member, Integrated Production Forsman & Bodenfors


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