The Yin and Yang of 2019; Year-End Agency Survey
Ad community reflects on the past year, balancing technology & humanity, data and creativity

While this retrospective doesn't mark the Chinese New Year, a page from that culture may help to put our calendar year 2019 into perspective. “Yin and yang” reflects a universe governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or energies that can be observed in nature.

In seeking feedback from the advertising agency community regarding the year almost gone by, SHOOT got varied forms of “yin and yang” to contemplate--macro and micro, technology and humanity, data and creativity.

Identifying the industry trends or developments that were most significant in 2019, David Rolfe, EVP/director of integrated production, BBDO New York, related, “It’s fascinating to watch the blending of iconic and mass-movement advertising, as connected to some mobilizing force or cause—think the marketing-side adoption of Colin Kaepernick—creating enviably scaled experience, along with the everyday-any-moment personalized micro-experience—think the designer-but-discounted (and hopefully enviable!) duvet cover I just purchased on IG—and how the micro and macro co-exist. With possibly less in the middle?”

Meanwhile, Hilary Coate, head of integrated production at Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco, shared, “This year, we’ve seen the continued rise of AI, which is affecting the way in which brands communicate and advertise. Given it analyzes data and targets consumers in real-time, this streamlined approach not only optimizes brands’ ad spend, but also creates ads specifically targeting and speaking to individual consumer’s needs.  The opportunities with AI are huge, and have many people wondering whether it will replace real human creativity and connections. We believe the brands that do both well--harness technology while also infusing real humanity in their communications--will ultimately win ahead.”

Asked to gaze into his crystal ball, Eric Weisberg, global chief creative officer, Doner, replied, “This is more of wish than a prediction. My hope is that, in 2020, we will see an end to the false premise that ‘data is the new creativity.’ This false narrative has led to years of ‘blandvertising.’ This premise incorrectly assumes that context is more important than content. In 2020, I hope to see more work that blends data with creativity with content with an approach to context.”

Context might be up for grabs as in 2020, “one of the biggest elections in our country’s history will take place,” noted Karen Costello, chief creative officer of The Martin Agency. “I think that will dominate media time and mental availability. I also think it will continue the important conversations about a variety of really big and weighty topics like social media’s role in disinformation – how accountable are they or should they be? Or the seeming inability of much of the American populace to discern truth from untruth, or even more importantly, their complete lack of interest in facts and provable science. Or the complete disintegration of things like civility, honor and compassion. This kind of stuff isn’t just politics, it’s a major shift in the psyche of Americans. As marketers, much like the 2016 election proved to be, 2020 will be a modern marketing playbook that we should all be paying attention to.”

Issues that may figure into that election outcome were also addressed by the ad community in 2019. EP John McAdorey of McCann reflected, “‘Generation Lockdown’ was the most important work I did in 2019. My brother is a lacrosse coach at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass in Parkland so I jumped at the opportunity to partner with MFOL (March For Our Lives). The producers at Hungry Man and I spent six months researching companies that would allow us to shoot our drill in their workspace...and while the awards and accolades are great the most important reward from that project is that it started so many conversations about what our children are learning every day at school.”

SHOOT surveyed a cross-section of high-level ad agency professionals to gain their assessments of the trends, developments and work that highlighted 2019.
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 12/13 SHOOT Dailies and SHOOT>e.dition. For our Year-End Survey on the ad agency side, the following six questions were posed:

1) What industry trends or developments were most significant in 2019? 

2) How did your agency or department adjust/adapt to the marketplace in 2019? (diversification, new resources/talent/technology, new strategies, etc.) You are welcome to cite a specific piece of work which shows how lessons learned in 2019 were applied.

3) What work in 2019 are you most proud of? (Please cite any unique challenges encountered)

4) As the lines between advertising and entertainment continue to blur, are clients asking you to produce more “entertainment”? Please cite an example from this year and/or tell us about a project you’re working on for 2020. 

5) Gazing into your crystal ball, what do you envision for the industry--creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint--in 2020? 

6) What’s your New Year’s resolution, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your agency or department? Do you have a personal New Year’s resolution that you can share?

What follows are the responses we received.

CLICK HERE to page through the survey responses, or click on the NAME or HEADSHOT below.

Name Title Company
Mindy Adams Group Creative Director 22squared
Hilary Coate Head of Integrated Production Venables Bell & Partners
Dan Corken Head of Production Crispin Porter Bogusky
Karen Costello Chief Creative Officer The Martin Agency
Leila Gage Director of Broadcast Production Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Michael Kasprow VP, Revinventionist Creative Director Jackman Reinvents
Rob Lenois Chief Creative Officer VaynerMedia
Gavin Lester Partner, Chief Creative Officer Zambezi
John McAdorey Director Of Verizon Production McCann
Steve Red President, Chief Creative Officer Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners (RTO+P)
David Rolfe EVP/Director of Integrated Production BBDO New York
Eric Weisberg Global Chief Creative Officer Doner


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