2018: that was the year that was

2018: that was the year that was

Jeez, what a year. Wow. Who'd have thought it, eh? Impossible to have imagined back in January. Just mind-blowingly amazing. Talk about disruption. Phew...

…Oh yeah, you say, the signs were already there in 2017. Sure. But did you really expect so much to happen, so fast, the consequences so dramatic? So much change in just 12 months.

True, the big consulting groups had already nibbled at the agency market in 2017, so when Accenture/Deloitte bought Interpublic Group/WPP/Omnicom/Publicis Groupe in 2018 it was about as surprising as Adam & Eve/DDB winning Campaign’s Agency of the Year award for the fifth time in a row. But the speed at which they exited Roth/Sorrell/Wren/Sadoun, broke the group up, sold non-core assets, merged the agency brands and lost some top-flight creative talent took our collective breath away. For some client companies, creativity is now a service they pay for as an add-on. 

Brand safety and ad fraud were big stories in 2017, but did anyone expect quite so many brands to slash their digital ad budgets quite so dramatically in 2018?

And, yes, 2018’s shake-up in media was foretold by the crisis of trust and demands for transparency that coloured 2017. But the impact on holding-company share prices, the subsequent consolidation and rebranding among media agencies (sometimes with their creative siblings) and the number of marketers wresting back control of their media budgets was extreme. Yes, not all media agencies deserved to be tarred with the corruption brush, but few question whether 2018’s clean-up was overdue.

Brand safety and ad fraud were big stories in 2017, but did anyone expect quite so many brands to slash their digital ad budgets quite so dramatically in 2018? Programmatic advertising (or at least the phrase) has now become so thoroughly toxic that it’s been wiped from the industry lexicon. And really, who would have predicted that print advertising would have turned in such a Lazarus performance by the end of the year? 

Great, too, to see so many chief executives now incentivising their marketing chiefs for (sticking around and) delivering long-term brand-building and sustainable growth, and weaning themselves off a dangerous addiction to short-term sales activations. 

#Metoo was already raging at the end of 2017, but it had barely claimed UK advertising or marketing scalps. But companies wasted no time in 2018 instituting new HR practices to catch abuse as early as possible and attempt to stamp it out altogether. So it wasn’t so surprising when several big names left the industry, with the added benefit of making room for more women to step up. By the end of 2018, younger people in the business reported greater confidence in the availability of equal opportunities and said the industry was more welcoming and supportive of minorities.

All of this no doubt helped to put a premium on new and/or independent agencies, with respectful and diverse cultures driving fresh, new creative approaches. Who (OK, apart from Nils Leonard) would have predicted that Uncommon would land five of the most-coveted creative tasks to come up for grabs in 2018? And who would have predicted that several cashed-in entrepreneurs would seize the 2018 climate to launch another start-up? An exciting selection of new creative boutiques is now leading the way.

The other great thing about 2018 was the re-emergence of (responsible) fun. With the ground shifting scarily beneath the industry’s feet, 2018 was the year when we decided life was too short not to enjoy work and have a bloody good laugh while we’re doing it. The return of joyfulness helped the industry finish the year on an optimistic note, despite the continued economic decline and tattered consumer confidence.

So, there you have it: 2018. How was it for you? 

Claire Beale is the global editor-in-chief of Campaign. 

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