Campaign US’ most read opinion pieces of 2021

top op-eds of 2021
Credit: Getty Images

We rounded up some of the most popular posts from our contributor network in the past year.

Campaign US is proud to have a vibrant contributor network of voices across the industry sharing their opinions, knowledge and ideas. See below for the most popular pieces published by our network in 2021.

1. Why NFTs have endless possibilities for brands

Our most read op-ed of the year was about the hype-iest topic of the year: NFTs. But this column by John Ohara, SVP of integrated marketing strategy and head of strategic innovation at 160over90, was published in March, months before the acronym “NFT” began gracing headlines and brand slide decks far and wide. 

The insightful piece dives into why brands should pay attention to this fast-moving space. Opportunities span digital memorabilia, custom brand-artist collabs and bringing physical products — and their real monetary value — into the metaverse. 

2. Where are all the Black-owned creative agencies? 

This piece by JinJa Birkenbeuel, CEO of Birk Creative, bluntly calls out the creative industry for its lack of Black leadership. While creative agencies often use Black faces to tell stories, they’re absent in leadership roles or on agency boards. 

Birkenbeuel makes the case for brands and procurement teams to include creative agencies in their supplier diversity programs, as they can help create direct wealth and leadership roles for Black people. Her other suggestions: tie compensation to supplier diversity targets, look at qualitative data and earmark spending for Black-owned businesses. 

3. We belong in the C-suite

Amid the rise of the #StopAsianHate movement last spring, Digitas CMO Michelle Tang penned a piece for Campaign US arguing why Asian people belong in the C-suite. 

Tang reminisces on her childhood in Flushing, Queens, and the lessons she learned from her immigrant parents: work hard, keep your head down, stay humble. But as Asian Americans rose their voices and spoke up against racism last spring, Tang realized how the “model minority” myth keeps many Asians from shattering the “bamboo ceiling” in the workplace. She advocates for the community to speak up, be themselves in the workplace, fight for visibility and support the cause. And she asks allies for help. 

“It isn’t until we reward those bold enough to break the stereotype that change can happen,” Tang writes.  

4. All in, together

Google’s chief marketing officer, Lorraine Twohill, penned this op-ed to share the company’s learnings on representation in advertising, making the “All-In” inclusive marketing toolkit publicly available for the first time.

Google has been working with organizations including the Geena Davis Institute and AdColor since 2017 to audit the inclusivity of its marketing decisions and creative work. It compiled these learnings into a set of resources for the agency and creative community to use, so they too can work toward creating more accurate and representative work.

“Because change can only happen when we are all in,” Twohill writes.

5. A challenge to our industry from an invisible minority

Another one of our most popular opinion pieces this year addressed anti-Asian hate and bias. As anti-Asian hate crimes spiked in the U.S., Clara Luo, a strategy director at VMLY&R, challenged her community to raise its collective voice.

Luo demonstrates how advertisers treat Asians as invisible outside of commercialized holidays such as Lunar New Year and Diwali. She calls out the industry for treating the Asian community as a monolith and lacking the data to speak to its diversity of cultures. She calls on the industry to empower the Asian community, collect the right data on Asian consumers, invest in and mentor Asian talent and overall support the AAPI community. 

6. Entertainment commerce is the next evolution in brand partnerships

This piece was published by Jon Goynshor, VP, head of partnership marketing at VMLY&R Commerce, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in July. It introduces the idea of “entertainment commerce” as a modern form of partnership marketing. Marketers spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on sponsorship, celebrity, influencer and partnerships, but they must modernize these investments to keep up with consumer habits, Goynshor argues. 

Where to start? Tap into entertainment storytelling, align with passionate communities, create immersive, holistic shopping experiences and fuse content and commerce. 

“If your sponsorship budget is spent on product placement, naming rights, logo placements, jersey signage and one-off celebrity endorsements, your brand is likely to be drowned out by savvier competition,” he writes. 

7. How we can help women bounce back into the workforce

This piece, written by WPP global chief client officer Lindsay Pattison, addresses the devastating impact the pandemic has had on women in the workforce. But hope is not lost: the Fortune 500 has more female CEOs than ever before, 39% of the FTSE have boards that are 40% female or more and powerful female role models are abundant, from VP Kamala Harris to poet Amanda Gorman.  

How can we help women succeed? Give them resources, make remote work tenable for female caregivers and invest in attracting and retaining diverse talent, Pattison argues. 

8. I was a young ad exec working in Midtown when the planes hit

This personal account of working in the ad industry when two planes hit the Twin Towers was published on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Jason Kahner, president of global health and wellness at Grey, was a young advertising exec at FCB NY managing the AT&T wireless account at the time. He had just wrapped a shoot that included quintessential shots of New York City, including aerial images of the towers.

Then the first plane hit; then the second. He fled the Chrysler building with his girlfriend at the time (now his wife). Looking back on that fateful day, he shares a few lessons he learned about leadership: empathy and compassion belong in business, agility is an art and a simple “thank you” can mean the world. 

9. Back to the outdoors, for people and advertising

This piece, written by R/GA global chief creative officer Tiffany Rolfe, recounts some of the most impressive out of home advertising work of the year with fresh appreciation, after being locked inside for months during the pandemic. As head of the jury panel for the OAAA’s Obie Awards, Rolfe reflects on how the context and audience for OOH has changed and highlights how brands are getting it right as people head back outdoors.

OOH is an ideal medium for scaling beyond niche audiences and communities, making it the right strategy for Reddit's first brand campaign ahead of the 2020 election. OOH also brings people together with a single message in a shared public space, which is important after being isolated on our devices during COVID. And paired with technology such as QR codes and AR filters, OOH can be the start of an ongoing conversation with consumers.  

10. What we learned from a year of working with attention metrics

This piece dives into the popular and emerging field of attention metrics, which promise to measure the value of a consumer’s interaction with an ad without using cookies. Ed McElvain, EVP at P3, Mediahub, dives into what his team has learned after working with attention metrics for a year. 

The key lessons: Media and creative work in tandem to capture and hold attention, attention can be tied to lower-funnel outcomes and attention is a better proxy for quality than widely used metrics such as viewability. Finally, while attention metrics do work, marketers should always verify their results.

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