Campaign US' top opinion pieces of 2022

(Top L to bottom R) Alex Steer, Wunderman Thompson; Kerry McKibbin, Mischief @ No Fixed Address; Evin Shutt, 72andSunny; Craig Elimeliah, VMLY&R; Jeff Graham, Cactus; Ronald Ng, MRM
(Top L to bottom R) Alex Steer, Wunderman Thompson; Kerry McKibbin, Mischief @ No Fixed Address; Evin Shutt, 72andSunny; Craig Elimeliah, VMLY&R; Jeff Graham, Cactus; Ronald Ng, MRM

We rounded up the most-read opinion pieces from our contributor network this year.

Campaign US is lucky to have an incredible community of contributors who fill our pages with their thoughts, opinions, provocations and ideas weekly. 

It was no surprise that some of our best-read pieces this year covered topics related to talent and burnout. After two years of a pandemic and amid the Great Resignation, agency leaders were thinking hard about how to retain staff and protect their mental health.

But some buzzy topics floated to the top as well, with two of our top op-eds this year covering AI and Web3. 

Check out our top 10 most-read contributor pieces of the year below.

1. Freedom, flexibility & recovery

Campaign US’ most-read opinion piece in 2022 was penned by Evin Shutt, CEO of 72andSunny, and focuses on a key post-pandemic topic — recovery. Shutt outlines the changes the agency made to its benefits package this year to give its people what they most needed after a grueling two years: freedom, flexibility and recovery.

That involved extending the agency’s flexible work policy beyond 2022, not requiring office days but “agreeing on when is right to be in person together, and budgeting accordingly,” Shutt wrote. 72andSunny also increased its paid vacation time from four weeks to seven weeks, including three weeks of required PTO. 

Finally, the agency added new benefits including incremental paid leave for life circumstances such as bereavement (6 weeks), miscarriage leave (6 weeks) and caretaker leave (12 weeks) at 100% pay. And it increased its parental leave to 28 weeks for primary caregivers and 12 weeks for secondary caregivers. 

2. Billions of ads misdirected, and no one noticed

Our second most-read opinion piece of the year was by Bob Hoffman, also known as the “Ad Contrarian,” penned for Campaign Asia-Pacific. The article covers a Wall Street Journal report from March that revealed publishing conglomerate Gannettmisdirected billions of ads and misrepresented the data to major advertisers. 

Hoffman uses the report to eviscerate the programmatic supply chain and its lack of transparency or accountability. No one across the entire chain — from DSP to SSP — noticed the ads were not serving in the right places. “Programmatic advertisers just take money, throw it up in the air, and believe any horseshit they are fed about where it lands,” he writes. 

3. One size fits all fits nobody: Why more agencies should embrace the power of ‘no’

This piece, written by Kerry McKibbin, president at Mischief @ No Fixed Address, pushes agencies to do something they are notoriously bad at: saying “no.” McKibbin argues that agencies do themselves a disservice by pretending to be jacks of all trades — but that inevitably means they are masters of none. “Because yes to everything always leads to disappointment with something,” she writes.

Agencies should practice saying “no” more — to pitches, to burnout, to undervaluing their work. “‘No’ better defines your brand, and having a strong agency brand has never been more important,” she writes. 

4. The word ‘tactics’ sucks, so we’ve banned it at our agency

In this January op-ed, Ronald Ng, global chief creative officer at MRM, takes a hit at jargon that no longer serves a purpose. Ng argues the word “tactics” in particular undervalues and minimizes the work digital agencies do. When juxtaposed with the term “Big Idea,” which refers to “strategic, long-term experiences that help brands build meaningful relationships with people,” tactics seem like “small, disposable and ephemeral executions,” he writes.

Digital ideas are often referred to as tactics, when today they are at the core of consumer experiences. Ng argues that in a fast-moving world, this kind of taxonomy is outdated and ignores the customer journey. “The reality is that yesterday’s so-called tactics can be today’s big ideas,” he writes.

5. The upside of the great resignation for agencies

In this piece, Jeff Graham, president and CMO at Cactus, takes a silver-lining look at the Great Resignation, which plagued agencies with staffing shortages in 2022. As companies struggled to fill open roles, clients turned to their agencies to fill the gaps. That created an interesting new dynamic: “When it comes to new business, we — agencies — are the talent. It’s a sellers market. We can play the part of picky, demanding job seekers because clients need our help,” he writes.

Agencies should use this time as an opportunity to be picky about going after the right opportunities, Graham argues, especially as they deal with their own talent crunch. He gives readers four tips for navigating this unique period: say no to spec work, stick to your guns on pricing, ask for pitch compensation and don’t pitch for projects. 

6. AI for idiots

Marketers often pretend they understand technical concepts such as AI because they are made to feel stupid if they don’t. But what if we just made it OK to ask all of the “stupid” questions we have?

Alex Steer, global chief data officer at Wunderman Thompson, encourages marketers to admit they don’t totally grasp AI — and that’s OK. He gives them four “stupid” questions to ask when considering implementing AI for a campaign or internally: What are we doing? What does AI do? Does AI help us do what we’re doing? Can this be automated?

“If we asked more stupid questions, we might make fewer stupid mistakes,” he writes.

7. Why I gave my entire agency one month off — no strings attached

Now here is an experiment we can get behind. In February, Michael Watts, CEO of Hook, wrote a piece explaining why he decided to give his entire staff a month off for a “mental reset.” The agency closed down from mid-December 2021 to mid-January 2022 to give people “four weeks of uninterrupted time” to do what they wanted — from traveling to binge watching to spending time with family. 

Pulling it off required supportive clients, transparency and lots of planning, including having a senior team available for emergency support if needed. But it was worth it. “When we all take time away at the same time, it becomes far more impactful,” Watts wrote.  

8. How to get your employees to share fewer depression memes

If you scroll Instagram frequently, you might notice that your employees share quite a few “depression memes” — memes that joke about how depressing and awful work is. Nihal Atawane, senior copywriter at Fortnight Collective, issued a plea to creatives to get their employees to stop sharing these in a familiar format: a creative brief.

He argues the only way to get talent to stop sharing depression memes is to fundamentally change agency culture. “This is our opportunity to critically reexamine not just how we work, but why we work. It’s an opportunity to shift our focus from projects to people,” he writes. 

9. DAOism and the art of Web3

Would it be 2022 if a Web3-related op-ed didn’t make it into the top 10? This piece, by Craig Elimeliah, executive creative director at VMLY&R, compares the modern DAO — decentralized autonomous organization — to the ancient Chinese principles of Daoism. “Like Daoism, the tenets of a modern day DAO emphasize simplicity, equality, trust and transparency,” he writes. 

He discusses how brands can use DAOs to turn their customers into “owners” by allowing them to “build, engage and co-create with communities, gamify experiences, offer investment, give rewards and provide governance.”

10. The 8 CMO archetypes

Agencies are always trying to better understand and cater to their clients, so it's no wonder this piece by Katie Klumper, CEO and founder at marketing consultancy Black Glass, was so well-read. In it she breaks down the eight CMO archetypes in a world where the CMO role “has evolved from a specialist marketing role to a generalist growth driver.”

Among the archetypes are the strategist, the change catalyst, the transactor, the builder, the innovator, the processor, the coach and the communicator. Which one are you?

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