Champions of the next decade will be a very different breed

The past 10 years began with a recession and are drawing to a close with environmental and social challenges.

Have you got the tingle yet? The wing-flutter in the gut, the breath-whisper down the spine. Feeling the thrill? Old sins are being rinsed, mistakes earthed, wasted chances commuted. The decade’s closing, the new page is clean.

But before we slip into the blissful possibilities of the 2020s, let’s bow our heads for the passing of the decade that defies a label.

It’s a decade that also defies a neat narrative. Nothing about the past 10 years in the ad business has been neat. It began with the devastation of recession and is drawing to a close with environmental and social challenges to the very existence of so much of what this industry does. 

I wonder if there’s something emblematic in the fact that this decade is also ending with an astonishing and embarrassing story about the person who began the epoch as a totem for our industry at its most potent.

Sir Martin Sorrell spent much of the decade appearing in the Financial Times as the titan behind the world’s biggest advertising holding company, WPP. Now he’s just made the front page for a rather shabby story (which – let’s be clear – he strongly refutes) claiming he slapped former colleague Jim Prior after Prior described him in a Campaign interview as being "a long, long, long way behind in the rearview mirror".

Whatever the truth of the story, it sits neatly against the backdrop of the diminished stature of the advertising behemoths of 10 years ago. Who would have imagined in 2009 that venerable brands like J Walter Thompson or Young & Rubicam would be consigned to history? When their ends came though, it felt like a kindness.

But what has emerged over the decade is a collection of exciting new voices that are demanding and delivering more and better from the industry. So the biggest shifts we’re starting to see are the desperately needed cultural ones. The champions of the next 10 years will be very different from those that went before. 

And when you read about our brilliant agencies of the decade or the top talent leading the business this year, it’s clear that there’s plenty of momentum surging the industry into its fresh next chapter. Hello 2020s. 

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