Poll a room of ad industry folks and you’ll often get twice the number of opinions as people. Luckily for Campaign US readers, we spent the year seeking out commentary from thought leaders across sectors, bringing together possible answers to big questions about where the industry is headed. From essential topics like brand planning and account management to existential issues like work-life balance and conceptual thinking, here are the most-read opinion pieces of the year—bookended by commentaries on the same controversy.
In June, Publicis Groupe’s newly-appointed CEO Arthur Sadoun issued a moratorium on award show entries for every agency in the holding company’s portfolio. His move drew widespread criticism for its dismissal of an industry staple, partially because awards can be essential for creatives to advance. Swanpoel, the CEO of One Club for Creativity, argues in this op-ed that, while it shouldn’t jettison shows entirely, the industry needs to address "the elephant in the room, one that might’ve had a hand in Mr. Sadoun’s decision: the excessive commercialization of the festivals surrounding awards shows."
Hill Holliday’s chief strategy officer thinks that planning, which some agencies consider less essential, is more important than ever. The industry is "more fragmented, aggressive and competitive," Bielby writes, which means that planners are more essential than ever but also need to evolve into people with a "diverse range of expertise and knowledge, that can connect the dots between specialist disciplines, to avoid fragmentation, duplication and most importantly, to help the whole team create a complete picture of consumers."
Want to torpedo your creativity and fall behind in your career? Then keep looking at your phone all the time. But if you want to make great work and stay engaged with your best talents, Ogilvy group creative director Long says you should put away your digital ball and chain. Studies show our brains make the abstract connections that foster creativity when we’re bored, and thanks to smartphones, we’re just never bored anymore. "It's these left-field inspirations that all these incredibly seductive devices are destroying."
Everyone has pet peeves, and Saatchi & Saatchi New York’s CCO was glad to share one of his big ones: "thinking outside the box." It’s exactly the opposite of what creatives need—boundaries, he argues, are what make great work, because they impose limitations that require brilliant thinking to overcome. "I do this because I truly believe that we, creatives in advertising, are like the escapists from the 19th Century, modern Houdinis."
Most companies looking to expand into a new office aren’t in a position to solicit RFPs from every major city in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean smaller firms have nothing to learn from Amazon’s headline-grabbing search for a second home, writes JWT Atlanta’s head of innovation. His tips: know yourself, create your own growth, figure out your place in the ecosystem and embrace the new community.
Creative is only half of the equation, says JWT Atlanta's CCO: without accounts people who can help clients understand why that creative is what they need, who can balance financials with creative development, "you will fundamentally fail to get the most out of the agency’s creative talent and will subsequently deliver subpar work to the client." Read the rest for Graves’s tips on how to find the perfect people to fill this vital role.
Schaudenfreude might feel nice, but a workplace that fosters its existence—where "backstabbing, bitchiness and bullying" leave colleagues itching for each other’s downfalls—is a toxic one, and all too common in advertising, writes the Quiet Storm founder and ED. When undercutting and betraying each other is the only way to get ahead, burnout is inevitable, and so is inferior work. Would it kill people to be nice instead?
We all know that one guy (it’s always a guy, and sometimes there’s more than one) with a Steve Jobs portrait on his desk who relishes finding just the right moment in meetings to tell a team they need to "take a step back." Droga5’s chief creative officer cannot stand this guy, whose refusal to participate in crucial specifics seems more like a way to cover his ass than contribute. "Coming in here and laying down truth is actually shitting all over a lot of hard work and thought."
Few things in the world are worth dying for, and advertising ain’t one of ‘em, writes the retired Phelps CEO. If your whole life is work—and these days, it’s hard for it not to be—then the best stuff will pass right on by. Cohen provides seven tips for balance that he learned over his own career, from "take care of your body—you only get one" to (oof) "ten Clios are not worth one divorce."
Advertisers love patting each other on the back, so of course the top op-ed of the year was something that endorsed that very practice. Unlike Kevin Swanepoel, FCB Worldwide CEO Murray’s response to the Publicis moratorium was a strong endorsement of awards shows. "We live and breathe by the creatives in our industry. Recognizing them clearly should not be ‘put on hold’ for a year because suddenly data is more important than they are."