Drawing a line under 2011

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Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign
Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign

If you pay any attention to these things, you might remember that this time last year we pondered whether a watershed had been reached.

Would we need to differentiate agencies into advertising, digital and direct in 2011? Or were agencies all morphing into a middle ground where anything is achievable?

Well, here is the answer to our own question. The communications world has not leapt ahead, all agencies are not the same (give or take quality) and, perhaps more pertinently, clients are still often keen to keep the silos they've been comfortable with for decades.

So, again we have anointed an advertising agency, a digital agency and a direct agency. The definers feel more strained than ever; the semantics of labelling less satisfying. And the decision-making process more challenging than previous years.

The truth is, when we came to drawing up longlists of agencies for each of these categories, we found a great number of serious contenders in the advertising agency category, but really struggled to get a decent selection in either the digital or direct categories.

This doesn't mean those were easier categories to win, or that the chosen agencies are any less excellent than their advertising counterparts. But it does mean that the categories are shrinking, the outstanding players fewer in number and the inevitable slide towards common ground continues.

So, as a representation of where the communications industry sits at the end of 2011, this Annual perhaps reflects the challenges inherent in the business itself. Lots of familiar names and faces, but a sense, too, that it can't continue like this for much longer. Will there really be room for everyone in a few more years? And if so, can they possibly all survive without some radical rethinking of their roles?

If all that sounds a little serious for the season, then turn quickly to our Top Ten Lookalikes, Beards or Archive Photos pages. Hopefully, you'll find something to lighten the mood.

And, whatever 2012 holds, excellence will prevail. If you find yourself near the top anywhere in this Annual (yes, even for your facial hair), you can at least look ahead to next year with the comforting thought that you made it in 2011.

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