Hello again. 1999, and just like in one of my all-time favourite TV
shows, there are people living in space. What did they ever do for
entertainment? I can’t remember. I’m sure it wasn’t digital Delia.
Campaign’s first issue of the year is always a bit weird. It’s so
disconnected from what took place a mere two weeks ago and, of course,
it makes its own news. This year that news is slightly anti-climactic.
It’s difficult to see any serious disagreement with the choice of BMP
DDB as agency of the year, or with New PHD, Volkswagen Polo and the
Daily Mail in other categories.
McDonald’s - advertiser of the year - is more debatable partly because
of the extremely strong claims made by One2One and last year’s winner,
Volkswagen, and partly because many people just hate McDonald’s. Academy
is the most contentious winner, because 1998 was more notable for the
performance of certain directors than the production companies
Having written all that, I’ll now probably get an avalanche of
Much of what will happen this year seems eminently predictable. The
merger mania, for example, will continue apace. The only surprise being
that we will probably see once implacable foes joining forces.
It’s also likely that we will continue to see the rash of smaller
spin-off consultancies developing as outsourcing becomes still more
These, together with below-the-line start-ups, will keep Campaign’s
But the issue of the threat from management consultancies may die down a
little as ad agencies take heart from the singular lack of business lost
to such organisations to date.
Globalisation will continue apace, but we may also see a rash of
decentralisations as clients review false economies. It would be good to
think that some advertising agencies that hived off media and regretted
it would reconsider and bring it back in-house. Good, but naive.
The role of the regulators should belatedly come under serious scrutiny,
particularly if there are fiascos similar to last year where ads passed
by the BACC are subsequently vetoed by the ITC, and TBWA and French
Connection’s ’fcuk’ campaign ran rings around the ASA.
A newer issue may also come to the fore next year. Not that new exactly,
but one which hasn’t received due prominence: that’s the issue of the
role of intuition in the creative process.
I’ve mentioned here before that the industry appears to have a genuine
problem attracting and retaining the very best graduate talent. The more
we try to get to the bottom of the problem, the more it appears that the
gulf between the image of a job in advertising and the day-to-day
reality of what younger staff actually get to do is widening
This is not just about being deprived of the chance to use personal
initiative, but about allowing intuition to flourish in the face of the
tyranny of an over-reliance on research. Old chestnuts, perhaps - but
the need to find a solution has never seemed more important.