PERSPECTIVE: An excess of ads, the work vs life problem, hope: that was 2002

Phew, my last column of 2002; a chance to stop banging on about recession and point up two pieces of wider significance that we've published this year.

First up, Andrew Cracknell's artful Campaign Essay entitled "Drowning in ads" (15 March). Casting himself, rather appropriately, as the Turkey Who Voted for Christmas, the executive creative director of Bates UK posited the incendiary notion that there might simply be too much advertising around; that there needs to be a climate of acceptability, not just in content but in volume, for advertising to work at its most efficient.

As Christmas toy ads swamp our screens and consumers now face a reported 3,000 commercial messages a week, compared with the 300 of 20 years ago, can anyone disagree?

Next up, the issue of work-life balance, also explored in a Campaign Essay (17 May) by Christine Walker, the workaholic founder of Walker Media.

She argued eloquently that flexibility, by which she means working smarter, not necessarily less, will become an increasingly important ingredient in the ability of the smartest companies in media to attract and retain talent.

In some ways, however, despite the seismic effect of recession and the resulting structural changes forced on the business, my in-tray suggests that advertising continues much as ever. Granted, it's all because we are preparing to publish our definitive Agency of the Year and Top 300 reports. There is the agency that kindly summarised its year but glossed over an atrocious campaign that led to the loss of most of its flagship client. There's the agency that lost a multimillion-pound account within a year of winning it but admits to lying back then "so don't take off the millions now". There's the insistence that the furthest thought from Publicis' mind was the merger of Leo Burnett and D'Arcy and the subsequent merger of the two.

On one level, it's enough to make you wonder whether anyone in this business ever means a word they say. On another, it marks the thin line between eternal optimism and self-delusion that defines the advertising psyche.

Indeed, an incurable attraction to the former is one of the reasons I'll miss Campaign over the next few months. That and the chance to experience at first hand the response to our final issue of the year - the third Book of Lists, which is published next Tuesday. I confess that I laughed at some of the contributions in this issue so much, I almost went into labour.

On the subject of which (she segued neatly) ... this is my last column for a while because there's a baby to get born, Calpol to be spooned and nappies to be changed. For the next few months, the spinmeisters should direct their guns at the deputy editor, Claire Beale, who'll be in the hot seat from January. Good luck to her - not, I'm sure, that she'll need it - and a happy Christmas to you all.

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