I make no apologies for being shamelessly sunny; cynicism is officially suspended until 2007. Fresh from a round of agency lunches and dinners marking the end of the year, I can report that great work and great people are still thriving in adland.
Despite all the soul-searching about agency structures, integration, how to accommodate digital, how to source and keep talent, where to house media strategy, how to avoid the commodity route and how to charge a fair price for what the industry does, despite all of this what the business does best has been just as good as ever. This is still the place clients come for rich creative ideas that build brands and balance sheets.
OK, there might not have been quite as much of the magic as there has been in some previous years. Clients are more risk-averse; budgets are more nervously controlled; the brilliant and the brave have to fight harder than ever for life. Internationalisation has inevitably taken its toll on the colourful entrepreneurialism that built the UK industry. Our media is in a state of real turmoil and audience fragmentation is a fundamental challenge to all sides of the business. Then all things digital have thrown up as many challenges as they have opportunities. That the ad industry is teetering on the brink of fundamental change is without doubt. And this precarious position has been a breeding ground for caution.
But if there is one thing that we should all be celebrating at the end of what has been a bloody tough year for many, it's this: the communications industry, in all its different guises, is still the home of bold, business-building creative ideas. From stunning ad campaigns (like Boots) and work that infects people on- and offline (like Sony Bravia's "paint"), or helps drive an amazing business turnaround (like the Marks & Spencer work), to mould-breaking media strategies (see this week's strategy analysis on page 14 for just one recent example) to the arrival of great digital creativity (like Lynx's "blow") and ever-sharper direct marketing initiatives (like Land Rover's bulldog clips), big ideas are not hard to find.
And adland is still bursting with talent. You can read all about the most senior of them in our A List free with this week's issue. But here's a quick roll-call of some of the real stars (and there are plenty more, so apologies) of 2006: James Murphy and the Rainey Kelly crew, Johnny Hornby, Trevor Beattie, Jonathan Stead, Gerry Boyle, David Patterson, Mark Collier, Tom George, Robert Senior and the Fallon team, Debbie Klein, Mother, Gary Leih, Carat, Ivan Pollard. For all the new talent bubbling up (and thankfully there's quite a bit to choose from), see our Faces to Watch in the New Year.
Clearly there has been plenty of special stuff happening in 2006. In next week's Annual, you will find a real recap: as well as the best agencies and advertisers there are the top creative directors, the top ten thinkers, the top ten sellers, the best chief executives and much more. Such touchstones of excellence ought to give the ad business some confidence for the year ahead. I reckon we're going to need it.
As the industry inevitably goes into battle to defend more advertising freedoms over the coming year and as cost pressures become ever more onerous, the industry cannot afford to loose sight of its successes.
So, it seems a fitting end to the year to underline the value of the work that the industry does and the breadth of talent that it houses. Congratulations to all our A Listers and to all our award winners unveiled next week. See you in 2007.