What the noughties meant to me ..

John Tylee asks adland's leading lights about their highs and lows in a decade defined by consumer power, a digital revolution and the worst recession in 20 years.

MAURICE LEVY, chairman, Publicis Groupe

Noughties, naughties, zero, nada, nothing.

The past decade could be called anything but zero. With events such as the internet bubble, Enron, WorldCom, 9/11, the war against terrorism, the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the most terrible economic crisis that calls into question capitalism and our values ...

In the communications world, certainly digital and interactive have been the most important developments. Not only are they changing the way we work and what communication is all about - from "talking at" to interactive dialogue with people, and no longer only consumers - but they are changing society: the way people work, communicate, get informed, buy, create content, make friends etc. Relationships with advertisers have changed dramatically, giving a key role to procurement and cost versus value.

And - forgive me for mentioning it - Publicis has emerged as a strong leader and participant in shaping the new communications world.

MARK CRAZE, group chief executive, Havas Media UK

A consumer revolution driven by technology, digitalisation, and the ongoing basic human need to belong and be part of something. Who in 1999 envisaged a time when a search engine was the biggest global media brand; when there would be 489 TV channels, with programmes you can watch whenever suits you; when a teenager's first waking moment is spent updating their status; when you can make a film on a mobile phone then immediately post it for the world to see; when a "crackberry" addiction is approaching a medical condition; when Stephen Fry has more followers online than watch him on TV? That was the noughties!

JEREMY BULLMORE, Industry Commentator

It's been a fascinating time for observers and a scary one for practitioners. After 1955, nothing happened for 45 years. Then a lot happened. Some people welcomed it, others feared it. Some people thought it changed everything, others hoped it would go away. Some people believed that the death of the bubble was the death of dotcommery but that was wishful thinking. Nobody knew anything and nobody was bilingual. Analogue and digital became as definitive as BC and AD. It wasn't the end of history or even the end of TV. It's probably been the end of complacency. For now.

RORY SUTHERLAND, vice-chairman, Ogilvy Group UK; president, IPA

There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic - the dismally low status of marketing within most British companies, for instance, or the lasting damage done to brands by mindless adherence to the shareholder value movement, perhaps better described as the CEO enrichment movement. However, in one respect, I refuse to join the doom-mongers. I don't believe the work has become worse. The best of what our industry does is still spectacular - with great ideas emerging from unexpected places. Much of the despair about "declining standards" is not because good work is getting rarer - it's simply harder to define. Tough for awards juries, maybe, but good for the rest of us.

IAN ARMSTRONG, head of customer communications, Honda UK

Once society was "served" by brands and now it serves itself. Brands controlled content and now consumers dictate what is said. This decade has seen a massive development of a self-service economy driven by the internet and the availability of connectivity. The consumer owns the buying and selling process so "experience" is key to differentiation. Our knowledge of how the brain works has grown - we must use that to develop consumer experiences to match expectations and create congruence in the future instead of repeating the past 50 years of predictable marketing.

STEPHEN ALLAN, chairman and chief executive, MediaCom Worldwide

Security (post-9/11) - long waits in airports! Climate change - feeling guilty about everything. Sarbanes-Oxley (post-Enron) - endless form-filling! The worst recession in living memory. And, of course, closer to home, the explosion of all things digital. These are the events that defined the 00s for me.

Life got faster and work became 24/7. BlackBerrys changed the way we did business, on the go, on the toilet, on all the time. In media agencies, we had to almost start again. Retrain ourselves, our people and even our clients.

For me, personally, this was a golden era for MediaCom UK when we reached the number-one spot, and stayed there. And became the first agency to break the billion-pound barrier. Bring on the 10s.

CILLA SNOWBALL, chairman, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

This decade has been an exercise in leadership. It began for me on the very day I was made the managing director of AMV and I entered it full of the optimism of benevolent trading conditions and the dotcom boom. Little did I know then that it would turn out to be a crash course in managing unprecedented turbulence - economic, political, environmental - and explosive technological growth.

The leadership lessons of creating value and demonstrating values will prove to be the defining legacy of this decade for me and the defining event was the day Sainsbury's reappointed us on both counts.

MARK CRIDGE, chief executive, glue London

The whole advertising community has been on a digital rollercoaster over the past ten years and is currently poised at the top of an almighty loop-the-loop that's going to flip over the whole industry even more radically in the next few years.

Digital has really changed everything - and in a few short years, it will be almost impossible to see where digital ends and the traditional agency begins.

It's hard to single out a key event that sums this up, but, for me, it would probably have to be early on when BMW Films or "Subservient Chicken" woke everyone up and digital went mainstream.

STEVE HENRY - strategic/creative consultant

The noughties were weird. When they started, I was running the agency of the decade and I'm finishing them doing all sorts of diverse things.

A part of me is tempted to write (with apologies to Groucho Marx): "I've had a perfectly wonderful decade. But this wasn't it." But please don't quote that out of context! Because, actually, I've enjoyed this decade just as much as the previous one. For the very simple reason that I love change. And change just keeps putting its foot down on the accelerator. Enjoy the ride - it's only gonna get hairier.

WILL COLLIN, founding partner, Naked Communications

The noughties was the decade when the industry woke up to a profound change in the relationship between consumers and brands. The mass uptake of the internet gave people almost unlimited access to information, lifting the veil on the process of marketing and so shifting the balance of power away from brand owner and towards consumer. At the same time, the digitisation of media made commercial messages both more commonplace and more easily avoidable.

In the face of such a profound change, the industry needed to take a long, hard look at how it operates, and make some fundamental changes. Did it grasp that challenge? I don't think so.

LAURA GREGORY, executive producer and founder, Great Guns

Globalisation made me explore new thoughts and cultures. Projects came from different sources, forcing our style of work to change. The world learned to use Final Cut on their Macs. Directors found their skills were not quite so magical. Global networks gobbled up anything "digital". Is it all imploding? Clients took control of costs and execution. Delivery systems are king. Flexibility is our new mantra.

MARK ROALFE, chairman, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

What defined the noughties for me was something that resulted in, first, failure and, then, success. Back in 2000, we launched a company called 2.1 to get in on the internet craze that was sweeping advertising. We then recruited a shit-hot team called Simon and David, teamed them up with a geeky chap called Mark and off they went to write the future ... or so we thought. It was slow death as they failed to get any clients willing to pay and we failed to persuade many of our clients it was worth paying for.

In 2003, we folded 2.1 back into the main agency. Then, in 2007, we relaunched with Simon and David at the helm again; this time it was called Saint. Saint is now 20 per cent of our income and 25 per cent of our manpower and growing faster than any other part of the business. I hope it will define the agency for the next decade.

JON INGALL, managing partner, Archibald Ingall Stretton

We entered the noughties as a fledgling integrated agency at a time when integration, having just about moved on from matching luggage, was still very much top down. Start with a big communications idea and then integrate it appropriately through a variety of channels. We leave the decade with integration turned on its head. Today, it's bottom up and is about how we integrate brands into people's lives through new products, services and smart use of data - as well as communications.

MIKE HUGHES, director-general, ISBA

The two major drivers in the noughties have been the pressure for ever-more regulation and the impact of online growth on the advertising landscape. The excessive demands to regulate, fuelled by increasingly professional NGOs, miss the point, and a line needs to be drawn. The growth of online continues to present challenges, both regulatory and creative, and we are walking up the curve in this domain. And the biggest achievement for advertisers? Contract Rights Renewal.

MARK COLLIER, managing partner, Dare

For me, the decade has been about riding the digital rollercoaster. It's a journey that has been marked by two economic downturns. The first, shortly after Dare opened its doors, came in the form of the dotcom crash. It's easy to forget how bleak the new-media landscape was in its immediate aftermath. Today, in the midst of another financial storm, digital has gone from being a dirty word to the driving force behind the new marketing agenda.

It's been a very scary journey at times, but also the most exciting and fulfilling period of my career. I'm glad I took the ride.

RUPERT HOWELL, managing director, ITV Brand and Commercial

With the rise of digital TV to broadband; PVRs to Facebook; Google and the gadget du jour, the iPhone, technological progress has been mind-blowing and the internet became integral to our lives as an enabler of much else, but not, as some might like to think, a medium in its own right.

For consumers, the appetite for shared experiences has remained constant. From sharing a link through a social networking site to millions of people crowding round a TV on a Saturday night, the key to these experiences is quality content. Content matters and creativity remains as relevant as ever.

STEVIE SPRING, chief executive, Future Publishing; former chief executive, Clear Channel UK

The defining event for me professionally? The global financial crisis and the collapse of Lehman's. The catastrophic legacy of noughties excess will be paid for throughout the next decade and beyond.

ROBERT SENIOR, UK chief executive, SSF Group

The Glass Half Empty View Of The Noughties

New business: The decade when dropping drawers constituted "smart commercial practice", when discounting masqueraded as value.

New start-ups: When client pleasuring and "quite good" became the new entrepreneurial eye-watering vision.

New platforms: When the words digital and creativity remained largely divided.

Through this short-sighted lens, the noughties were good for shorties.

The Glass And A Half Full View

A new creative dividend emerged. Bang that drum, here come the girls (and boys) in pursuit of restating the industry's true value.

Like No Other, it's the Power of Dreams when "good" is shared and The Future's Bright.

Discounters beware.