Opinion: Welcome to 2009. Will adland prove its worth?

Welcome to the crossroads. The way ahead offers two choices. To the left lies Gloom, and just beyond that Failure. To the right Optimism, Survival and if you make it to the end of the track, Success.

So, no choice at all really. Me, I'm turning right, like the people writing on the following pages, and insisting that this is going to be an exciting, adrenaline-pumping year of overdue change and necessary wastage that will kick us all out of complacency and give us the opportunity to prove how good we really are.

It's going to be a year of mettle-testing challenges and bitter disappointments. Are you going to hide or fight? As Nigel Bogle says on page 14, it's time to be positive and remain confident. The best people have already come out fighting and there's no doubt that the imperative focus on core values and clear agendas will make it impossible to hide behind the sort of bullshit that so often weighs down the whole industry.

Yes, some agencies will fail, but the agency marketplace is oversupplied, there are too many bland brands to be sustained by constricted budgets and a correction is due. Mind you, it's also true that the big global holding companies need a London presence, so some of the blandest agencies will be protected from disaster.

A key challenge will be motivating staff in a climate of pay freezes and reduced workforces; for the best people, the idea they should consider themselves lucky to even have a job won't wash. The vigorous will want to know that their determination to succeed against the odds comes with material reward attached to results.

Meanwhile, though recession might be expected to instill conservatism and risk-aversion, isn't now the perfect time to push home the need for ideas that are bold and brave enough to cut through cost-effectively. From what I've heard about the next Cadbury Glass and a Half Full ad, it's as bold as "gorilla", was cheap as chips to make and is likely to generate the sort of word-of-mouth, viral distribution and consumer interaction that money can't buy. Economic constraint as a spark for creative renaissance? Why not.

And, maybe, this is also a moment when the best advertising agencies can pull clear of the commodity market the ad industry has become to emerge as true business partners for their clients. If agencies can steer advertisers through recession with their unique offering of creative thinking married to consumer insight, perhaps they will win a place in the client's boardroom as a result.

Canny agencies will also take this opportunity to revisit their remuneration models, exploring new ways of sharing the risks and rewards of their work for clients, placing a new value on their intellectual property and leveraging their creative talent to develop new, wholly owned revenue streams.

Doesn't sound too bad, does it? Welcome to 2009.

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