PERSPECTIVE: Winners give cause for optimism even in these difficult times

With my New Year's resolution not to use seasonal cliches such as resolutions as column openers (and because Stuart Elliott has cornered the market in brilliant examples of such on page 19), let's move straight on to the most dramatic news this week: our annual awards for outstanding achievement over the past 12 months.

Admittedly, this year the drama lies firmly in the stature of the accolades and is not born of fierce argument and tangled debate; our winners will, I suspect, meet with little gainsay. In most categories, competition was strenuous and runners-up were closer to the main prize than their also-ran positioning might suggest.

But the choice of Mother as Agency of the Year for the second year running is unlikely to surprise.

Yes, debate about the depth of Mother's reel still rages (particularly when compared with the breadth and maturity of Bartle Bogle Hegarty's last year), but the quality of the distinctive creative style it displays and its £80 million-plus new-business record is above criticism. Mother continues to be the agency whose blaze others trail, where the best young talent wants to work, where bold clients are turning to engineer change.

Few heads will be scratched, either, over the news that Naked takes our Media Agency gong, and for similar boundary-challenging, convention-busting reasons.

For creative flair and a sure marketing touch on all its brands, Scottish Courage is Advertiser of the Year, but it is its brilliant and hilarious John Smith's work by TBWA/London that secures Campaign of the Year. Well done, too, to Five, one of the few media owners with an impressive (and, crucially, veracious) story to tell in what was a crippling year for the media at large, and to Gorgeous, which topped the production sector for the second year running.

This year we've plucked our Direct Agency of the Year prize out of the annual awards ceremony to join the other agency awards in this issue; Harrison Troughton Wunderman's creative credentials across the year ensure it sits comfortably alongside our other winners. We've also reinstated our New-Media Agency award after deciding that, despite the retrenchment that characterised the industry, Glue London had more than enough creative and new-business credits to claim the prize.

So, congratulations to all and bars have now been set for the year ahead, a year that looks sure to be characterised by as much recessionary caution and general pessimism as 2002. But if you need an optimistic fillip, then consider that, despite the gloom of 2002, the industry's best performers met the challenge with clear thinking, creative innovation and business nous that propelled growth, whatever the market conditions. And this time next year, there will be just as many success (in the face of adversity, perhaps) stories to applaud.

Caroline Marshall has just had a beautiful baby boy