The dark evenings of autumn have already consigned the dog days of Cannes to a distant, and slightly D’Ott-addled, warm and fuzzy memory. They also mark the time for Campaign to hunker down in an artificially lit room and collectively reflect on a year that comes to an end alarmingly soon.
While experiencing the passage of time is a mixed blessing for most, a studied reflection on the year is still a satisfying and enjoyable opportunity to immerse ourselves in some of the best creativity and cleverest thinking from across the industry’s disciplines.
The annual review is also, of course, an event that helps us sort the wheat from the chaff (I won’t use "men from the boys" for reasons that will become apparent below). Except, early general indications suggest that, this year, the chaff has been reassuringly difficult to spot. But more on that in later editions of this magazine, once the internal cogitating, arguing and debating has ceased.
General observations on 2014 suggest that some recurring themes of recent years have failed to be addressed, while progress has been made elsewhere.
For the age-equality lobby, there does seem to be a few small signs of progress – Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has struck a small blow to the veneration of youth with its hiring of Steve Stretton to run its new retail division, AMV Red. With the veterans Simon Hall and Warren Moore also shipping up this year at Bartle Bogle Hegarty on the British Airways account, perhaps it’s having a direct, rather than a digital, background that is the real elixir to an eternal advertising life.
An appreciation of seasoned practitioners over creatively bereft data automatons should be welcomed
Either way, a new-found appreciation of the skills of seasoned practitioners in customer engagement at the expense of the creatively bereft data automatons should also be welcomed. But with just 6 per cent of the industry aged over 50, there’s some way yet for the business to go.
The industry’s gender imbalance is also a perennial issue, particularly at a senior level. You would have had to have spent the year living on the moon to have missed all the noise around the issue, showing that there’s momentum behind it even if not much action. If all the heat can be translated into light, then maybe a new narrative can be found – the ethnic imbalance looks in desperate need of redress next.
Conversation and action are paradoxes for an industry that is generally good at getting things done – witness the incredible pace with which agency groups have equipped themselves to face the challenges of the future through digital, content and mobile this year – but always while remembering and honouring the past.
And on that uplifting note, but with a heavy heart, it is time to sign off from this column. Thank you for reading.