Sunday, May 20, 2018
  • Friday, Dec. 22, 2017
2017 Year End Survey: Positive & Proactive
A look back at 2017, brands pushing back against negativity, and the promise of AI, AR

2017 has been a trying year. Political divisiveness on the rise, civility seemingly in decline. Sexual harassment coming to the fore in entertainment, media and the body politic. Those narrow of mind and short on tolerance emboldened to spew forth hate speech and scapegoating, coming to a tragic escalation one weekend in Charlottesville.

Yet out of the negativity, brands are among those finding their voice and pushing back, espousing positive values and addressing issues—as reflected in SHOOT’s Year-End Survey of ad agency creatives and professionals. For example, Karen Costello, executive creative director of The Martin Agency, said she and her colleagues at the shop are committed “to do more work that creates positive change and social impact. Just recently, after the tragedy in Charlottesville here in Virginia, we created a simple but powerful message of inclusion based on the ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ tagline created by the agency years ago.

The Martin Agency built upon that nearly 50-year-old tourism slogan with the added line “Virginia is for everyone” along with the hashtag #standforlove.

“It immediately resonated with people and took on a life of its own,” continued Costello. “As agencies and brands, we have incredible opportunities to affect change, and that inspires and energizes me greatly.”

Tod Puckett, director of production, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, added, “There seems to be an increasing use of brands deploying their power as a force for good, whether it’s the REI #OptOutside campaign from last year, a guerrilla work of art like the ‘Fearless Girl’ or even the Breathalyzer Bag we created to discourage drunk driving on Super Bowl Sunday. The beauty of these stunts is that they require a very small—or sometimes no—media budget. They are all PR led, harnessing consumers’ passions on powerful issues.”

Andy Bird, chief creative officer, Publicis New York, observed in his year-end feedback, “We’ve all had so many conversations about the divide, about the mood of cynicism and negativity. But there’s still so much remarkable positivity out there. I really believe that, I see it in our clients in what they want to do. The best brands will organically make that part of their stories.”

Indeed there’s positivity even within accusations and admissions that are difficult to hear, as underscored in the sexual harassment allegations, many of which have been proven true. Victims gained a voice in 2017, showing the extent of the problem and the need for change.

Erica Fite, creative director/co-founder of agency Fancy LLC, thinks generally more has to be done so that women’s voices can be heard—this applies not just to harassment allegations but also in the field of consumerism and branding. In her SHOOT survey feedback, Fite shared, “We have a theory that women over 40 are misunderstood, misrepresented, and sometimes just plain ignored by marketers. It’s our agency New Year’s resolution to change the landscape by truly recognizing who women over 40 are and who they are becoming. We’re conducting a nationwide survey with hundreds of women aged 40 years and older to get to the heart of what matters to them. How they feel and what’s motivating to them. We are also pulling together a panel of insightful women to provide a sounding board, a variety of perspectives, and spirited debate about what it means to be a woman over 40 today. Our goal is to help brands speak to this valuable group of overlooked consumers in a way that’s resonating and compelling. These ladies are loyal, they’ve got money, and right now they feel like they’re left out of the conversation with brands.”

This month, the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) revealed its Marketing Word of the Year as voted on by its members: “Artificial Intelligence (AI).” Voting was done online during the week of November 27, and 403 ANA members participated.

Examples of artificial intelligence include cognitive computing (e.g., IBM’s Watson), driverless cars, voice-enabled digital assistants (e.g., Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Now) and recommendation engines. A good example of the latter is Amazon, which uses algorithms based on data including a user’s purchase history, items in the shopping cart, items rated and liked, and what other customers have viewed and purchased. Artificial intelligence is also used in marketing automation, programmatic ad buying, chat bots and customer service.

In his SHOOT survey feedback, Dan Kelleher, partner, chief creative officer, Deutsch NY, shared, “I think AI has been the most exciting area of growth and development in 2017. It makes us think differently about creative briefs and expands what we are capable of accomplishing for our clients. I love everything that’s happening in this space right now, and in April Deutsch launched Great Machine, an AI division tasked with adding creativity, soul, personality, and a voice to the AI landscape. It’s a huge opportunity for brands to connect with consumers, but we believe that without a personality, AI is still just a bunch of numbers and code. As AI becomes more mainstream, the agencies that are working with it now will be the ones that are ahead. We’re excited to see where it takes us.”

Andrés Ordóñez, chief creative officer, Energy BBDO, related, “I think AI will keep growing, and with it a whole new world to tap into. Our access to, and ability to interpret, data improves almost daily—this will continue to inform work that is stronger and more precise. Content will continue to be king and with it, storytelling. Overall I think 2018 will be a year where brands focus on evocative storytelling and creating innovative consumer experiences.”

A number of survey respondents thought that Augmented Reality (AR) got a boost in 2017. Al Patton, SVP, executive creative director, 22squared, assessed, “Augmented Reality definitely got a big boost in 2017, largely due to iOS 11 and its ARKit framework becoming available on iPhone and iPad. Agencies have been pitching AR ideas for years, but something about Apple embracing it in that way seemed to validate it as something beyond a digital cartwheel. Brands using AR to provide real, valuable utility to their customers are the ones pulling ahead of the pack.”

Tasha Cronin, co-director of interactive at Droga5, added, “The release of ARKit and ARCore and the integration of AR into social channels—it makes that device in the world’s pocket even that more powerful for users to explore their surroundings and how they express themselves within it. The now ubiquitous-ness of AR has deepened the discussion of our virtual world, as seen in the impressiveness of Snapchat’s augmented reality partnership with Jeff Koons being quickly supplanted by news of graffiti artist Sebastian Errazuriz tagging the Balloon Dog placed in Central Park. Begging the question, who owns public virtual space and how do brands respectfully navigate it?”

SHOOT surveyed a cross-section of high-level ad agency professionals to gain their assessments of the trends, developments and work that highlighted 2017.

What follows are excerpts from feedback provided by agency respondents. For our Year-End Survey on the agency side, the following five questions were posed:

1) What industry trends or developments were most significant in 2017?

2) How did your company adjust/adapt to the marketplace in 2017? (diversification, new resources/talent/technology, new strategies, etc.) You are welcome to cite specific piece of work which shows how lessons learned in 2017 were applied.

3) What work in 2017 are you most proud of? (Please cite any unique challenges encountered)

4) Gazing into your crystal ball, what do you envision for the industry—creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint—in 2018? (can focus on advertising, entertainment, production or post)

5) What’s your New Year’s resolution, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your company, agency or division? Do you have a personal New Year’s resolution that you can you share? And if you like, tell us briefly about a project you’ll be working on in early 2018?


Click here for a slideshow of survey responses, or click on the headshots below.

Name Title Company
Craig Allen Chief creative officer CALLEN
Matt Bijarchi CEO/co-founder Blend
Andy Bird Chief creative officer Publicis New York
Libby Brockhoff CEO Odysseus Arms
Ben Casey CEO Spinifex Group
Karen Costello Executive creative director The Martin Agency
Noel Cottrell Chief creative officer Fitzgerald & Co (Fitzco)
Tasha Cronin Co-director of interactive Droga5
Mike Densmore New York president KBS
Erica Fite Creative director/co-founder Fancy LLC
Greg Hahn Chief creative officer BBDO New York
Allison Hayes Creative director Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis
Matt Hunnicutt & Mike Davidson Co-heads of production Wieden+Kennedy Portland
Dan Kelleher Partner, chief creative officer Deutsch NY
Rikesh Lal Creative director, jr. partner Camp + King
Andrés Ordóñez Chief creative officer Energy BBDO
Al Patton SVP, executive creative director 22squared
Tod Puckett Director of production Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Brian Schultz Chief experience officer/founder We’re Magnetic
Jeff Stamp Deputy chief creative officer Grey New York