The economy may have sprung back, but it’s still been a tough year for marketers and agencies. Consumers had new on-demand entertainment options, making their whereabouts even harder to track—and marketers’ place in many of these new digital media remains murky. Caution was understandable in a year when marketers faced pressures from rocketing fuel prices and consumers reeling from natural disasters. The industry cash cow—direct-to-consumer drug advertising—faced fresh regulatory scrutiny. Agencies, already pinched by client procurement execs, faced unprecedented pressure to deliver, and ROI discussions became standard in new business. Compensation and performance issues helped to end WPP Group’s relationship with Samsung, and Interpublic Group’s financial headaches dragged on. If the problems plaguing the industry’s original holding company suggest a once-unimaginable vulnerability, the success of tiny agency upstarts confirms it’s no longer business as usual. Institutional size and reach is no longer a reason to exist: Big marketers are willing to go wherever they find a good idea.
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