The Wall Street Journal Thinks Certain Agency Execs and (Female) Creatives May Have a Great 2017

By Patrick Coffee 

Just as the geniuses at reddit have provided us with a “megathread” of the many famous people who passed in 2016, so we can make a fairly comprehensive list of those who left the ad industry over the past 12 months. Campaign U.S. even ran a little “Year in Scandal” review that includes a couple of the stories from this site, and we’re mentioning it because we just love the attention.

OK. But who will have the real power in 2017? Yesterday The Wall Street Journal published its own summary, which we will now recap here.

-The Big 4 holding company CEOs

Given that all four of the largest such companies are under investigation by the feds and the CEO of Dentsu just agreed to resign over Japan’s “suicide by overwork” scandal, we would guess that all these guys will be stepping carefully in 2017. Hell, at Cannes this year all the PR flacks told their bosses not to openly drink rosé on yachts, lest they earn the ire of the plebes.

WSJ speculates that Sir Martin, John Wren and others will “have to work overtime to repair the strained relationship between marketers and agencies” in the coming months. We predict lots of reviews and more clients taking their work in-house. But the real power still resides with a very small group of people, and that will continue to be the case.

-Arthur Sadoun

The biggest shock to the holding co world next year might occur if Maurice Levy names anyone other than Sadoun as his successor. And he did allegedly play a key role in a couple of big consolidation wins, namely Walmart and MillerCoors retail. At any rate, the “Power of One” shakeup will probably continue. If we led a Publicis department, we might be a little paranoid.

-Scott Hagedorn of Hearts & Science

We spent a few solid hours with the CEO of Omnicom’s newest media agency earlier this year for a big old Adweek feature, and we can say that he struck us as a good dude who worked in the trenches for years before his current moment in the sun. The key question moving into 2017 will be whether H&S can maintain its advantage over WPP or whether the ongoing media review wave will reveal that, as one anonymous executive told us, “there is no secret sauce” to the miracle of data-powered buying.

-Scott Kaufman of MDC Partners

Kaufman did not have the world’s most enviable job when he took over departing CEO Miles Nadal’s leaky ship last year. The company’s stock dropped more than 60% in one November day despite the award-winning work of its agencies and the acquisition of Forsman & Bodenfors, but it stabilized a few days later as MDC announced a tentative framework for a (somewhat paltry) $1.5 million SEC penalty payment. Still, even the WSJ has reported on rumors of a possible sale, and at least one investment manager told us that the organization seems to have significant financial problems that will not be going away in 2017.

-Female creative leaders

It’s a little said that this portion of the 2017 review had to come last, but it’s not just you: Many talented women were promoted to agency leadership positions this year, quite a few of them within creative departments. And some launched their own operations!

WSJ names Susan Credle, Robin Fitzgerald of BBDO, Jaime Robinson of Joan and Chloe Gottlieb of R/GA, but there was also Margaret JohnsonA.J. Hassan, Liz Taylor, Jo Shoesmith at Campbell Ewald, Kate Daggett at Rauxa and many more.

And if we’re talking non-creative executives, what about Tamara Ingram, Erin Reilly, Melissa Nelson and all the new partners at Wieden + Kennedy?

Apologies to all the names we left off. FWIW, we are hoping that news outlets can mostly stop using phrases like “first-ever female creative leader” next year.

Anyway, no real surprises on this list. Our two biggest questions:

  • Will all the small-scale shops launched by former Big Agency creatives and their partners start to show results in 2017? How much business will they siphon away?
  • Will “bid rigging” really be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Are ’90s-style indictments coming?

Here’s to next year.

[Image via Adweek]