Adweek’s Bright Past, Big Future

Celebrating 35 years

Headshot of James Cooper

Personally, I’ve always found anniversaries hard to swallow. They mark the inevitable passing of time and the inescapable advance of waistlines and those smarty-pants millennials.

But for a brand—especially a media brand and, incredibly, a legacy print media brand in the white-knuckle throes of digital transition—an anniversary is a marker to feel pretty damn good about. In this issue, we celebrate 35 years of Adweek.

The brand (and later its siblings Brandweek and Mediaweek) was launched as a counter to the status quo, and through its various owners and managers—some inspired, others outright inept and neglectful—Adweek has stayed true to that mission, which can certainly be seen in the issue here.

James Cooper

Under the guidance of executive editor Tony Case and executive creative director Nick Mrozowski, we offer up a Q&A with Sir Martin Sorrell by staff writer Noreen O’Leary in which the WPP Group CEO not only discusses a certain merger but also his perspective on advertising’s past three-and-a-half decades and future prospects. It is accompanied by a series of eight essays by industry thought leaders on how digital disruption has shaped their businesses and careers.

Ambitious as ever, senior editor Tim Nudd, along with contributing editor David Griner, has pulled together a compendium of some of the most important advertising events during Adweek’s run. And finally, the centerpiece of the issue: a photo portfolio featuring advertising and media luminaries and their offspring who have followed mom and dad into the family business.

Adweek is, in fact, old enough to have generations of its own. The founders—Jack Thomas, Ken Fadner, Penn Tudor and our first star editor, Clay Felker—put the original fire engine red logo on the map, quickly establishing the magazine as a hip and dynamic voice for the business of advertising. Adweek’s next class, led by Craig Reiss, Kevin McCormack and the brilliant and relentless Alison Fahey, built on that foundation, while adding a dash of rebellion and plenty of swagger. Now it is my turn, largely shaped by the recession of the early 2000s and the advent of the Internet. I would venture to say Adweek is on the verge of its fourth generation, one that will be shaped by the mobile and social media extensions and opportunities that lie ahead.

The people I have met in my nearly 16-year run at Adweek represent an incredible array of talent—and total characters—too numerous and nuanced to name here. But through them, I have grown as a journalist, a manager and a person. I owe that to four individuals in particular, each of whom passed on a hallmark that I have, in turn, tried to infuse into the current iteration of Adweek: Bill Gloede, former editor of Mediaweek, encouraged me to be endlessly curious; Michael Bürgi, another Mediaweek boss, showed me the importance of generosity; Michael Wolff, Adweek’s previous editor, taught me to be absolutely fearless; and my new boss, Guggenheim Digital Media CEO Ross Levinsohn, has pushed for greater ambition and a call to think as big as possible.

And we will get bigger. Building on our growing reach (September saw’s largest audience ever), stabilized revenue and rapidly expanding social profile, publisher Suzan Gursoy has been given the same think-big directive. Beyond launching the first gala event for our signature Hot List franchise (on Dec. 2 in New York), together we will continue to add still more features, events and programs throughout 2014.

I guess anniversaries are only truly worth noting when the future holds as much—or more—promise than the past. For Adweek, the journey forward continues.

@jcoopernyc James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.