From the Editor

If 2004 was the year of the great advertising rebound, why didn’t it feel that way?

This time last year, we were writing about the end of the recession, the comeback of the stock market and unusually upbeat predictions from usually pessimistic prognosticators. All signs pointed up. During the year, several forecasters even revised their projected increases upward, and ultimately the numbers were good. But numbers never tell the whole story. As Noreen O’Leary reports in our lead story, beginning on page 4, clients may have loosened their purse strings, but they were spending their money differently. And for agencies unprepared to respond to unprecedented demands for innovation, the recovery presented as many challenges as opportunities. So, for some, the rebound felt more like a slow healing process than an immediate recovery. And this year will bring more of the same.

Our look ahead at the prospects for media in 2005, beginning on page 22, reflects this strange new world. Numbers are up across most media, but vexing problems linger—most related in some way to making sense and then making use of top-to-bottom transformations in technology and the people buying, selling and using it.

Also in this issue, beginning on page 16, we introduce three industry leaders as new Adweek columnists: Bob Greenberg of R/GA details how to build a new agency model for the Information Age. Renetta McCann of Starcom MediaVest Group writes about balancing invention and tradition in media. And Tom Messner of Euro RSCG explains what lessons we should have learned from last year’s political campaigns.

In our Just Asking pages, agency CEOs, strategists and creatives sound off on the best and worst ads of last year, trends they wish would die in 2005 and the lowest moments of 2004.

From low moments to lowbrow. In “From Sexy to Sleazy,” Barbara Lippert explores how 2004 was a new peak in our no-shame culture. Starting on page 8, she chronicles how consumers have acquired an insatiable appetite for any and all things trashy—and what to expect now that edgy is mainstream.

Now, the results of our online poll. Over the last two weeks, we asked you to choose the biggest ad stories of 2004. The top vote-getter, with 21 percent, was WPP’s deal to acquire Grey for $2.5 billion. (Whether you think it’s big because of the implications for the industry or because of the $350 million payday for Ed Meyer, we’re not really sure.) Following, with 17 percent: Clients seeking non-traditional creative solutions. In third place is a topic of much discussion: holding-company-led reviews (by clients like HSBC, Samsung and Intel), which received 14 percent of the vote.

Here is the rest of the breakdown: P&G’s $2.5 billion shift to communications-channel planning (13 percent); Legislators, activists and the FCC gunning for indecency in the media (12 percent); Ogilvy’s legal woes on ONDCP (9 percent); Uncertainty at Havas (4 percent). Interestingly, the overhyped and undermeasured branded-entertainment category received only 11 percent. Perhaps people are starting to realize that results, not just star power, are what matters.

We wish you all a healthy and happy 2005.