The Year in Review: Introduction

Well, apparently it could get worse.

Corporate crime was the culprit this year, punching the air out of the economy and the ad industry, both already reeling from 2001. The Age of Anxiety settled in for a long visit, as we began the year fighting one war and end it preparing for another. I believe I speak for many by resurrecting for 2002 what we said about 2001 in this space last year: Let’s kiss this one goodbye.

Even though ad spending rebounded a bit and pundits are predicting a soft recovery in 2003, it was hard to see many benefits for ad agencies. I traveled from New York to San Francisco, Las Vegas to Orlando, and everywhere I went I was asked the same question: Are things as bad in your town—L.A., in my case—as they are in ours?

Unfortunately, yes. As happens every year, of course, some shops did better than others. Some rose, others fell. Some survived, others expired. We all hope for salvation, or at least a duller pain, in 2003.

In this year-end issue we track the time line of 2002, noting the good (including Universal McCann’s hot streak and Wieden + Kennedy’s continuing creative excellence on Nike), the bad (the death of D’Arcy and the disappearance of ad-agency jobs) and the ugly (scandal at The Color Wheel and IPG’s financial woes). Plus, of course, that small matter of the Publicis Groupe purchase of Bcom3 and the consequent reassignment of $500 million-plus in global Procter & Gamble business.

One event not noted in the time line, as it belongs outside a chro nology of ordinary business life, is the death in April of Jay Chiat, one of advertising’s true legends and most influential pioneers. He was 70. An inspiration to thousands, a follower of no one.

Clearly, corporate governance, particularly regarding accounting practices, was the top business theme of the past 12 months. Editor-at-large Noreen O’Leary takes a long, hard look at how added scrutiny is impacting U.S. ad holding companies, with Omnicom’s Seneca crisis and IPG’s accounting imbalance as a backdrop.

Adweek columnist Debra Goldman ruminates on whether consumers got dumber or smarter in 2002. While appeals to our inner moron keep coming fast and furious, she says, consumers are also taking advantage of better access to loftier pursuits.

From cars to cat food, 2002 was also the year advertising got ready for its close-up. Expanding the program sponsorship model in various directions, Madison Avenue and Hollywood deepened their love affair, with entertainment marketing all the rage. Does it work? Will it last? Creative editor Eleftheria Parpis gives us the behind-the-scenes story.

We also present special year-end editions of Barbara Lippert’s Critique, Mark Dolliver’s Takes and Shoptalk.

Enjoy, be safe and try to be merry this holiday season. Sure, it can always get worse. But sometimes, you know, it actually gets better.