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A year of agency insights: The Drum Network wrapped 2021

A look at the best content of the year from The Drum Network / Kira auf der Heidevia Unsplash

It’s been a banner year for The Drum Network and its members. We’ve launched new hubs in New York, San Francisco and Amsterdam; welcomed brilliant new members from all over the world; bolstered our internal team; and seen more great work than ever before. Here, the editor for the Network, Sam Anderson, takes a look at some of the highlights.

2021 is almost done, so we at The Drum Network have been doing some looking back at some of our highlights of the year, from excellent op-eds from our experts to behind-the-scenes looks at world-changing work. Join us in celebrating some of the best.

Behind the scenes in agencyland

One of the real treats of this job is my frequent invitations behind the curtain of some of this industry’s most fascinating productions, like this conversation with Identity, the event organizers for the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. They memorably described working with the spatial and operational confines of Covid as playing “the largest game of Tetris ever”.

I’ve also been able to get a peek into the minds of some of agencyland’s best and brightest, with candid conversations about some of the under-discussed impacts growing a successful business can have on its founders. RocketMill’s Sam Garrity told me about his decision to sell the business owned by him and his brother to its employees, and how that changed him. Waste’s Visar Statovci and Mike Petricevic took me through their business’s growth from a design studio based in a boat on the Thames to one of London’s most exciting agencies. The force of nature known as Jonny Tooze of Lab Group took me on a journey that, surprisingly enough, touched on ego death, Buddhism, and the inherent flaws of capitalism.

The changing shape of agencies

With our Better Business speakers’ series, expert-led roundtables around the world and a few special interview sessions with our own chief exec Diane Young, we’ve had some wonderful opportunities to get the inside track on how the biggest and best agencies are shaping up for the future.

Jellyfish’s Rob Pierre told us what exactly it means to iron (most) hierarchies out of an agency employing 2,000+ workers. Nicky Unsworth, BJL’s former chief exec, let us in on the secrets of their sale to Dentsu. Wesley ter Haar of MediaMonks gave us a view of agencies’ role in the global ecosystem – and some cheerleading for a growing hub, Amsterdam.

Solutions to everyday problems

At The Drum we’re all about providing the industry with the tools to do a better job tomorrow than it did today. Our network of experts writing insight and opinion-led content are an invaluable part of that, as the year’s best content from the Network feed attests.

Relevance’s Rumble Romagnoli gave us this fascinating breakdown of Covid-19’s impact on e-commerce. Antonia Lowe of Tailify expanded our understanding of what makes Gen Z tick (and what that means for you). Mike Lowe of Adapt looked into which post-pandemic trends are here to stay. Alice Paul of Frog took a no-nonsense look at strategy for luxury brands that goes beyond lip service to the younger generations.

For writers and thought leaders in the Network and beyond, let the quality of those best-performing pieces of content be a lesson in the value of good thinking and writing.

Big thinking

The Drum’s Deep Dives have taken off this year, covering everything from retail to data and marketing’s relationship with marginalized groups.

We had so many brilliant op eds from Network members that it’s hard to pick favourites, but here are a few: Purple Goat’s Martyn Sibley on disability representation; Jellyfish’s Sandrine Reinert on the intersection of data, privacy and purpose; Kemosabe’s John Speers on conscious travel; Jack Morton’s Damian Ferrar on the metaverse’s potential.

The Drum Network Podcast

My excellent colleague Chris may have moved on from his position as editor for the Network (a decision I, for purely personal reasons, am grateful he made), he’s stuck around at The Drum as a senior reporter, writing news and features (like this interview with Reddit’s chief operating officer).

He’s also stayed on as the sonorous host of our very own podcast. Highlights this year have been a conversation on Gucci and gaming with Waste’s Christian Perrins; a chat with folk from Croud, Jack Morton and Reddico on keeping the spark alive as you scale; and a detailed look at the future of e-commerce.

Thanks to everyone who's been a part of our Network's growth in 2021, and here's to even more great work in 2022.

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