Celebrity deaths, Zika, drowning refugees, Aleppo, more celebrity deaths, Facebook censoring attempts to raise awareness of breast cancer… It’s no surprise so many of us were glad to see the back of 2016. It was like a bad dream we couldn’t wake up from.
We had the Brexit fallout, shaky political leadership and uncertainty over the role Britain would play on the world stage, which led to instability across the spectrum and the pound taking a pounding. And then of course there was Trump.
Yet, as by the laws of nature, life went on. It may be a strange old world we inhabit, but there was still much to be positive about in 2016 – particularly in this industry of ours.
And so, in our first print issue of the year and online, we take a celebratory approach, highlighting in our New Year Honours The Drum editorial team’s top picks from 2016 – the campaigns, the brand turnarounds, the agencies and talent at the top of their game. We even give a bit of recognition to some of the year’s howlers, for, if nothing else, they proved memorable – Bernie Ecclestone at Advertising Week Europe anyone?
Compiling the list was no easy feat, with the team agonising over how to distil all of their favourite projects, brands and events into something digestible. For ease of consumption, we’ve divided it into: brands, agencies, work, media, innovative companies, tech, phenomena, industry defining moments and the people.
We also turned to the industry to find out what it liked most about last year and, in a special edition of our regular Creative Works feature, creative directors wax lyrical about the projects that had the biggest impact on them in 2016, such as DDB Berlin’s ‘Check it before it’s removed’ for Pink Ribbon, which we feature on the cover this issue and which was a firm favourite of Victoria Buchanan of Tribal Worldwide. This “hack creativity”, as she calls it, created “a movement from breast cancer sufferers and supporters who chased the censorship off Facebook”.
Of course, we’re not oblivious to the task ahead. Against a backdrop of fundamental societal change, the marketing industry continues to face its own monumental challenges which we explore in our Trending section in print. Ad fraud once again made headlines in December, with revelations that a Russian hacking operation named ‘Methbot’ has been allegedly defrauding legitimate online advertisers of up to $5m a day.
Meanwhile, the issue of fake news, which dominated the latter part of 2016, has gathered significant pace from initiatives and politicians determined to tackle it. The new global First Draft Partner Network, launched to improve the accuracy of news stories published online, has the support of hundreds of publishers worldwide including the New York Times, the BBC, the Guardian, and, importantly, Facebook, Google and Twitter.
Mindful advertisers understand the need for awareness here. As Susan Credle, FCB Global’s chief creative officer, puts it: “People are not only feeling targeted, but also manipulated.”
If ever there was a time to rebuild trust and forge new connections, it is now. Brands can play a crucial role in helping people feel grounded and establishing certainty at a time when everything seems so uncertain.
The temptation may be to move swiftly on from the difficulties 2016 threw at us. But first, let’s take a breath, regroup and reflect on an extraordinary 12 months.
This leader column was originally published in the 11 January issue of The Drum magazine.