2016 was a year of humiliation for adland. Will 2017 be a year of hope?

2016: the year of Brexit and Trump, has also been a worrying year for adland with fake apps winning at Cannes and media agency transparency under the spotlight. In this guest post, Mark Hadfield suggests that 2017 will be a year of hope.

Let’s start off with some honesty. The hard work, commitment and creative ambitions that you’ve put your energies into this year have been affected by scam work from other agencies.mark-hadfield-head-shot

It might seem like an over-claim, but whether it’s been through the eyes of an awards’ judge, a client review or within your own agency, the way people now view your creative work has changed. It’s a more cynically-minded audience now as people try and root out the cheaters.

And the sad truth is, the industry has brought it on itself.

The insatiable clamour for awards has led to some agencies and networks going to morally questionable lengths to climb the rankings of the Gunn Report.

I have the same career ambitions as the next person, and it’s nice to feel the work we’ve put our energies into might stand a chance in being recognised by our peers and clients for the impact it’s had on culture and business. Yet I’ve never worked on scam work to achieve that aim.

And I’ve never seen it or heard of it in the Iris network, because the simple fact is we’re too busy trying to sell things for our clients. And that’s the first thing I hope changes in 2017 – we need to put the emphasis squarely back on business impact when recognising and awarding work.

To achieve that I believe awards categories should be split to separate, cause-related work from sales-driving work.i sea spot the foreign object

A scam is a scam is a scam. And cause-related work is important for sure, but I don’t remember much sales-driving work being exposed as scam.

To denigrate cause-related work would be wrong, but I feel in the current climate work that actually sells products is being perceived as less valuable to the industry. It’s currently out shadowed by that tear-jerking cause the agency worked pro-bono on to generate 500 billion impressions.

We owe it to ourselves and our clients to ensure we have a fair emphasis on business impact – in both creative and effectiveness awards.

After all, wasn’t it some old bloke with a pipe that once said “we sell, or else…”, not “we highlight causes, or else…”

Besides scamming seemingly reaching its peak in 2016, it’s also not been the proudest year for a few agency networks has it?

Whether you’re working your staff to death, keeping a bunch of brown envelopes under your media agency desk or washing your alleged misogynistic laundry in public, 2016 is probably a year that some of you are looking forward to saying goodbye to.

The truth is in our industry, doing the right thing is sometimes tough. It’s an industry that can compromise people.

This becomes dangerous when those compromises trickle down from the top, or become part of company culture.

(Add to this the macro context of what’s going on politically in the USA, UK and in some countries in Asia and we’re in danger of extreme and corrupt beliefs and methodologies becoming normalised)

But my naïvety powers through and I hope 2017 is the year when the good will win out.

Because we – you and I – are in charge of whether it does or not.

The reality is the vast majority of the people in our industry are hard working, morally sound, ambitious and conscientious people. As department and agency leaders we must ensure these are the people who succeed.

We must look beyond short term financial factors and empower and champion the people we know will not only power our businesses to success, but do it in a way that is right for society.

Unfortunately, a minority is disproportionately taking the headlines for their abhorrent working practices.

We need senior decision makers who make the right decisions, for the right reasons.

And we need the people who work under them to hold them to account.

Our industry can do good things for society and for individuals. It can be a place where people value working, where money can be made responsibly and where meaningful creativity is championed. It can create ephemeral and meaningful moments that make a positive impact on the lives of the masses.

So I hope that 2017 is the year we address some of the rot that has grown in the industry in 2016.

It’s up to us.

Mark Hadfield is Asia Pacific planning director of Iris Worldwide


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