Reflections

by , Dec 27, 2001, 12:00 AM
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Instead of an incendiary or controversial position piece of punditry, I'd like to commit this week's column to a brief reflection on this past year. Most of you reading this are likely reading it on the front side of 2002, as it is traditional for the advertising agency world to take the week between Christmas and New Year's Day off, so I don't want to start your new year with feelings of anxiety over thinking that there is something you may have missed out on or there are new developments to stay abreast of. Read it if you want, or hit delete at the end of this paragraph.

It was the first full year of the 21st century. Yes, I'm one of those purist nerds who annoyed the masses with my admonitions of those declaring the coming Y2K as being the 21st century. And believe it or not, we really did see the world change forever in this year, both within the industry and at large.

The dot-coms continued to die off one by one, with NASDAQ delistings and bankruptcies.

Online advertising saw its fortunes reverse for the first time since the genie was first let out of the consumer bottle in 1995 when HotWired first put banner advertising on their site. Reported spending shrank consistently quarter-by-quarter compared to the same time periods the previous year.

The press continued to spill ink over the bodies of dead dot-coms and expound with ghoulish relish the demise of online advertising as a whole. Stalwart media companies like NBCi.com abandoned their independence as an Internet media concern and Disney's Go.com close up shop all together.

The economy continued to flirt with disaster and slump into recession, most notable notables saying that it started as early as March of 2001.

And, of course, who old enough to speak or see can forget the events of September 11th? Too much to talk about here, but all of us know the feelings we've felt, and many still do, about that day. When we look back on it, there is the intellectual take, which we can mull over dispassionately - thoughts on American foreign policy, the impact on an already sluggish economy, questions about fairness in compensation to victims' families. There is also the hot, throat-swelling draw that still makes us cry for no reason, or start when a loud vehicle goes by, or find ourselves still not believing it all happened, even when standing at Ground Zero and seeing it for ourselves.

But there is some good rising on the horizon. Though spending online is down, it is become quite apparent that more and more traditional clients, some even with their agencies in tow, are finding their way onto the web and have stated they intend to do more in the space, now that the years of "research and development," if you will, are over and there is more understanding about just what the medium contributes to the overall marketing act. Pizza Hut, Honda, Ford, and AT&T, just to name a few, have been found not only on the web in a significant fashion, but they are doing things that are truly "out of the box" and "beyond the banner."

My friends who are either at agencies or running them, who were once worried about either losing their job or losing their businesses are all now talking about how they are working the 12 hour days of yore. Agencies aren't too quick to hire, yet, but they are full of work.

The IAB and AAAA and other industry groups have worked harder and more seriously than ever before on issuing standards for best business practices and getting everyone on the same page when it comes to how we are going to move this industry foreword.

Just as soon as economic policy wonks declared that the recession began in March, they've indicated there are signs of recovery. It is conventional wisdom that layoffs are a sign of where the economy has been, not where it is going. So, though the job losses continue, new filings for unemployment are starting to decline.

And finally, as the smell of Downtown New York City is finally starting to lift, so too is the pall, and life is returning to normal, though what normal now is will never be the same. A couple of weeks ago I went to see a play at "The Flea" on White Street near Canal. It was a full house with not an empty seat. I've actually had trouble getting a cab right before Christmas. The skating rink in Rockefeller Center and Central Park both look as full as they've been before. And reservations are necessary for NYC restaurants again.

There is so much more I could talk about that happened during the year 2001, but I don't want to bore you. I do, however, want to leave you with the 4 most important things I've learned this year. Maybe you will find them useful, maybe you won't. But I don't want to get hit by a pie truck or something without having shared them with you all. They are my axioms, my commandments, if you will; I try now to live by.

1. Never save anything for a special occasion, for every second of life is worthy of celebration.

2. Never do anything that any fiber of your being suggests violates your spirit. Life is too short to do something your soul finds distasteful and doesn't want to do.

3. Never pass up an opportunity to use the bathroom. Only ecstasy rivals the feeling of relief.

4. Never pass up an opportunity to tell someone how you feel. Everyone needs to be reminded they are loved, and in doing so, you may save a life, or make the last moment of one a final breath of joy.

Maybe a bit sappy, but so what? There is enough cynicism; I should know, I practice a great deal of it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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