A Look Back on 2016

Posted by Gregg Boling

Every year, heads of households and companies alike are asked to create some sort of annual retrospective. For families, this typically comes in the form of a mass letter or Christmas card. For companies, it often starts with a letter or report to the team, followed by a letter or email to clients. In either case, both tend to cover the year’s major accomplishments and include a long list of accolades and achievements earned by Little Johnny and Precocious Sue. This is not that kind of letter. Sure, we had a great year. In fact, let me get all that bragging out of the way: For starters, our integrated teams won multiple American Advertising Federation titles, including overall Best in Show Nashville. Our PR team enjoyed some well-deserved recognition—taking home 12 PRSA Parthenons and a few Bulldog media awards. The agency was also recognized for the best Multicultural Campaign in AAF’s annual Mosaic Awards, and we were extremely honored to receive recognition in the Communication Arts 2016 Design Annual. bm2b0224 bm2b2510 We also experienced meteoric growth, expanding from 83 to 118 people over the course of just 10 months. This growth is due in-part to the hard work and dedication of some of the most brilliant and talented people I have come across in my 30+ years in the industry. It goes without saying that much of our success can be attributed to great clients trusting us to help them achieve real and measurable results. I am very proud of our growing roster of brands that hold us accountable for their successes, and I look forward to seeing the future of our mutual partnerships. But enough of that. Like I said, this isn’t that kind of letter. I’ll leave it for the (real) news organizations to analyze 2016, but from my point of view it certainly had its share of weird stuff and head-scratcher moments. It was a year that saw us lose Alan Thicke, Mohammad Ali, Prince and Bowie, just to name a few. Top trending topics included Brexit, ISIS, turmoil in Brazil, Black Lives Matter and, of course, the U.S. presidential election. If nothing else, 2016 was all about change. Our industry saw its share of trends and changes, too. Virtual reality was certainly a big topic, and we were on the front lines with the launch of our first AR experience for the new Bridgestone Ecopia tire. Other visual experience trends included 360°, long-form and live streaming ads. We’re still dealing with audiences with eight-second attention spans, but increasingly many companies (including us) are putting long-form content back in the mix. One of the year’s best examples of this was Target’s four-minute live ad with Gwen Stefani. We are seeing companies moving away from 16×9 wide-format in favor of embracing square and (Arrrrrghhhh!!) the vertical portrait for video content. If you don’t believe me, I’ll remind you of this year’s Jeep spot, arguably the best ad of the 2016 Super Bowl. We’re using more vertical videos for clients like Hunt Brothers Pizza as we continue to push content across all screens. bm2b3733 bm2b2392 Speaking of content, that is probably one of the biggest drivers of change across the industry. Brands are seeing stronger results with agencies like us that began rejecting the old “hub & spoke” content approach several years back. Lego is one of the best examples of smart content strategy among today’s big consumer brands. Their brand now goes far beyond the ubiquitous barefoot, pain-inflicting blocks that we grew up with. Now we all, or at least many of us, experience Lego in the form of toys, stores, websites and web universes, magazines, clubs, YouTube channels, movies and more. In 2015, we revitalized our approach to content, adding integral leaders and team members to better serve audiences. We’re using this proven approach to drive engagement across the purchase and sales funnel for B2C and B2B brands alike. All in all, it’s been a big year for change. One might say “Yuge!” So how would I sum it all up? 2016 taught us you can make the grandest of plans, but you need to listen to your audience. You have to understand what matters to them and roll with the punches. Ultimately, if you’re a brand that’s not thinking about some of these important trends and shifts, in the words of the late David Bowie, “It’s time to face the changes.”