The 10 Biggest Stories of the Year

A List From the Ad Age 'Book of Tens'

Published on .

1 The Wal-Mart saga
A $580 million review for the world's largest retailer would have made the list on its own merits.
Dumping Bernstein-Rein and GSD&M for DraftFCB made it a touch more dramatic and made Draft the top contender for Ad Age's agency of the year. But when Julie Roehm and Sean Womack were fired and Draft along with them? We were ready to write a script and make this one movie of the year. But we're still waiting to see how this one ends.

2 Lack of diversity in the ad industry
In 2004, more than 25 years after New York first looked into the lack of diversity in the advertising industry, the city's Commission on Human Rights decided to follow up with a fact-finding mission. In 2005, fact-finding turned into an investigation and in 2006 that investigation led to subpoenas and threats of embarrassing public-hearings. All of the agencies involved eventually signed agreements pledging to ramp up minority recruiting.

3 Food marketers as villains
Marketers, it seems, have very short memories. Just a few short years after watching the tobacco industry exile itself into almost total silence, food marketers seem intent on doing the same. Blamed for fattening children with commercials and poisoning everyone with trans fats, they're now rushing to self-regulate in an attempt to appease the unappeasable-consumer groups. Of course, claiming that water and soda are "functional" beverages doesn't help their image any.

4 YouTube/Google
In our 2005 issue, we had a list titled "10 Ways Google Will Take Over the World." Not on that list? GoogleTube. Then again, we barely knew what YouTube was at that stage in the game. So we can't be faulted for not predicting Chad Hurley's outfit would so out-perform Google Video that the search giant would have to shell out $1.6 billion for the king of what Bob Garfield has dubbed Monkeyvision. Now Google has to figure out how to monetize it.

5 Four A's hires PR firm
In a move that made PR professionals just a wee bit smug, the industry trade group for advertising agencies had to turn to a PR agency for help. In September, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, in a "refusal to keep taking lumps," hired GolinHarris to burnish the advertising industry's reputation with reporters and other influencers. At least they didn't pull a Captain Read.

6 Consumer-generated content boom
The consumer is not only your wife -- she's now your creative director. This year, a confluence of YouTube, broadband and increasingly video- and computer-savvy consumers led to home-made commercials, videos, movies and parodies being widely available. Marketers including Chevy, Chipotle and the NFL have tapped the consumer community in some form or other. Even "CBS Evening News" tried to get in on the act with its now-defunct Free Speech section.

7 Banner year for political-ad spending
Off-year elections aren't supposed to be this exciting-and certainly not this expensive. But a slew of Republican missteps, a Democratic party that finally got its act somewhat together and a population just hoping for a change drove political outlays to a record-busting $2.2 billion and used up all of the commercial time in key local markets. Interestingly, as political-ad spending reaches new heights, political-ad content keeps reaching new lows.

8 The great commercial-ratings debate
If you're wondering why the TV industry spent most of the year debating the currency on which it trades, you can start by asking ABC President-Sales Mike Shaw. His stance in spring that networks should be paid by advertisers for viewers who watch shows when they want on their DVRs started the ball rolling. Now we're parsing which DVR viewers are most valuable and whether commercial ratings should be averaged by program or broken out minute by minute or second by second. Stay tuned.

9 Katie Couric, "Evening News" anchor
It was one of the worst-kept secrets of the year. After 15 years as co-host of NBC's "The Today Show," Katie Couric announced April 5 that she would be taking the job as anchor of "CBS Evening News." That day was a victory for Les Moonves, CBS president-CEO, who had courted her in the hope that she would boost the standing of his third-rated newscast. But despite Ms. Couric's innovations-such as daily online videos and a blog- CBS's newscast remains where it was when Dan Rather was the anchor.

10 J&J throws its weight around
Many marketers gripe about the upfront, about entrusting the bulk of their yearly marketing budgets to the sort of people who green-lighted "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart." It took the maker of baby shampoo to actually do something. Johnson & Johnson this year said no thanks to the upfront, shifted 20% of its budget into nontraditional media and told the TV crowd to add engagement metrics. Then it pitted media agencies against each other as they vied for J&J's $1.3 billion media account. No tears, indeed.
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