The biggest mistakes execs made in 2018 and how they'll mop them up

Spoiler alert: Shingy has 350 apps on his phone

Published on .

Just when you thought it was safe to put last year in the rearview mirror -- it isn't. Operating under the notion that hindsight is 20/20, we asked industry executives what they did wrong in 2018—and how they plan to fix their mistakes in the new year. They did not hold back.

Jen Wong, chief operating officer, Reddit

"One of the things that Reddit could have done better is when we turned on ads, we should have had a more robust ads-free subscription product so that we had choice for our users. We've done that now, through Reddit premium. ... We should have done earlier."

Andrew Mok, CMO, Turo

"It's easy to get addicted to paid advertising—you put dollars in and see immediate dollars come back. We're seeing oftentimes it's smarter to reinvest that extra dollar in the form of loyalty incentives for your highest-value customers. The dollar not only comes back to you, but it'll compound over time. In 2019, we'll be focusing much more on rewarding our most loyal customers."

Caren Pasquale Seckler, VP of social commitment, Coca-Cola North America

"The mistake we made over the years was really an opportunity cost. We were thinking about the social impact our company makes more through the lens of individual brands or initiatives. ... The reality is this generation of consumers is looking for what your total company stands for and does to make the world better. ... In the year ahead, we'll continue to focus our social commitment work to support our overall company brand."

Anselmo Ramos, founder, chief creative officer, Gut

"It would be easier to ask 'What didn't you do wrong in 2018?' Since 2018 was my first year being 100 percent independent, I was able to do almost everything wrong, and the best thing is, I didn't have to call New York or London before doing [it]. ... For 2019, I actually don't want to fix anything. I want to keep doing even more wrong things, only faster. That's the beauty of independence. The ability to be wrong."

Marisa Thalberg, global chief brand officer, Taco Bell Corp.

"Taco Bell is a brand that feels like an extrovert, so it might be surprising to admit that, if anything, it's possible we've been too demure about all the meaningful things this brand is doing with food, with our people and toward greater social good. In 2019 I'd like people to get to know this side of Taco Bell."

Tina Davis, managing director global branding and sponsorships, head of global sponsorship, Citi

"One thing I did 'wrong' was overcommit my time. With over-commitment comes under-delivery, and that can cause problems at work and at home. How do I plan to fix it in 2019? Focused and realistic time management. Balance work, learning, play, family, sleep—and embrace the positive power of 'no.'"

Alvaro Luque, president and CEO, Avocados From Mexico

"One thing that we want to try to be better at is to be sure that we're reaching the right audience when we do our digital marketing. ... The first test that we did through Nielsen [on this] the numbers were not great. … We're now testing specific campaigns and partners throughout the year to be sure we're verifying that we're reaching the right audience and we'll start seeing the results in the coming year."

Rob Smith, founder and CEO, the Phluid Project

"We haven't yet been able to translate [the community we built in our brick-and-mortar store] online ... and consider this top priority as we come into 2019. We recently launched on crowdfunding site Republic in an effort to raise capital and bring [our] in-store [experience] online. We'll remedy this by streaming our celebrations and panel discussions, and creating video content with the intention of people spending as much time on the website as they do in-store."

Tommy Means, founder and chief creative officer, Mekanism

"I failed to show thanks. I'm surrounded by the most creative, giving and brilliant people that I've ever met. Every day these good folks show up for work and give the best of their hearts and minds. Sure, I say thanks, but showing thanks is a conscious decision that requires a deeper level presence, mindfulness and optimism. So, in 2019 I promise to show more gratitude."

Eric Reynolds, executive VP of cleaning and Burt's Bees (formerly CMO, Clorox Co.)

"In early 2018 we created beautiful, purpose-driven work for Renew Life ["Being Human Takes Guts"], but it was ineffective because of category dynamics and a lack of understanding of what information consumers needed to be driven to purchase. We leaned too much into content marketing and not enough into performance-driven creative. We've learned from this and are adjusting our approach in our new campaign, which is influencer-led, for credibility and to focus on the things most important to people interested in probiotics."

Matt Hofherr, chief strategy officer North America & co-founder, M/H VCCP

"Historically, running the agency meant listening to our instincts—trusting our guts. This year we got weirdly conservative and didn't hire ahead of the opportunities we felt were coming. So when they came ... we were caught flat-footed and had to rely too much on costly freelance. Next year, we plan to get out ahead of the opportunities and hire more full-time talent faster."

Nick Phelps, CEO, Red

"We didn't get our agency's own social channels right this year. It's so strange how we consistently deliver award-winning social for our clients, and yet when it comes to representing ourselves we're nowhere near! Just another example of agencies being their own worst clients. We plan to fix it in 2019 by admitting what it really is for us: It's our shop window for potential clients and hires. It's just another form of our own marketing and business development, not our life story and 'dear diary' moment. So probably less pictures of our pets. Much to my disappointment."

Bertille Toledano, CEO, BETC Paris

"I didn't recruit enough in 2018. I didn't identify new sources of talent. I think that our industry isn't as appealing as it used to be and doesn't attract enough exceptional profiles. In 2019 we have to go and look for talent elsewhere, abroad, in the literary universities, in other industries."

Sylvain Thirache, founder and executive creative director, Sid Lee Paris

"A small point, but we've grown considerably over the last year and we found that management of internal meetings in 2018 wasn't adapted to our agency's size. We built the agency on listening and exchange, but our atypical and collegial operation became too time-consuming for the teams. One of the challenges in 2019 is to rethink that, especially while keeping our values. We decided to reduce the number of meetings and focus on informal meetings—on the stairs, over a café, during lunch. We've found this also helps us have a lot more open discussions, as meetings can be intimidating. These modest hours are precious here, and they allow us to push creation further, or go see an exhibit."

Gilles Fichteberg, chief creative officer & co-founder, Rosapark

"We're not the best in 'personal branding.' We've always thought that the work should speak for itself, but today we're realizing that it isn't enough to be clearly identified by brands. We need to show ourselves more, to speak more, even if it's not necessarily the most natural thing for us. That's why we've recently built up our PR in France and abroad to amplify the impact of our work."

Mae Karkowski, founder and CEO, Obviously

"We should've hired faster! Influencer marketing took off in 2018."

Dustin Callif, managing partner, Tool of North America

"We were too transactional in our thinking. The production business trains you to think very transactionally going from project to project. Sometimes you need to get out of this mode and think bigger and more long-term. It's a mindset I am excited to unleash in 2019."

Matt MacDonald, group executive creative director, BBDO New York

"I made the mistake of thinking the news couldn't get any weirder than it did in 2017. So for 2019, I am mentally preparing myself for literally anything up to and including an extraterrestrial invasion."

Brandon Murphy, president, 22squared

"We pitched too many times. We love what pitches do for our agency—they test us, bind us, validate us, and bring out competitive instincts that push us to think big. However, if done with too much frequency, they can also drain you mentally and physically. In 2019, we'll be more selective about who we pitch and how often we pitch."

Tara Day, brand director, Heineken-owned Red Stripe beer

"We focused on bigger moments that had good consumer pop—like the 2018 Winter Olympic Games and our support of the Jamaican bobsled team—but we need to stay relevant with drinkers around the clock. [For 2019], we'll be 'always on.' Red Stripe is all about the party, so we'll be turning this up during the typical moments, as well as when you'd least expect us."

David Shing, digital prophet, Oath

"I think the biggest mistake I made in 2018 is worrying about how much screen time I spent in 2018. Last check I did, it was 150-plus apps just telling me how much screen time I had. I have about 350 apps on my phone today. I'm going to correct it in 2019 by actually being more conscious about the time I spend. Less about, sort of degaussing, or detoxing, and more about conscious embracing of the stuff I need devices for. I wanna get back to more and more human-to-human relationships."

Sophia Amoruso, founder and CEO, Girlboss

"I lost my confidence for a lot of the year. I've been through a lot personally and professionally. Two years has passed since most of those things hit in my life. It's been really great and really liberating to finally get through them and really feel deep down the opportunity that we have at Girl Boss and to be able to lead with that."

Jason Deland, founding partner and joint global CEO, Anomaly

"There's a lot of change, a lot of disruption that's happened in the wider marketing communications industry. We knew that at Anomaly. ... We had a really good plan to attack that in 2018, but as they say, the urgent sometimes drives out the important. We've had a tremendous year but [that's] essentially delayed some of the very real and needed systemic changes that need to take place."

Kamran Asghar, CEO and owner, Crossmedia

"We should have pulled out of certain pitches sooner. When your instinct tells you it's not a fit, then it's not a fit. So we will ask better questions and be super critical and honest with ourselves on new business going forward. Questions like: Is this client inspired to change? Do they value transparency?"

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