2013 Opinion Issue

Adland's Top Stories of 2013

This Was the Year Two Giants Agreed to Merge and Native Advertising Went Mainstream

Published on .

As we prepare to enter 2014, here's one last look at the biggest events to shape our industry in the year just wrapping up.

Publicis CEO Maurice Levy and Omnicom CEO John Wren
Publicis CEO Maurice Levy and Omnicom CEO John Wren Credit: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

Publicis-Omnicom merger alters the landscape

At this time last year we said Maurice Levy might try for a megamerger in 2013. But when the news broke in late July, most were surprised to learn that he was teaming up with John Wren and Omnicom, which is bigger than Publicis. The merger, which will reshape adland, likely won't be completed until the second quarter of 2014 at the earliest.

No fail-whale for Twitter IPO

Twitter might not have any profit or a clear business model, but it does have fans on Wall Street. Whereas Facebook's 2012 stock debut bordered on disastrous, Twitter's went off without a hitch. In recent weeks its stock has been outperforming Facebook's.

Binge viewing

Americans used to watch seven hours of TV a week. Now, with streaming offerings and on-demand video, more are cramming it all into one session. How this will affect broadcast remains to be seen, but it's proved a boon to Netflix and Amazon as they place bigger bets on original-content plays.

The resilient economy

Despite Washington's best efforts to derail the recovery with government shutdowns and other lapses in judgment, the economy of 2013 was remarkably strong on the fundamentals that can fuel sustained growth: rebounding housing market, surging auto sales, record stock prices, pretty good consumer confidence, decent private-sector jobs growth.

Jenny McCarthy for Blu e-cigarettes
Jenny McCarthy for Blu e-cigarettes

Tobacco returns to TV

After a more than 40-year TV ban, tobacco companies returned to the airwaves to promote e-cigarettes -- the sales of which are projected to reach $1.7 billion in 2013. Depending on how the FDA rules on e-cigs, TV ads could become as common as beer ads or the marketing equivalent of "Brigadoon."

Marketers pull a Wimpy

They'll gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today -- or 120 days out for an ad campaign. While the majority of marketers are paying vendors within 30 days, an Association of National Advertisers study showed more than 40% have extended payment terms. Procter & Gamble this year went to 75 days, Mondelez to 125.

NSA Prism scandal

It's hard to know what to believe at this point. We do know that the National Security Agency is collecting reams and reams of data (or metadata) on people. And they're using companies like Google and Verizon to do it, though those companies denied they voluntarily participated. The NSA was also using a favorite tool of marketers -- the cookie. Marketers are waiting to see how much blowback the Prism program will create against their data-fueled efforts.

A BuzzFeed story sponsored by Southern Comfort
A BuzzFeed story sponsored by Southern Comfort

Native-ad tsunami

They used to be called advertorials, but now they've got a new name and all the cool kids -- BuzzFeed, the Awl -- and even the old folks like The New York Times, Washington Post and Forbes are doing it. Publishers see it as a solid bet. But others disagree. Bob Garfield told an FTC workshop that such publishers will destroy the media business "one boatload of shit at a time."

Unilever takes a chainsaw to marketing

So much for year-end bonuses. Unilever, trying to get a handle on costs, announced it will slash marketing headcount 12% globally, or more than 800, mostly in regional operations such as the U.S. It's also cutting the number of product varieties it sells by 30% and will continue to trim agency and commercial-production fees.

Time Warner Cable submits to CBS

CBS went dark in more than 3 million Time Warner Cable households in major markets this summer as the two fought an ugly battle over retransmission fees. The monthlong blackout ended with Time Warner Cable reportedly paying a hefty price increase for the right to transmit CBS signals and it left CBS's out-of-home digital rights on the table.
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