Book of Tens 2011

Marketing Industry's 10 Biggest Stories of the Year

The Events That Rocked the Ad -- and Sometimes the Greater -- World in 2011

Published on .

Credit: AP Photo/Kyodo News
Japanese Earthquake
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and damaged nuclear power facilities. In the wake of such devastation, Japan's economy -- including media, marketing and advertising -- felt the pain. Faced with electricity cuts of up to 25% through at least the end of September, Tokyo's famous digital billboards were dimmed or switched off. Advertising spending in Japan was expected to decrease 5.1% year-on-year (dragging down global predictions as well). Sony, Nintendo, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon and other Japanese-based electronics companies temporarily shut down operations. And, with one of the world's largest suppliers of silicon hampered, everyone felt the effects.

PepsiCo Falls Behind Diet Coke
In a historic shift for the beverage industry, Pepsi , long the No. 2 carbonated soft drink in the country, fell to third place, behind Coke and Diet Coke. Beverage Digest reported that Pepsi lost 0.4 share of the category in 2010, falling to 9.5%. Diet Coke controls a 9.9% share of the market, while brand Coke holds a 17% share. While seemingly a shocking development in the cola wars -- Pepsi had held the No. 2 slot for decades -- the move had long been in the making, as Pepsi had barely squeaked by Diet Coke in 2009.

NFL/NBA Lockouts
For a moment there, it looked like 2011 would be a bad year for sports fans. An NFL lockout had viewers, marketers, networks, sports bars and fantasy-football leagues wringing their hands. By some accounts, more than $12 billion was at stake if the league didn't kick off on time. But alas, all the worrying was for naught and the gridiron heroes came through -- unlike the NBA, which not only couldn't reach a deal during pre-season but reached one only two weeks ago, meaning the first regular-season game won't be played until Christmas Day.

Occupy Wall Street Credit: Bloomberg

Occupy Wall Street
This ragtag group included old-school Commies, idealistic millennials, Ron Paul supporters, media-savvy freelancers, retired hippies and who knows who else. With such an eclectic mix, it's no surprise that the group seemed to have no central message other than change. And of the coherent messages that did come out of the encampments settled around the country, some sounded like straightforward anti-capitalism and others couldn't be differentiated from the Tea Party platform. And yet? Written off during its first weeks, OWS is still making itself felt going into the winter, though it remains to be seen if it has the sort of effect on 2012 elections that the Tea Party had in 2010.

News Corp.Phone-Hacking Scandal
The revelation that News Corp.'s News of the World had hacked the voicemail of a missing teen girl, later found murdered, sparked the shutdown of the 168-year-old tabloid, until then the U.K.'s best-selling Sunday paper. It also scuttled News Corp.'s planned $12 billion-plus deal to buy the rest of British Sky Broadcasting, spawned ongoing investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, and forced resignations by Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton, News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and the head of Scotland Yard. Perhaps not least, it delivered News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch to, as he put it, "the most humble day of my life."

Things Fall Apart
Change is the nature of the marketing industry. Just ask chief marketing officers, the technophiles who lauded Google Wave and all those incumbent agencies who hear the dreaded "review" word. Even those relationships in adland that seem built to stand the test of time are not eternal. This year, Exxon parted ways with McCann Erickson after a 99-year marketing relationship. (Actually, it was longer than that : Harrison King McCann joined Standard Oil as head of the advertising department before there was a McCann Erickson.) The oil giant gave the bulk of its creative to BBDO. BBDO, along with Ogilvy, was also a beneficiary of the dissolution of SC Johnson and DraftFCB's 50-year run.

Detroit Rebounds
Sure, we all knew Ford was having a banner couple of years. It didn't take bailout money, and it's been producing solid cars that people want to be seen in. (We named Ford marketer of the year last year.) But if we'd told you two years ago that one of the most powerful ads in the Super Bowl would be from Chrysler, you would have revoked our journalism credentials. And what if we'd told you GM -- with an all- new Chevy Cruze that 's sold 200,000 units in the U.S. as of October -- finally built a car that can compete with the Civic and Corolla? Detroit still has challenges ahead, but it's good to root for Team U.S.A. because of its products rather than out of a sense of duty.

iPhone Leaves AT&T Fold
In the old days, a fella looking for an iPhone -- the culmination of 100 years of telephonic evolution -- had one choice: AT&T . Kick and scream as many might, users of Verizon Communications, Sprint and all others had to change providers or settle with an Android. So this year, as the exclusive contract came to an end, many predicted mass defections from AT&T to Verizon . But in AT&T 's first full quarter that it has had to share the phone with Verizon , sales rose 2.2% to $31.5 billion. (Cutting the price on older iPhone 3GS to $49 likely helped). Sprint, too, finally got its hands on the product with the release of the iPhone 4S, but it's too early to see if the phone is so magical it can lift the third-place provider's sales numbers.

Beer Industry's "Lost Decade"
Experts are forecasting beer volume will be down some 2% by year's end. That would mark the third straight year of decline, which hasn't happened in 50 years, Beer Marketers Insights President Benj Steinman noted in an October presentation to distributors, who had met at Caesars Palace for their annual convention and trade show. "If we have yet another year of 2% decline, it will be a lost decade," he said. "We'll be back to where we were 10 years ago." MillerCoors CEO Tom Long told the same gathering that "the days of beer guys knocking each other around and not worrying too much about spirits and wine is over, and it's frankly been over for a long time."

The IPO Bonanza
Despite the 2000 tech bubble, recent housing bubble and a constant murmuring that we're in another tech bubble, a number of companies managed to go public this year, including the sort of tech companies that gave people fits just 11 years ago. Groupon, perhaps the most hyped of this year's tech IPOs, is trading a tad below its $20 initial public offering price -- or down 5%. Demand Media is down over 50%; FriendFinder Networks, parent of Penthouse,, and Christian dating site, is down 90%; mobile-marketing player Velti is down 39%. One digital bit of green? LinkedIn is up 50% from its IPO price (but down sharply from its peak). And nontech players such as Dunkin' Brands (up 30%) and GNC Holdings (up 74%) are going strong.

The Top 10 Stories on in 2011

  1. How Charlie Sheen Got His Twitter Account Verified So Fast
  2. Super Bowl Ad Review: It Was Bieber Fever and Eminem Epidemic
  3. Facebook Turns the 'Like' Into Its Newest Ad
  4. The Demographics of Social Media
  5. Chrysler Splits With New Media Strategies Over F-Bomb Tweet
  6. The 10 Best Ads to Come out of Steve Jobs' Reign at Apple
  7. Wieden & Kennedy Is Ad Age 's Agency of the Year
  8. The Verdict Is in: Super Bowl's Best-Liked and Most-Recalled Ads
  9. Your Followers Are No Measure of Your Influence
  10. Nivea Pulls Ad, Apologizes After Racism Accusations
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