2019 – The Year in (the Agency) Review

Welcome to the eighth edition of The Year in (the Agency) Review! Glad you made it.

Man, what a year, right? The worst of times, the worst of times. A year of pain. A year of reckoning. A year in which many of the things we thought we knew – about ourselves, about our loved ones, about our nation – turned out to be disappointingly false. In which our faith in these things and more was tested. In which we were forced to reassess, not simply ourselves, our loved ones, our nation, but our choices. For while Nietzsche was probably right when he said “that which does not destroy me, makes me stronger”, 2019 was the year in which many of us said “wait, why am I hanging around with things that are trying to destroy me in the first place? What kind of useless, social-media-fueled, generationally-biased self-loathing behavior is THAT enabling? ”

So, in the words of Robert Graves, goodbye to all that. Which is not to say “hey, let’s pretend everything is actually awesome” because that’s exactly the kind of stupidity that got us into this mess in the first place. No, let us bid the past adieu and move forward. Use it to fuel the future, or perhaps warm the present, but for God’s sake whatever we do, let’s keep going. And work to make sure the future doesn’t suck as much as what we just went through.

In that spirit of moving forward, let’s get into the reason you’re here – our annual opportunity to ask a bunch of smart people three simple questions:

What was the book you loved this year?

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year?, and

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?

As we did in 2018, we asked the preceding year’s contributors to nominate folks to participate this year. And boy did they – from three continents, from Fintech to Higher Ed, from young to, um, not-so-young, and beyond. And, as in the past, we were very fortunate this year to have people we had no legitimate reason to expect would take time out of their busy lives to share their thinking with us – and therefore with you – who did, nonetheless. Which should give us all hope for 2020, right? So while we offer them again our heartfelt thanks, we also ask that you thank them as well – by following them on social media, by buying their books, or even by just holding the damn door open for them when you see them in the street.

Okay, okay, okay. Enough ranting. For now. On to 2020. And as we go, let us leave you with the wise words of the late, great Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: “Let’s be careful out there.” Because you’re gonna need it.

Nedal Ahmed:

During her career, she’s made ads for everything from Slurpees to sanding equipment, working at agencies including BBDO and Droga5. Nedal’s work has allowed her to help spark larger cultural and societal discussions and has earned honors including a Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix and the Emmy for Outstanding Commercial. She’s been named a Next Creative Leader by The One Club, one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in advertising and marketing and Ad Age’s Creative of the Year in 2019.

She’s currently based in Amsterdam, working at 72andSunny and on improving her biking skills.  

What was the book you loved this year?
The Agony of Eros
by Byung-Chul Han
This book looks at how a society built on being told you can achieve anything you want and one that tries to capitalize on everything can erode how we interact with others. With things like social media and dating apps, we really can consume other people now, not just things, brands or media. It’s made me re-examine my interactions with people and be more cognizant of how and why I’m engaging with others. And vice versa, of course.

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
I actually started reading this book a couple years ago and didn’t get to finish it before I returned it to the library (but libraries are still the best). So I’m vowing to finish it next year. But each chapter is about a different cultural or historical narrative that wasn’t told with full context, and it examines 12 commonly used US history books to see how they approach it. I knew textbooks and history can be very ethnocentric, but I naively didn’t realize how politicized they were, until this book. 

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I always think about how there’s an over-proliferation of media, like photographs. When I was a kid, it was a fun and special occasion when my parents would bring out their photo albums and I’d look at the pictures they had of me, my brother and of their younger selves. Now I have to scroll quite a bit just to go back a few months back on my phone. Some say we are lucky to have more recorded history than any previous generation, but I want to know what this sudden exponential rise means in terms of how we document things, what rises to the top and how we look back at this time. Do we get a clearer idea of our history? Is it overload? What rises to the top when there’s so much out there?

Katie Chang:

Katie has helped build and lead strategy departments within two creative agencies—KBS and Naked—serving clients such as BMW, Goldman Sachs, Intel, Virgin Atlantic, LG, and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, along with pro-bono Ad Council campaigns for child adoption and financial literacy. She also worked in-house at The New Yorker, and at Uber. This past year, Katie has been independently consulting for both media companies and startups, helping her clients define, strengthen, and evolve their brand identities; notably, she worked with women-focused community & work space The Wing on their national expansion and brand partnerships. 

What was the book you loved this year?
This year, I went crazy for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, an ensorcelling and devastating debut novel by Ocean Vuong that absolutely wrecked me (the greatest privilege). It’s constructed as a letter from a boy, Little Dog, to his mother, a Vietnamese refugee who cannot read; within is a lush exploration of survival, and finding meaning and pleasure in being alive. Reading it is like holding a child’s precious beating heart in your hands, remembering how it breaks, and then using that memory to heal it, and your own, together. Somehow, Vuong writes like he’s been writing for 300 years even though he’s only been on this planet for 30 (!). Yes, feel free to feel terrible about yourself. But then recover so you can gobble up this book and sob inconsolably while doing so like I did.

I’ve also just recently finished Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World, a mesmerizing ethnographic study following a beloved species of mushroom that is both scholarly and profoundly personal. After reading The Overstory by Richard Powers, I’ve become obsessed with the wondrous ways in which trees and other species synchronize to survive, and Tsing’s meditation on how “the uncontrolled lives of mushrooms are a gift—and a guide—when the controlled world we thought we had fails” is just the tale of environmental renewal I needed to end the decade with.

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
I can’t wait to read Kyle Chayka’s The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism. In a society overwhelmed by materialism, Chayka, a phenomenal cultural critic whose work I’ve followed for years, wades past the shallows of manufactured, mass-market “minimalism” and towards “the fundamental miracle of our moment-to-moment encounter with reality”—true minimalism—as found in exceptional examples of visual art, music, and philosophy. (Excerpt here)

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I love the internet and I’m a big nerd for data, but I’ve grown terrified of the hellish panopticon they, together, form, within which we live our entire lives. The music we stream, the books we read, the movies we watch, the news we skim—everything is processed through recommendation engines and algorithms and so uncritically absorbed by our bodies; so many of the choices we pretend are our own are really pre-determined by technology quietly selling us on forgoing choice altogether. I’d be fascinated, and frightened, to read about what happens to these most alive and wonderful parts of ourselves if (or perhaps when) technology succeeds in fully anesthetizing us in service of its own capitalist interests.

Mindy Eng:

Mindy Eng is Director of Culture and Growth at Key Lime Interactive, a user experience research & design agency with a sweet spot for emerging tech. With expertise in design research and product development, she’s worked on new products with companies like Google Jigsaw, Thales Group, Credit Suisse, Petco, Merck, Campbells, L’Oreal, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Through her international and regional product consulting experience, she has engaged with a diverse array of users, including the elderly, flight crew, military operators, global activists, investigative journalists, transcontinental flyers, consumers of meat, and museum goers. Holding degrees in both engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and product design from TU Delft in The Netherlands, her passion lies in engendering effective connections between technology, products, and people. 

At Key Lime, Mindy also mentors other researchers to help them reach new heights in the field of UX. Outside of the workplace, she mentors high school students and hackathon teams, is a counselor on the MIT Educational Council, and enjoys being a maker in her spare time.

What was the book you loved this year?
I’m always on the hunt for great research methodology resources to share with new UX researchers on the team. Two gems I stumbled upon this year are: Tomer Sharon’s Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research and Robert Curedale’s 2019 edition of Design Thinking: Process & Methods. We’ve already ordered more of these books to add to the UX library at our New York City location. My problem with many methodology books is that they can be too academic to lend themselves to relevant applications in industry or they tend to lack the depth and practical information needed to make the methods accessible to entry-level design researchers or product professionals crossing over from other disciplines. Both books are arranged in a choose-your-own-adventure format complete with in-depth how-to’s, real world industry case studies, and actual statistics you can bring to the boardroom about why these techniques work. 

My favorite aspect of both books is that they are filled with illustrations of how outputs from each method can be visualized with a variety of diagrams, tables, worksheet templates, and infographics to use as practical examples for crafting quality deliverables for clients. The pages of Validating Product Ideas are also vibrant and colorful, making it a much easier sell for visual learners on the team than the text-heavy pages of Design Thinking: Process & Methods. Sharon also includes full-color photos of the methods in action at workshops, making it easy for professionals to see what the room looks like running these sessions. Being able to visualize yourself in the room can be the difference between a method you just read about and a method you actually put in play.

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
A book I just started reading and am really excited to get through is Thinking, Fast and Slow, a book about how the mind works in response to stimuli we are exposed to in life with a wealth of wonderful real-life examples. It is such a great book for developing greater awareness towards natural cognitive biases in human perception and decision making. Even more interesting, it makes you think critically about mental hacks you can create to prime yourself for more objective thinking and get out of our own mind traps. 

I’ve also been eyeing The Course of Love from philosopher Alain de Botton after watching his talk at the Sydney Opera House, a book about how our minds work in the context of how we engage in life and love.

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I have been reading books on inclusion in product design and the design of inclusive rituals in the workplace, but there is a general lack of rigor in the approach to inclusion in these books. I would jump at a book co-authored by industry professionals and academics that talk about tried and true tactics for developing more inclusive products experiences, complete with outcomes from international studies and a critical analysis of the journey of recognized brands on the road to greater product inclusion from a business angle. 

Paul Hindle:

Paul’s career spans three continents – Australia, North America & the UK – and encompasses senior roles within media agencies, advertising agencies, and client-side.

His primary discipline is as a communications strategist, a somewhat nebulous term he defines as simply making sure that all the dots are joined up.

The multiple perspectives of Paul’s experience have afforded him a rare appreciation of the view from within each primary stakeholder contributor – the client, the ad agency, and the media agency. His 2018 LinkedIn article on the topic, Confessions from the Client Side, went viral, clocking up over 20,000 views in a matter of days.

Now based in Perth, WA, Paul is a founding partner of the independent agency Longreach

What was the book you loved this year?
Industry themed, I nominate Eaon Pritchard’s Where Did It All Go Wrong? Presently there is a bubble-pricking, emperor’s new clothes reassessment flowing through our marketing and advertising disciplines, providing a well-overdue critical drubbing to the much of the past decade’s “everything’s changed” hyperbole and woeful self-inflicted complexities that have caused our industry to tie itself into Gordian knots. This book both encapsulates and contributes to that reassessment. Subtitled “Adventures at The Dunning-Kruger Peak of Advertising”, it reveals how – depressingly – the trouble with the ignorance of the far too many is that it masquerades so effectively as their expertise. His book rips that mask off. That in so doing he also quotes a heap of seminal 70s and 80s punk and new wave songs is pure bonus.

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
Agent Running in the Field, by John Le Carré. This is my upcoming Christmas holiday reading. I heard it reviewed on the radio, and as both a lover of spy thrillers and a political and foreign-affairs junkie (so you can imagine the condition of my nerves these days) it sounds right up my street. The advance word is it skilfully ties many current geo-political themes into a cautionary narrative that is never heavy handed but is entirely prescient.

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
Perhaps rather than a book, I hope someone will create an app that real-time translates marketing language into c-suite language. Kinda like those old Star Trek communicators. Everyone is deliberately working towards the same business-driving goals, but still so much gets lost in translation with consequent detrimental effects. A few more ‘profit growth’, ‘margin growth’, ‘share gain’, ‘revenue lift’ and ‘footfall increases’ from us could go a long way!

Rei Inamoto:

Named in Creativity Magazine’s annual “Creativity 50” as well as one of “the Top 25 Most Creative People in Advertising” in Forbes Magazine, Rei Inamoto is one of the most influential individuals in the marketing and creative industry today.

Until the fall of 2015, Rei served as Chief Creative Officer of AKQA worldwide, responsible for delivering creative solutions for the agency’s clients such as Audi, Google, Nike, Xbox and many others. During his tenure, AKQA grew ten-fold, growing to a network of 14 offices across the world. It also became the first agency in history to receive five Agency of the Year accolades from industry publications.

In early 2016, Rei – along with Rem Reynolds – founded Inamoto & Co (now I&CO), a business invention firm that identifies new opportunities and creates best-in-class customer experiences by focusing on strategy, design and incubation. Fast Company named I&CO one of the Most Innovative Companies in the World in its annual In July of 2019, I&CO opened its first international office in Tokyo.

Rei is a frequent speaker at numerous conferences as well as a contributor of publications, making him a thought leader and a prominent voice in the industry. Originally from Tokyo, Rei spent his childhood and teenage years in Japan and Europe. He then moved to the US to complete his university studies with degrees in fine arts and computer science. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

What was the book you loved this year?
Unlearn
by Humble the Poet
I’d never been into self-help books but somehow his name/tweets/Instagram posts came up on my feed and it caught my attention. It’s a book with 101 chapters (but each chapter just a page spread) and a very easy, quick read. It helps you put your life into perspective.

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright
I’m not a religious person nor a Buddhist (although I’m originally from a country where Buddhism is practiced) but this friend, who’s also not very religious, recommended this book. He said that it’s helped him with mindfulness.

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
A book that can define creativity clearly and simply.

Amar Kuchinad:

Amar Kuchinad is a Senior Managing Director of Business Operations at Pretium, where he focuses on the use of technology, data and analytics both for internal business process and decision-making, as well as for commercial opportunities. Prior to joining Pretium in 2019, he was Chief Strategy Officer at Trumid Financial, which operates a marketplace for institutional investors and dealers in corporate bonds. He joined Trumid from Electronifie (where he was CEO and Founder) upon its acquisition by Trumid in 2017. Previously he was a Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and before that he was a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs where he ran the U.S. portfolio credit trading business and the US structured equity derivatives trading desk and where he was a member of the Securities Division Risk Committee.

Mr. Kuchinad received an AB in Applied Mathematics from Harvard College, is an ardent marathoner and budding ultramarathoner (running 100 mile races exhibits insanity more than intelligence, right?) and lives in NYC with his wife and with 3 kids (also a questionable move).

What was the book you loved this year?
I loved Bad Blood the book by John Carreyrou about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

I also enjoyed American Kingpin about the Silk Road and its founder, Ross Ulbricht (Dread Pirate Roberts).

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
I want to read Life Span by David Sinclair which discusses the aging process and how science could be close to stopping/reversing it.

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I wish someone would write a book about a dystopian future where a narcissistic megalomaniac is elected POTUS and proceeds to destroy every political and culture institution during his autocratic rule. Oh shit, I must have fallen asleep reading that work of extreme fiction and am living my nightmare version of it. Actually, I wish someone would write a book about how this has all been a nightmare, but since this is not a season of “Dallas,” I would settle for reading a book analyzing data about education, the pace of technological change, and how Americans and the rest of the world will have to adapt to a landscape where artificial intelligence will increasingly take over white collar jobs and the robots the AI program will take over manual labor jobs.

Karrin Lukacs:

Karrin Lukacs is an Instructional Designer and an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. She has received several awards for her teaching and has earned both the Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Innovator distinctions. Karrin’s scholarly work has focused primarily on teacher change agency; her Teacher Change Agent Scale – a tool designed to identify teachers who possess the skills to be successful at changing things outside their classrooms – has been taken over 10,000 times by teachers around the world and has been cited in hundreds of articles, dissertations, and books. Most recently, Karrin co-authored the book Voices From Around the IEP Table: Perspectives on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Familieswhich has been adopted by special education teacher education programs across the country. In her personal life, Karrin is the mother of two children, the wife of a man who loves making homemade pasta, the daughter of two former college professors, and the sister of a program evaluator at a non-profit dedicated to early childhood.

What was the book you loved this year?
In terms of fiction, I cannot say enough how highly I recommend the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Overstory by Richard Powers. It is an amazing series of nine stories about trees and the role(s) we humans play in their lives. Now, I typically do not like award-winners (they always seem a bit too highbrow), but this one was profound. Chapter 1 alone is some of the best writing I’ve ever read. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book has forever changed how I see trees. I gained a completely new respect for them as a result of reading this book – so much so in fact that I now totally understand why tree-huggers (a phrase I mean in the best possible way) do what they do!

In terms of non-fiction, I really enjoyed reading The Power of Moments. The Heath brothers share their insights of how meaningful experiences (even very brief ones) can have a profound impact. The “tips” they share for creating moments are intended for business, especially in terms of customer service, but they provide examples from advertising, healthcare, and marketing. It inspired me to think about how higher education might go beyond the tried-and true milestones like retirement to re-imagine new achievements to celebrate – maybe something like 1000th student taught or years of attending a particular conference?

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
Next up on my list is The Body: A Guide for OccupantsBill Bryson always writes with warmth and humor, but I especially love his books that set out to teach its readers something. When I read his At Home: A Short History of Private Life, I put a sticky note on every page that included something I had not known before reading that page. When I was done, there were over 200 sticky notes! I expect no less from The Body. I mean, how can you not be interested in reading a book that includes the line, ““The day when people once again die from the scratch of a rose thorn may not be far away”?

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I can’t really answer this one as it’s intended because I have found that the best books – the ones I have enjoyed the most – are not usually ones I had planned on reading. That being said (and as the preceding responses indicate), I am always up for books that teach you something new and / or force you to re-examine your perspective. For instance, as the mother of a son with autism, I would love to see a detailed plan for how we can ensure that people with special needs can contribute to our society in a meaningful way. 

Elizabeth Pastor:

Elizabeth Pastor is an internationally recognized expert in the hybrid combination of Visual SenseMaking and Strategic CoCreation. Her passion is helping people think clearly and make sense of complex situations in new and inclusive ways. She holds a Masters Degree in Communication & New Media Design from Art Center College of Design in California, and prior to cofounding Humantific, Elizabeth cofounded Scient’s Innovation Acceleration Lab. Elizabeth is from Madrid and lives in NYC.

What was the book you loved this year?
I recently finished reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s fascinating in many levels… one that stood out is how we think of our ancestors as farmers and settlers. However our early early ancestors were hunter gatherers and very nomadic. The change to an agriculture orientation had immense repercussions in our civilization in how we relate to mother earth, right up to where we are today with the global climate crisis.

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
The next book I’m looking forward to reading is It’s Not Complicated, The Art and Science of Complexity in Business by Rick Nason. We often use complicate and complex to mean the same thing, and they are vastly different. As a professional sensemaker and innovation strategist, this has huge repercussions on how we tackle those challenges. I have just started it… so am hoping to get some enlightening to fine-tune my toolbox!

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I wish someone would write a book about SenseMaking that made more sense to me. I guess I might have to write it myself!

Isabel Ron Pedrique:

Isabel Ron Pedrique is an Entrepreneur and Creative Director whose passion for digital innovation started during the 90s Internet boom, first when she completed her graduate degree in Computer Art at SVA in NYC and then working as a Creative Lead in digital communications and advertising start-ups like SiteSpecific & CKS. Since then, she’s  worked as a Creative Director for worldwide advertising agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Tribal DDB, Ogilvy, Grey, Arnold, Organic and Deutsch, among others, and has extensive experience building beauty & fashion brands such as Neutrogena, Aveeno, Guess, Avon, P&G Physique, Carefree, as well as Coty and many of its perfume brands. She’s won Cyberlions, Pencils, Web Awards, and other industry accolades. Currently, she is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Traffique, a fashion-tech startup that makes authentic style shoppable straight from the street.

As an Electronic Artist, she has exhibited her interactive installations at the Venice Biennale and The Split Media & Film Festival, and her work is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas and I was awarded the top prize for the Young Venezuelan Artists Biannual. She has also exhibited her electronic artwork and interactive films in a series of group and individual exhibitions in cities around the world.

What was the book you loved this year?
Marlon JamesA Brief History of Seven Killings is a perfect book for the advertising community. Picture a broken narrative told by around 75 diverse and distinct voices, most of them speaking in complex local slang…The book tells the story of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley while revealing the violent history of Jamaica in the 70s, 80s and 90s. A mishmash of local politics, political strife, CIA, LATAM, reggae, gangs, drugs, homosexuality, ghetto-life, narcos, sex, etc. But the beauty resides in putting together the pieces of this broken narrative through a polyphony of character voices that start and stop according to the author’s whims. The reader becomes a rasta-sherlock deciphering the clues to seven killings and the attempted assassination of a music god. 

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
I’m planning to read The Testaments as I recently read The Handmaid’s Tale and have been watching the series (a bit slow and behind the frenzy). However, the frightening possibility of reality is very much alive in the series and the book as well. It has left me with a fear that most dystopias do happen in some way or another, ‘1986′ just an example. All these made more macabre by the political reality of today and my very particular experience of seeing my birth country, Venezuela, turn into a dark repressive and collapsed nation in a matter of years.  Furthermore, my adopted country, USA, run by a mad misogynist populist. And my foster country, UK, electing a compulsive liar for Prime Minister. That’s when you realise dystopias are too possible and how good we’ve become at copying fiction. 

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I want to read a book titled something like A Teen’s Guide to Racist Algorithms. I am dismayed at how there’s no control over online algorithms allowing for the most pervasive racism to live freely and incubate more and more racists in this already polarised world. My young daughter recently had homework to complete and she wanted a photo of a 13-year-old black boy to decorate her article because the subject of the book she had just read was a black teen. To her surprise, she only found convicted black teens on her search. Desperately trying to find the right face to frame her article, she added the word “Cute” to her search to only find one baby pic of a black boy and the rest all white… I explained to her how algorithms are notoriously racist and no one is doing much about it.  You can find the same issues if you type “Latina girls” or “Asian girls”. Incredible that Google and other search engines can’t solve such a simple problem. And nobody seems to care… 

Janis Nakano Spivack:

Janis Nakano Spivack was raised on military bases round the world and she’s been in constant and purposeful evolution ever since: Artist to Art Director, Creative to Product and then to Marketing Leader. During the 90’s dot com boom, she discovered her passion: helping any company bring their employees and leadership together to build, revive or scale their business to where they want to be. Decades of managing creative, product and marketing organizations, as well as over 50 independent client projects, has resulted in templates, tools and workshops that have been time tested. And more importantly, shown to help leaders and their teams exit with practices that add value to every part of their lives. Together with other subject matter experts, she provides a variety of services to a wide range of business leaders, thought-provokers, game changers, and product builders.

Janis is also the founder of CrushYourBLOCK, a company dedicated to teaching everyone to greet change and transition with more success. And several times a year, you can find her in Baja co-teaching courses for multi-generational life explorers at Chip Conley’s Modern Elder Academy. In her spare time, she enjoys life with her high school teenager and husband. Their regular practice of KungFu helps them to maintain their sense of humor and her daily wooing of hummingbirds to her porch helps her practice lightness (and patience) in everything.

What was the book you loved this year?
In 2019, the book that I savored and returned to several times was, The Book of Joy by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. (I’m going to throw in a second, because I think it might have been reading these two in parallel that added to my enjoyment). The book I read in parallel was, The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard.

For the first, Douglas Abrams has turned an intimate coming together of longtime friends, into a delightful book filled with wisdom and inspiration. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu, get real – really real – about their emotions, their constant practices and what it means to be human.  For those with anxiety or imposter worries, they share their personal reflections having to also “fake it till they made it” with their separate faiths as their guiding truth.

Lots of aha’s were sparked for me personally, bouncing between their collective holiness… and pirates. In advertising – outside of the norms of corporate correctness, it always felt slightly pirate like, seeking independence but also gathering to compete and carouse together. For several years I’ve observed a new group of rebels emerging – a desire to add “collaboration” into the compete and carouse.

If you get a chance, definitely read the first book. It’s a lovely afternoon read and will stay with you. The second is bit of historical fun with some tips on how to govern a rowdy bunch of rebels.

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
I’ve had, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind waiting for me for several months. I am in awe of Yuval Noah Harari’s effort to capture the fullest history of human cognition, connection and context. When thinking about our individual impact as a human we believe it’s minimal. But when we understand our collective impact and then think about power of advertisers to amplify the collective…to hasten or slow an action, it gives you pause. 

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
I’m interested in a book about choice, change and impact- for people in a hurry, explained in simple and immediately understood terms with easy to do actions. Today, we mostly accept and use all the communication tools available to us – to get people to change. As a result, the timeline impact of that change also boomerangs back to us faster- what used to take several million years might now take less than a decade… to end a species, to end an industry, to end a job. Our fear of change often overrides our acceptance of information, and increases our denial.

Neil de Grasse Tyson talks about our smallness in the world. I’d love for someone to write about the bigness of the individual – and describe ways that we might feel less small and overwhelmed, and more brave and confident in our impact to do less (unintended destruction) and more good for each other.

Katie Sweeney:

Katie Sweeney is an American freelance advertising copywriter currently living in the Netherlands. She has spent the bulk of her career working for various agencies in the Philadelphia region, and has been a freelancer since 2012.

What was the book you loved this year?
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s an older book, but it found me at exactly the right time in my life, which is an absolute magic experience. Lahiri writes beautifully about her experience learning Italian and what it’s like to feel like an outsider, making mistakes and trying to learn. This outsider experience resonated since I am an American citizen living in the Netherlands. The best part is that Lahiri wrote the book in Italian, then had it translated (by someone else!) back to English, and narrates the audiobook herself. What a trip!

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year
Here for It by R. Eric Thomas. Thomas writes a pop culture column for Elle magazine that’s absolutely a must-read to break the stress of all this awful current news. Every column makes me want to quit writing forever, so obviously I can’t wait to see what he does with a whole book. 

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
The book I’ve been struggling to write for the past two years. Get on with it, self!

Derek Walker:

Derek Walker is the Janitor, Secretary (do we even use this term anymore?), Mailroom-Person, Creator-of-Ads, Forger-of-Messages, Crafter-of-Words, Speaker-to-Human-Beings, and Eater-of-Gelato at his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising, which is based in Columbia, South Carolina

What was the book you loved this year?
Leadership in the Creative Industries – Principles and Practices
 by Karen Mallia
I’m going to try and not hop on my soapbox, but most of what plagues the advertising industry can be traced directly to poor leadership. Karen covers both theory and practices that leadership needs to better manage a creative business. Too many books talk about this in the abstract, but Karen covers both the practical and abstract sides of managing creatives. Too often, businesses like advertising agencies are using promotions to management as a way to reward people for being good at their job, but we tend to not include training on managing with that promotion. Karen covers what a good training program would have provide. I like that it challenges me to examine how I am managing. 

What is the book you’re looking forward to reading next year

The Bible by [Ed. “let’s not go there…”]
Seriously. I used to read the entire Bible once a year, but I haven’t lately. As a writer, I find the Bible amazing – the insights into human nature, the use of stories to explain out principles and ideas. The parables of the New Testament are a case study for advertising. Whether people believe or not, the Bible shows how writing done well can influence people. Want to understand motivating people to act? Then there is no better source. Think about what has been built from the teachings inside. It is a master class in understanding the human condition. Or it is to me. 

What is the book you wish someone would write because you would read it in a heartbeat?
It is all advertising. Stop trying to make it so complicated! by “Someone Who Gives a Copulation”

A book that calls the advertising industry on all the crap we are shoveling, trying to impress clients by appearing to be more than what the small-minded perceive advertising to be. A tome that steers directly into the idea that we are a creative industry, and our product is creativity. I need to read something with emotions and passion for the craft, that understands the power and impact advertising can have on our clients.

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Header illustration by the exceptionally artful Jason Roeder. See more of his fine work here.