2020 – The Year in (The Agency) Review

 

AgencyYearInReview.2020BWelcome to the ninth edition of The Year in (the Agency) Review! Number nine… number nine… number nine…

You know every year I feel like we get to this final post and we’re out of breath and sweaty and exhausted from the race we’ve run and we’re all thinking “man, can we just have a bit of peace and quiet in the new year after all that craziness” – and then the next year is even more insane than the last! I mean, 2016 was ridiculous, right? But it was nothing compared to 2017! Which was a piece of cake compared to 2018. Which all of us would have taken over 2019, right? And 2020? From the fires in Australia to Covid-19 to murder hornets to protests in the streets to more Covid-19 to the meltdown of American democracy – to whatever is happening as I’m typing these sentences but which I’m ignoring because, really, how much bloody more can we take? I mean, IS THIS SOME KIND OF WEIRD COSMIC DARE OR SOMETHING? SOME CRAZY-ASS IRONMAN CHALLENGE THAT THE SIMULATION HAS DREAMED UP TO KEEP US ON OUR TOES? BECAUSE I’M KIND OF DONE WITH IT, AREN’T YOU?

Sorry. But it’s been a year, right? Almost makes you pause before stepping into 2021. Almost. But then you think of those great inspiring lines from that surly old optimist, Samuel Beckett – “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” – and you think, ah, what the hell.

So in that spirit, let’s get to the reason you’re here – our annual opportunity to ask a bunch of smart people three simple questions in the desperate hope that it will make some sort of sense of what we’ve just been through and what we’re likely to encounter:

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?

Now, just like we did in 2019, we asked the preceding year’s contributors to nominate folks to participate this year. And boy did they – from three continents, from sustainability scientists to higher ed experts to famous ad execs. From names you know to names you will. Left-brain, right brain but definitely no non-brains. And yet, more than just the diversity, you have to admire that, during this year of really exceptional divisiveness and vitriol, in which people who had different opinions about things were literally shooting at each other, that some were willing to step up when a stranger asked them for a favor. It’s kind of amazing actually. Especially that they did it during this most complicated, attention-consuming time of year.

And, that, more than anything perhaps, should give us hope for 2021.

So if you see them on the street, say thanks. If they reach out to you with a question, lend a hand. If you’ve got an old blanket in a closet, you can give it to them. Okay, maybe that last one’s a bit much, but you get the point.

Because if in fact this whole idiotic year was some sort of a test – hell if the last decade was – then the only thing I’ve figured out is that the only way we’re only gonna get through the next bit is if we do it together. And yeah, that’s coming from this guy.

Okay, that’s enough. Thanks for coming by. Wash your hands. And now, on with the show…

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Jon Bond:

Jon was Co-Founder and CEO of Kirshenbaum Bond and Partners, arguably the original “word of mouth” agency. It was the first to develop the modern, single-P&L/multi-disciplinary model, launched one of the industry’s first trading desks, was featured in TV shows and movies, and was agency of the year in 2008. In 2010, KBP’s clients included BMW, Citi, Victoria’s Secret, Target, Wendy’s, and the Coca Cola Company. From 2010 to 2012, Jon was CEO of Big Fuel (now part of Publicis), one of the world’s largest social media agencies, and more recently was co-chairman of The Shipyard, a full-service agency operating in four U.S. cities.

The co-author of Under the Radar which has been published in 5 languages and sold over 40,000 copies, Jon also wrote the “Truth In Advertising” column for Mediapost, and was a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. He has lectured at Harvard Business School, Columbia University, NYU, The University of Texas (Austin), and his alma mater, Washington University (St. Louis).  In 2011, Jon appeared in Morgan Spurlock’s documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, and in 2010 was voted number 4 in Adweek’s “Executive of the Decade” poll.

What was the book you loved this year?

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols

Explains the phenomenon of distrust in experts, which explains why so many people don’t wear facemasks, don’t take vaccines, and don’t listen to their ad agencies

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

The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

Optimistic historical view of American culture and politics that reveals we aren’t as dumb or insensitive as we might appear based on our recent collective behavior.

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

What Not to Do: Statistics from Insurance Companies on How to Avoid Dying. Insurance companies know what will kill you. Complete statistics that inform you of the odds of death short and long term for various activities from eating red meat to walking under ladders. (Makes a perfect gift for neurotic Jews like me)

Stephanie Burris:

Stephanie Burris has provided creative direction and high-impact copy for clients including Akron Children’s Hospital, Craftsman, GE Lighting, KraftMaid, Momentive, Ohio Lottery, TimkenSteel, Vitamix and more. She is the inaugural winner of the David L. Stashower Visionary Award from the AAF of Cleveland and was named AAF-Cleveland Director of the Year in 2015. In addition to her creative work, Stephanie is devoted to community involvement, and has earned the Morrie Sayre Founder’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism and is a member of the board of directors for Shoes and Clothes for Kids. She is also certified in bedbugs. Prior to joining Marcus Thomas in 2014, she was a copywriter and creative director at Melamed Riley Advertising.

What was the book you loved this year?

Bossypants by Tina Fey

The book I loved the most this year was Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. It’s a good book, but if I’m being honest, it’s not a huge compliment. Because Bossy Pants was one of only three books I read this year. And if I’m being really honest, I didn’t even read them. I listened to them.

I confess this with more than a little shame. In a business where it’s our job to “know everything”, it feels wrong to have read so little. But the dangerous proximity of my new workspace, coupled with the 1 and 4 year old I now share it with, has made it nearly impossible to crack open an actual book this year.

I consumed Bossy Pants in fifteen-minute intervals during lunchtime walks around my neighborhood. Maybe it was the fresh air, or maybe it was Fey’s self-deprecating take on life as a workaholic parent, but the experience was just cathartic enough to put Bossy Pants at the top of a very short list.

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

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris

I have a copy of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris that has been taunting me from my desk for the last six months. While I don’t see my current work situation changing in the immediate future, I am hopeful that I can at least find enough time to learn how to clear my head and do nothing (with intention).

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

I want someone to create books I can actually read in a heartbeat. Thousands upon thousands of pages of history, culture, poetry, theory, etc., uploaded directly into my brain. That way, when someone asks me the best thing I read in 2021, I might actually have an interesting and useful response.

Rob Campbell:

Rob is a well-known speaker, writer and mischief-maker and passionately believes in culture, creativity and chaos. He also has an unhealthy obsession with listing things in threes.

And despite coming from Nottingham, being a session guitarist for some of the worst of 80/90’s pop-stars and supporting a team that is a football embarrassment, he has somehow managed to have a 30+ year career in creativity … working as a strategist in countries that include China, America, Japan, Singapore, Australia, the UK and soon, New Zealand as CSO of Colenso.

He’s developed strategy for everything from Airport Lounges people want to miss their plane to stay in, mopeds that think they’re a 4×4 on 2 wheels through to global Olympic campaigns that defined sport in the hearts and minds of culture around the World. He’s worked with names like NIKE, IKEA and Metallica at agencies including Cynic, Wieden+Kennedy and R/GA and he’s been proudly been called an “asshole” by Lars Ulrich, Richard Branson and Dan Wieden.

What was the book you loved this year?

Banking On It by Anne Boden

I’ve had a bumper year for reading this year. And while there have been many I’ve enjoyed – Banking On It by Anne Boden – the founder of Starling Bank was fantastic. 

While a big part of that is because of the double-crossing drama that went on in the background by her partners, the main reason is because she comes across so infectiously human.

Maybe it’s because she’s considerably older than the cliched fin-tech starter, but she is refreshingly honest in her thoughts, actions and bitterness. I fell in love with her to be honest.

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

Apart from the book I keep pushing my beloved Martin Weigel to write, I much prefer the adventure of just leaping into something and seeing where it takes me. Even if I end up hating it, I get some perverse joy in having gone with it. So in terms of what am I looking forward to reading next year – I’ll tell you what it was next year.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Weigel contributed to our Year in (the Agency) Review in 2017, which you can check out here.

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

You mean, besides anything my 5-year-old would write? I would love Jim Beach to write a book. Jim is the long-term manager of the band Queen. He’s been instrumental in keeping the band in contemporary culture. Given Freddie died in 1991, that’s incredible. I would love to know the thought processes, decisions and arguments he had to achieve this – because what he and the band have achieved is far more successful than 99% of brands with their multi-million ad campaigns, mass distribution programs and annual relaunches.

Jennifer Disano:

Jennifer is Executive Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University (OLLI Mason), a nonprofit, membership-driven organization with three regional campuses in Northern Virginia. Also at GMU, Disano serves on the Advisory Board of University Libraries, the Advisory Board of the Office of Military Services, and as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Fall for the Book Festival. A graduate of California State University, East Bay with a Bachelor’s in Geography, and of Penn State with a Master’s in Psychology, Disano is serves on the Fairfax County Library Foundation, and is a member of the Friends of Fairfax City Library.  A member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), she hosts “On the go with AAUW” on Fairfax Public Access Television.

What was the book you loved this year? 

The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

This historical fiction follows the true story of the life of Varían Fry and chronicles his personal relationships and his work in the 1940s to save Jewish artists fleeing Nazi occupied France. This was a terrific read! 

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

The Splendid & the Vile by Erik Larson

Another WWII subject based book about Churchill’s personal life and the Blitz. I’ve had a copy on my bedside table for months and I really need to make time to read it! 

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

I like stories about everyday people doing extraordinary things at great personal peril. A novel representing loss and achievement, with a historical twist would be very compelling. 

Jim Groves:

Jim has spent the majority of his career working in creative and strategy shops like Y&R and Ogilvy, across brands such as Campbells, Ford, Land Rover and Telstra, but has also spent time running cross-functional teams in activation brands for WPP. He currently is Managing Director at Carat, Perth, Australia where he runs Dentsu’s media brand in Western Australia and where he is trying to help clients balance the ‘long and the short’ of it.

What was the book you loved this year?

An Economic History of the World since 1400 by Donald J. Harreld

This year I have found both solace and stimulation in An Economic History of the World since 1400 by Donald J Harreld. Amongst the trauma and hyperbole of 2020, I wanted to retrace my undergrad training as an Historian and achieve a perspective on the evolution and struggles of people and societies. The point here is that history, the experience of humankind is not, never has been and never will be one of continuous improvement and progress. This book provided valuable perspective on the principles of economics, the interpretation and application of those principles by various notables down the years, and how the thinking of chancers and thinkers alike has shaped our experiences and the societies we inhabit. What does this book tell us? It tells us that we are susceptible to old ideas redressed as something new, it tells us that disaster and crisis is only ever a generation away, it tells us that our greatest periods of change and societal progress occur most frequently in the aftermath of great trauma and depressions. And finally, that we claim to be progressive and open minded however time and time again tribal factionalism and defensive thinking determines primary course of action – note Trump, Brexit, protectionism over free trade, repeal of carbon reducing legislation (yes Australia that is you). So why read this? An Economic History of the World since 1400 provides factual and considered perspective on the human experience, our pragmatism and resilience is a cause for hope; there is no new Jerusalem however we are a terrifically resilient bunch, and humankind will survive and thrive; and COVID is simply another temporary event in our history.

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

Never Split the Difference – Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by James W. Loewen by Chriss Voss

I’ve got this first on the summer holidays reading list, Chriss Voss is an ex FBI hostage negotiator, with less and less room to move within the agency mode any tips on how to better persuade and practically problem solve is super helpful. Might even help me improve strike rate of wins with the Minister for Home Affairs!

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

The life and times of Wally Hammond. A largely forgotten yet brilliant cricketer whose test match records are incredible. The English Bradman.

Isabel Ines:

Isabel Inés  (a.k.a. @ludita) is a Spanish designer, considered a pioneer in the emergent design disciplines and one of the few women to receive the National Spanish Design Award, in honor of her 25 years of work pioneering design, opening new paths, promoting the creation of communities, and leading and training new generations of designers.

She understands human-centered design as an essential perspective in any field of reality, and applies it to everything she designs, including her own professional projects since 2013. She is the captain of La Nave Nodriza (Spanish for “Mothership)” a design school for grownups, a professional space to reflect and learn in community around the design of digital products and services with a humanistic perspective and where the boundaries between learning, teaching and designing are kind of blurry. She is also an active member of ilios, a collective of designers with whom she explores new organizational models (without a business structure, based on trust and mutual admiration) and develops design and innovation projects that help humanize modernity.

She believes that design has a growing impact on our society, and is determined to design a better, fairer, easier and more beautiful world.

What was the book you loved this year?

Mujer de Frontera, and the writer is Helena Maleno Garzon

I recommend Mujer de Frontera, and the writer is Helena Maleno Garzon. This book made me understand how close injustices happen, how immense the power of states is, how unfair the system can be to its own citizens, and how cruel it is to those who move in the limits of the system. During pandemics, it was even more realistic to realize how a single person can do so much and how the power of the community is all we have.

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

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

I would like to find the inner peace to read some books that I have at home and that I have not yet found the time to tackle. There are a few but I highlight The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. I believe in the importance of rituals and I am a bit obsessed with rethinking, redesigning, re-signifying the way we gather. I have been at events where Priya Parker acted as host and I loved the way she made us all feel included and welcome and part of something bigger than the sum of all of us.  

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

I would love for someone to write the history of the principles of our profession. I am dedicated to a discipline that seeks to humanize technology, it is still very unknown although the last 25 years have been fascinating.

Michael Johnson:

Michael Johnson is a label owner, producer and general absurdist. Before that, he was in bands like Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, Lilys, Ape School, and Holopaw among others. Currently he is the Program Director of the Music Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

What was the book you loved this year?

Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith by Mark E. Smith

I tend to live in the world of music at all times. Partially a professional requirement, partially a sign of eternal adolescence. This year, I re-read Mark E. Smith‘s Renegade for the first time in years. I was reminded of what a singular bastard this man was, and how undeniably hilarious he was. Then, I hired a band so i could fire them.

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

Bedroom Beats and B-sides: Instrumental Hip Hop and Electronic Music at the Turn of the Century by Laurent Fintoni

There’s a UK Company called Velocity Press that recently published a book by Laurent Fintoni entitled Bedroom Beats and B-sides: Instrumental Hip Hop and Electronic Music at the Turn of the Century. Very excited to dig into this, as I witnessed firsthand the wild experimentation that came with the dawn of the laptop era. To this point, it’s been criminally underreported, but the ripples are felt all over the modern music landscape.

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

I wish Charles Heyward or Charles Bullen would write a first-hand history of post punk monoliths This Heat. I managed to catch their “reunion” shows and remain staggered at how timeless the thunder was. I would devour anything regarding their development like a hungry bear.

Kostas Karanikolas:

Kostas is a Global Creative Director with diverse background and experience. He has held leadership roles at top digital, traditional and integrated agencies both in the US and in Europe, such as WPP (his current gig), Saatchi & Saatchi, Crispin Porter+Bogusky, BBDO, Rapp and R/GA, among others. Throughout his career, he has built global brands, led creative departments, strengthened client relationships, advised tech start-ups, and brought a high level of entrepreneurship with multi-disciplinary expertise. His work has been honored and recognized by industry awards and publications. Kostas is a strategic thinker, resilient creative and a big advocate of innovative brand communications that are social and digital-centric. He believes great work stems from the truth, has humanity at its core, and it’s culturally relevant. 

What was the book you loved this year?

The Andy Warhol Diaries by Andy Warhol & Pat Hackett

The Warhol diaries are fascinating. When I was attending Fine Arts School in New York, I didn’t like Andy Warhol. He seemed simplistic, focused more on the superficial than the work itself, so I thought. But as I spent more time in the Ad world where I learned to leverage the volatility and power of culture, in my view, Warhol transformed into the cultural phenomenon he truly was. Reading his daily diaries from the mid-70s right to his final week, was captivating. They reveal a peculiar wit, an idiosyncratic perception of the times and experiences he was living, and the enticing recounts of his amusing entourage. His forthright observation and understanding of culture were unparalleled. The writings also provide a bespoke perspective of everyday life and people; he makes the quotidian flamboyant and transforms it into amusing narratives – from the famous to the person next door. He even shares his daily expenses down to the cent.

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

À Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans

I first read Against The Grain in University, but it feels so relevant to the times we live in. Written in 1884, this is a book ‘without a plot’. The narrative is about the portrait of Des Esseintes, a man who is so appalled by modern life and human stupidity that he retreats into a sort of solipsistic, rarefied sensualism locked in his house outside of the city. À Rebours is an experiment to see if, in the absence of a public domain, one can live a ‘normal life’ without leaving home and without needing other people. The character’s world, in contemporary terms, is a sort of ‘virtual reality’, which he uses to transport himself to a different realm, avoiding the disappointments of the physical experience. In retrospect, the story exhibits the symptoms of Covid-times. I see this ‘psychosomatic disorder’ that has come into play during 2020, the ramifications of the pandemic we’re so viscerally experiencing still. A must reread for next year. 

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

The Gender Pain Gap

I’ve been working on Healthcare brands lately, and I feel the communications in the category lack purpose. We’ve all heard of the gender pay gap, for example, but did you know the same gender discrimination is affecting women’s health? Because of gender bias, women are being misunderstood, mistreated & misdiagnosed. Often this prejudice is unconscious & unintended, but it is systemic. This gender blindness affects us all, and people are only just starting to talk about it. Decades of discrimination have led us here. Now we need to draw a line in the sand and lead the way forward. It’d be great to see not just another article on the matter, but a serious view on the issue and how to shine a light on the support. From the personal level, giving women clarity and confidence about their rights and needs, to the professional level, by inspiring and empowering healthcare professionals to make a difference. 

Eva McCloskey:

Eva McCloskey is Managing Director at the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts which is responsible for, among other things, the w3, Davey and Communicator awards and for which she recently executed a major rebranding and reimagining. Prior to joining AIVA, she was the founder of Agent Gold, where she led talent strategy, acquisition and recruitment for c-suite and creative executives in the design, advertising and marketing industries, Chief Curator at co:collective, and employee #1 at The Barbarian Group where she was instrumental in building that agency to the success it became. A former captain of the Brooklyn Bombshells roller derby team in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby League (so don’t fuck with her), she currently lives in New York City which she endures as only a member of the Red Sox nation can.

What was the book you loved this year?

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

This was a re-read for me. Maybe my 10th or 11th time through? I do that a lot with the books I truly fall in love with. This one holds up. It is, no question, one of the funniest books ever written. When I learned that Portis had died earlier this year, it was all the excuse I needed to dust off my copy. This year has been so tough from so many angles, it was a treat to escape to the meandering world of Portis’ annoyingly charming characters with their perfectly paced dialogue.

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

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

One of the most surprising realities I’m confronted with as a new parent is the universally underwhelming-to-bad quality of so many of the children’s books out in the world. Jabari Jumps is one of our absolute favorites for so many reasons: beautiful artwork, a compelling storyline, a relatable lesson about resilience. It’s one of the few books I don’t mind reading aloud, ad nauseum. I look forward to working the follow-up Jabari Tries into our regular rotation in 2021. I take my responsibility in raising an anti-racist child incredibly seriously. Data proves that ensuring his media consumption more genuinely reflects the world we live in, not just white people and cartoon animals, is one of the easiest things you can do to move the needle in the right direction.

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

 Literally anything new from A.M. Homes, Alyssa Nutting, and Helen Dewitt. These three women are at the very top of my favorite author list. They could publish a shopping list and I’d lap it up because they make me laugh out loud with their brilliant, hysterical storytelling.

Tor Myhren:

Tor is Apple’s vice president of marketing communications, reporting into Tim Cook. He leads the global team overseeing Apple’s advertising, internet presence, Apple.com, product packaging design and other consumer facing marketing. 

Tor joined Apple in 2016 from Grey, where he was president and worldwide chief creative officer. He is a two-time TED speaker, has been named to Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, and was inducted into the Advertising Federation of America’s Hall of Achievement. Last year Tor accepted the Creative Marketer of the Year award for Apple at Cannes.

Tor is a former journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Occidental College.

What was the book you loved this year? 

The Overstory by Richard Powers

I read this book while camping up in the mountains near Tahoe, mid-pandemic. Being surrounded by nature and reading a 500-page book essentially about trees made me feel good about the world again. When I finished the first chapter, I felt like I was reading a classic. Not just a classic for now, but an all-timer, in the spirit of Steinbeck or Hemingway. The ambition of this book, it’s sweeping themes and depth of characters, is magnificent. It feels big, in a time when it’s so in vogue to write small. Trees are the hero of this story, but it’s really a book about America and the people who live here. It has been called ‘the first great eco novel’, but it’s better than that. 

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

Collected Stories by Raymond Carver

All Raymond Carver’s short stories, as I’ve only read a few. Concise and intense writing by one of the best ever. Stories you can read in one sitting but stay with you forever. Razor sharp, minimal and deeply resonant. It is this style of writing I aspire to in my own work, and want to find my way back to after a disorienting year like this one. 

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

 I’m a sucker for a classic character, but haven’t had one in a while. Who’s the Howard Roark of 2021? Or the Ignatius J. Reilly? Or the Oscar Wao? Or the Captain John Yossarian? Whoever it is, I want to meet them.

Ronald C. Pruett, Jr.

Ron is the Managing Partner of The Boston Associates which specializes in direct-to-consumer company launches and turnarounds. He’s been the founder, CEO, CMO, Advisor and Board member of successful public and privately held iconic, consumer brands such as As Seen on TV, Al Roker Entertainment, DollarDays, Liberty Medical, Mercury Media and internet pioneer Insurance.com

What was the book you loved this year?

Managing for Results by Peter Drucker

I’ve spent most of the last thirty years tethered to an airplane seat and was always going somewhere here or abroad to do what it is I do. With our changing world situation over the course of this year and my complete lack of desire to go through TSA lines, most of our advisory efforts went online. More conversations ensued. And often I was asked which books I could recommend that coupled theory with practicality. Because I focus on direct-to-consumer opportunities, the marketing and advertising elements of the company are embedded into the sales and operations of the business including areas like logistics and inventory control. They all go hand in hand. There are no or few middlemen or layers of bureaucracy. So success is dependent upon understanding the interdependencies.  The one book that I often re-read and suggest to others is an oldie but goodie by Peter Drucker called Managing for Results. Drucker wrote extensively and he was a visionary genius. But many of his works are overly theoretical or commentary-heavy for daily application if you’re trying to improve the current operations and future strategy of your business. Managing for Results is the opposite and I think his best effort. Written in 1964, Managing for Results by Peter Drucker teaches you how to examine and run any business in the here and now. I always find something new in it.

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

Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It by Richard Koch

I’ve been a big fan of former consultant and now writer and investor Richard Koch over the years. Usually living in some warm enclave around the Mediterranean like Spain, Richard is perhaps best known for leading titles such as The 80/20 Principle, The Star Principle, and SuperConnect.  He’s written quite a few and they’re based on his extensive experience at firms such as Bain, BCG, and one he himself started called LEK. Yet Richard has also made a sizable fortune investing in companies such as BetFair, Plymouth Gin and FiloFax.  So why the interest in such a seemingly “big corporate” thinker? Because Richard is decently human, reserved, and is able to simplify the core of what’s required for scaling consumer-driven businesses. Like Vilfredo Pareto himself who serves as the basis for the 80/20 Principle book, Koch reduces the mumbo jumbo and typical business jargon into simple formulas that work. His new book which I expect to read, Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It, focuses on nine unlikely characters who made something of themselves, and something for the world around them, by truly following their own paths and redefining what it takes to get there.  It is not a business book, but a review of successful characters and their shared characteristics.

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

I’m currently reading Life After Google by George Gilder and it so happened that Google crashed this week for a few hours. It reminded all of us, or many of us, how dependent we are on a few massive players for our Internet-driven lives such as Google, facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for our work as well as our pleasure time.  And this is exactly Gilder’s point. As we go forward, and our need for increased privacy and fears post-Covid grow, anything centralized, like data, will increasingly be decentralized and leverage newer concepts like crypto currencies and its critically important derivative base process called blockchain.  With that said, I’ve found precious little written about blockchain that is directly applicable to marketing and advertising and how it will impact consumer adoption and direct-to-consumer (DTC) applications. There’s quite a bit, perhaps too much, covering fintech and the payments world. But I’m starting to see how a widespread pandemic does change behavior and with that the need for future solutions based upon a new peer-to-peer selling system. That is a book I’d read.

Bryan Stokley:

Bryan is a Creative Director at BBDO in NYC. Prior to that, he worked at Droga5. In his career, he’s racked his brain and bled his pen for clients such as, Newcastle, Motorola, Sandy Hook Promise, Feeding America, Twix, HBO and Foot Locker. 

What was the book you loved this year?

Transcendence by Gaia Vince

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Reading is an escape, but that never felt truer than this year. I almost always read books on my phone, but I found myself gravitating back towards actual books so I could just bury my head in the subjects and avoid the anxiety-inducing reality of 2020.

One of the books that I escaped into was Transcendence by Gaia Vince. Vince takes you on a captivating tour of evolutionary human history using the four themes of fire, language, beauty and time to illustrate how humans came to be the dominant species. 

As far as fiction goes, the book I read this year that moved me the most was Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. It’s a haunting, gut-punch of a novel written from an indigenous boy’s perspective as he grows up in a Catholic boarding school in Canada. 

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

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer

I’m looking forward to reading The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was one of my favorite books in college, so I’m interested to read a more contemporary account of Native American history that incorporates the 20th century. 

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

I’d love to read a well-written book about the experience of being a foreigner in Japan. Previous to working in advertising, I had lived in Japan for many years and I’ve yet to find a book that articulates the way it feels to live there with a sense of honesty and humility.

Yun Zheng:

Yun started out as an aspiring climate scientist and field researcher, but after her first internship at H&M where she worked alongside the sustainability team and experienced the profound influence and impact of global supply chains, she decided to change her career to focus on corporate sustainability. When she later became a sustainability consultant, she found immeasurable value in helping global companies develop and implement responsible sourcing and sustainable supply chain practices.

Though she grew up in Brooklyn, NY (where her family still resides), Yun is an avid world traveler, living and working in Hong Kong for four years before moving back to New York City in 2018. Now based in New Jersey where she is a sustainability professional for a global chemical company, Yun lives with her dog and volunteers at a local dog rescue as a foster parent. A graduate of Columbia University, she remains connected with young students through her role as a member of their Alumni Representative Committee. She enjoys hiking, barre, and of course, reading.

What was the book you loved this year?

The Snowball by Alice Schroeder

In 2020, I became fascinated with biographies as a way to learn about how individuals live(d) their lives and managed different personal and professional challenges. The Snowball by Alice Schroeder was a biography of Warren Buffet’s life and his personal and professional philosophies. I started reading this book before COVID and it surprisingly helped me the most during COVID when the entire world was filled with uncertainty and angst. The book not only covered his investment philosophies but also showcased an elaborate web of personal relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. “Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.” Through this book, I was able to gain wisdom and new perspectives of how one can navigate life’s course while living in my own reality. I would recommend this book to anybody who may not have liked biographies in the past or for anyone who just wants a good read.

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

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Continuing my newfound love for biographies, I look forward to reading President Obama’s A Promised Land which was recently released in November. I have already enjoyed Michelle Obama’s Becoming (my 2nd favorite biography this year) and would not miss out on this one. I am curious about his personal account of his time in office as opposed to what we see from the media. I also look forward to learning more about his own personal journey as a young professional to a powerful leader of the free world.

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

 During COVID, I am grateful to have spent time working from home and staying with my dog who I adopted a year ago. For the first few days, my dog kept checking in on me as if to say, “why aren’t you going to work”? I wonder what his thoughts are now that his home is an office environment for his human who is always talking and not playing with him. If someone would write a book as a personal account in the perspective of a pet during COVID, I would read it in a heartbeat!

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

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The Year (in the) Agency Review 2018