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Welcome to 2013…

Okay, gang, The Agency Review made it through its first year, and a big thanks to everyone who read, suggested, commented and spread the word! We posted 50 reviews  – which is almost one a week – and the most read posts in 2012 were: Ogilvy on Advertising (posted July 25th), A Big Life in Advertising (July 11th), and Where the Suckers Moon (June 27th). We had readers from over 80 countries – though perhaps not surprisingly, the top three were the U.S., U.K., and Canada (gotta work on that in 2013) – and had our most readers in December (hopefully a good omen for the coming year).

To kick off this year, we thought we’d try something a little different. We asked a bunch of people we respect three questions about their reading.

First, what book were you really glad you read in 2012?

Second, what book do you hope to read in 2013?

And lastly, what  book do you hope someone will write because you’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Below are the answers – and they’re terrific because they speak to exactly what this review is all about. The Agency Review was started because we believe that advertising is about everything, and thus every book is relevant. Not just business books, but books about life, history, culture, art, and yes, even zombies.

Thanks to everyone who participated – clearly there’s a lot yet to read and review.

And thanks again to you – yes you, the person reading this right now – because without you this would have been a colossal waste of time. And be sure to subscribe so you can receive subscriber-only content in 2013. Fingers crossed…


Tad Kittredge – Senior Brand Manager – Clorox:

My fav book this year:

The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

I love the analogy of applying the principles of lean manufacturing to business models and marketing- where instead of wasting physical resources, we are wasting time. Identifying and validating with actual consumer transactions where your time can truly create value can revolutionize how we think about big ideas and ROI. There’s a great line in there about how our current business culture breeds a generation of politicians and salesman instead of innovators and learners which is a great reality check for any marketer to ask themselves.

Book to read

How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen

The idea of applying business and behavioral economics frameworks to your personal life choices is intriguing. The question of how did so many of the author’s smart, Harvard MBA classmates end up in miserable careers, divorced and in jail (Jeff Skilling) is fascinating.

A book I hope someone writes would be about rethinking the paradigm of functional versus emotional messaging in advertising.

Ted Royer – Executive Creative Director – Droga5:

Book I was glad about: The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy. Great book on the Conan-Leno-everybody else late night war. Good insider fun.

Book I hope to read: Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. One of my favorite writer’s meditations on having (and slowly dying from) cancer. I haven’t gotten around to it because it will inevitably depress the hell out of me, but Hitchens was an awesome intellect and I will dive into this work soon enough.

Book I hope someone writes because I will buy it: World War Z II  – World War Z is a magnificent book, in the form of a collection of eyewitnesses all over the world about the Great Zombie War. Rarely had an author taken an established absurd premise and stretched it, pounded it, pondered it and refined it to create art out of ashes. If World War Z II came out I’d shake my wrist and buy that shit so fast.

Gareth Kay – Chief Strategy Officer  – Goodby, Silverstein and Partners:

1.  I’ll cheat and say two: The Signal and The Noise by Nate Silver, a beautifully written book about the misuse of research and how to divine meaning from all the data that exists today.

The other is an old book I discovered as a PDF – Fifteen Things Charles and Ray Eames Taught Us 

2.  Allegedly, Ed Catmull from Pixar is writing a book on what they’ve learned at Pixar about creativity.  I hope that’s true.

3. I hope someone writes a brilliant takedown on the fallacy and bad science of pre-testing research.

Robert Birge – Chief Marketing Officer  – Kayak:

1.  I recently read A Team of Rivals. Amazing, and I think quite relevant to any business person. Because leadership is the most important criterion for choosing talent and managing your own efforts. It’s the best book on leadership I’ve read in years.

2.  I’d like to read the new Game of Thrones book if it ever does come out 🙂

3. I wish that someone would write “How to manage your marketing function, a primer for CEO’s”

Gerry Graf –  Founder – Barton F. Graf 9000

The book I am really glad I read was The Information by James Gleik. It’s the history of Information theory. It goes way back to the beginning of spoken language and African drums all the way up to today and a bit of what might happen in the near future. Gives a history of people like Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Samuel Morse, and Claude Shannon. I’d say it gave me a new way to look at information, more like clay to be molded or toys to play with. Good stuff.

The book I’m looking forward to reading is Robert Graves’ version of the Golden Fleece. I heard when Churchill was stressed out of his mind during the war he read the tales of Jason and the Argonauts to relax. I’m going to give it a shot.

The book I wish someone would write…I just found out they are writing it. Neil Gaiman is going to do a prequel to “The Sandman”. So that is just awesome.

Cindy Gallop – Founder/CEO IfWeRanTheWorld

1) the book that you were really glad you read in 2012;

For years, I have been saying to friends that one day I would like to write a book that would be obligatory reading for all women, and men, before they embark on having kids. A book that would lay out, objectively and straightforwardly, a realistic, thoughful, clearsighted and down to earth perspective on what it is genuinely like to have children, when all of the existing literature about having kids, however helpful it aims to be, comes from the place of ‘whatever it involves, children are a joy and a must-have’. A book that would make both women and men think about having children, and ensure that it was an active choice gone into with a very clear sense of exactly what is involved – or an active choice then, not to have them.


It’s called Why Have Kids? and I cannot recommend it too highly – to everyone. Women and men. The childless and the parenting. The young and the old. Everywhere in the world.

2) the book you hope to read in 2013,

The one I’m in the process of writing about my philosophy of life and business. 🙂

3) a book you hope someone writes because you’d buy it in a heartbeat.

The next book by William Gibson. I’d buy anything of his in a heartbeat.

Helayne Spivack – Director  – VCU Brandcenter:

I’m glad I read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  I can’t say I’d have wanted Steve for a friend based on how he ended up treating those around him, but I am fascinated by visionaries who have absolute faith in their vision.  Who aren’t afraid to take risks.  Who would rather fail gloriously than succeed with mediocrity. Who believed taste, design and uncompromising simplicity  could change the world and did.  Who looked at business models that have existed for decades and had the courage, the influence and gift of persuasion so when Jobs said…”this is not working, let’s change it”…it was done.  I loved getting a glimpse into the great, uncompromising mindset of Steve Jobs.

I’d like to re-read The Mirror Makers to revisit the history of the beginnings of this business where I’ve spent my entire career. I remember being fascinated and proud of the effect Advertising has had on modern culture and entertainment and its worth another read even if it hadn’t been updated, which I believe it has.

Finally, what book would I give anything to read?  Quite honestly, anything J.D. Salinger was hiding away when he died. Or, if Lee Clow would write a book about his life at Chiat Day and his partnership with Jay Chiat told by him and not his beard…that I would read in a heartbeat.

Mike Byrne – Partner/CCO – Anomaly

A friend gave me a copy of Money by Martin Amis. I had read his first book, The Rachael Papers which I loved. This is about a commercial director who comes to NYC to shoot his first feature. Story aside, I found myself underlining sentences than paragraphs. Blown away by the writing. And it inspired me to get back to the craft and realize that writing is a muscle and you have to work it out as much as possible. So write, write some more and when you’re not writing read. Get off the computer and write long hand. Fight with words, struggle, you know a workout.

It was a wake up call I believe. Get back to the craft. It’s what got me here in the first place.

I’m gonna dive into Vince Flynn this year. My dad swears by him. It’s high energy espionage kind of stuff all centered around one character who is a counter terrorism agent. Good for the airplane. Great to get your mind off of everything else. And a great way to get your heart pumping and your imagination shooting on all cylinders.

I wish the next J.D. Salinger came along. I’m not really sure what that means I just miss him. He helped shape my adolescence and I want my kids to have that experience. I’m sure they will and maybe I’m being too romantic about my own youth. But the world could use another Holden Caulfield.

Jonah Bloom –  Chief Strategy Officer/Co-Founder  – kbs+ Content Labs

1. Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow.’

I always loathed the oversimplification of decision-making into rational and emotional decisions, and I suspected it wasn’t nearly that binary, but I didn’t have the intellect or understanding of these things to prove that. Fortunately Daniel Kahneman did and he also had the ability to explain it in an incredibly engaging fashion. An amazing book that everyone in marketing should read.

2. Daniel Pink’s ‘To Sell Is Human’

I’m cheating a little here, because I just started this, but as I’m only 2 chapters in it sort of counts. I still think Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind is one of the best explanations of what’s happened to developed economies that I’ve ever read – and it also explains why creative brains are the key to unlocking the growth in those economies (which, incidentally, has never been more important than it is today.) So when I heard he was taking a fresh look at what business we’re all in today – and tacking the question of how to move others to part with the things you want in exchange for what you have to offer – I was pretty excited. So far it’s living up to my expectations, and I am really looking forward to reading the rest.

Mainly, however, I just want to read more in 2013.

3. I wish someone would write a thorough explainer as to how Americans got to the point that they inherently believe that government is a bad thing rather than an enabler. Preferably they’d also append a section in which they explained how we can reverse that thinking so that we can start moving forward as a collective, constructive, united society that invests in education, training, healthcare, the environment, infrastructure and all the other things we’re going to need to improve if we’re going to compete in a global economy.

Lorin Stein – Editor – The Paris Review

1) Although I read Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow last winter, it’s been on my mind ever since. Pretty much any question of office management, project planning, or long-term life-prediction calls to mind his cautionary tales about the limits of intuition.

2) John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra. I’ve come late to this great, underrated story-writer and novelist, whose beat was social climbers in the years between the wars. The day I finished Geoffrey Wolff’s stupendous biography of O’Hara, I went to my local bookstore for a copy of his first novel. It seems to be out of print — but that won’t stop me.

3) In a heartbeat? Kahnemann has taught me to take these hunches with a grain of salt. I’ll know it when I see it!

Paul Woolmington  – Angel, advisor & high impact creator – communications entrepreneur

books i am glad i read in 2012

business related:

Little Bets by Peter Simms

What’s Mine is Y(Ours) by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers

Reality is Broken by Jane Mcgonigal

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Spook Country by William Gibson


1Q 84 by Haruki Murakami

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Ragged Edge of the World by Eugene Kinden

Whatever You Do Don’t Run by Peter Allison

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Atlantic by Simon Winchester

Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

book hope to read in 2013.

It’s Not How Good You Are , It’s How Good You Want to Be – the worlds best selling book by Paul Arden. ( i try and re read it, a short inspiring read, at least once a year )

book you hope someone writes as you would buy it in a heart beat.

unsexy is the new sexy. a book that re looks at all the unsexy parts of our business and re-imagines them. i love reinvention and zigging while everyone else zags. might just write it myself!

Matt Creamer – Editor at Large – Advertising Age

1) the book that you were really glad you read in 2012;

I started to answer this as though you had asked for the best book I read in 2012, which would be Dave Eggers’ “Hologram for the King.” What you’re asking for is something very different. It seems the book I’m glad I read should be somewhat against the grain, a book I might not ordinarily read or perhaps a particularly difficult book. The scent of of accomplishment should waft from its well-creased spine. Am I overthinking the question? Anyway, a book I was really glad I read was Austerlitz, a 2001 novel by the late W.G. Sebald. A meditation on memory, identity, and loss in post-WWII Europe, this book is not an easy read. It’d be generally pointless to try to sum up the plot, but know that it helps to care about the subject matter and historical epoch and to be open to somewhat baroque structures both at the levels of narrative, paragraph and sentences–there are some super long ones. It’s just great writing and thinking.

2) the book you hope to read in 2013, and

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. The answer would have been the same had you asked me this any year since the mid 1990s. I’ve started this bear a bunch of times and, while I like it (the opening), life inevitably distracts me and I lose the plot, literally.

3) a book you hope someone writes because you’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Another interesting question. I may be entirely wrong about this, but I think there’s still an opening for a great zeitgeist novel about our social media-y times. We’re still lacking that Tom Wolfeish How-we-live-now sweeping tome that captures the narcissism and exuberance and venality and joy and revulsion and emptiness and fullness and and and you get what I’m saying. I was hoping Franzen’s “Freedom” might fill the void, but that book’s general aversion of technological topics let me down, even though I generally liked it. Eggers’ new book, mentioned above, does grab some of this, but it’s a touch to narrow to really do this job.

Rob Campbell – Regional Head of Strategy – Wieden + Kennedy/Shanghai

1) The Party by Richard McGregor. It’s banned in China. When you read it, you’ll understand why.

2) Basically anything by Duff McKagan or Jordan Belfort … because their books [‘It’s So Easy … & Other Lies‘ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘] were utterly awesome. Sure, they’re not intellectual reads, but most of those are about saying you’ve read them rather than having enjoyed the read.

3) A follow up to brilliant Geography of Thought by Richard Nisbett because it was written [I think] almost 10 years ago and I’d be interested to hear whether he thinks that the digital revolution and influx of Western brands has influenced change in behavior and attitude, at least with the post 90’s generation.

The Mirror Makers
by Stephen Fox


3 thoughts on “2012 – The Year in (The Agency) Review

  1. what if î said, there comes a point in our life where reading can be detrimental to our abilities of self-realization & imagination?

    what if î said, we are monkeys at the core -expert mimickers- and this can be a blessing and a curse -in disguise- in our lives?

    what if î said, we spend most of our lives collecting memories -information : reading books, following our heros’ actions, learning at school, listening to other peoples’ thoughts- and all we do is mimic the information that is imparted to us by people we admire or fear?

    what if î said, all the information we collect in our brains -specifically talking about books- is just that, information?

    what if î said, reading a lot of books just means that we have a lot of information and not true knowledge?

    what if î said, there comes a time when we need to stop reading, listening, and following other peoples’ thoughts in order to really think about how all of this information & memories connect into one cohesive story – in order to make sense of “it” all?

    what if î said, turning information into knowledge is what -fortunately & unfortunately- separates us from all other creatures in nature?

    what if î said, this is the secret of the renaissance – at a personal and collective level?

    what if î said, our egos -unbalanced consciousness of the self & lack of self love- is the wall that prevents us from burning information into knowledge?

    Oh, think, think, think about it before you judge these words too harshly.

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