Well we all made it through another year, so again, a big thanks to everyone who read, suggested, commented and spread the word.
While we posted fewer reviews this year – only 39 –we did add interviews with 12 authors that we’d reviewed in 2012, which we were able to provide exclusively to our subscribers. From George Lois to Luke Sullivan to Nigel Hollis and so many more, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who gave so generously of their time.
And we’d like to thank everyone who signed up! We more than doubled our subscribership this year! If you’re not currently subscribed, sign up today so you can read those interviews every month, plus the other things we’re cooking up.
Page views almost doubled last year, and the most-read were: the “2012 – Year in (The Agency) Review” (posted January 2nd), “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” (which was actually from 2012 – September 12th to be exact), and “Brutal Simplicity of Thought” (March 6th 2013), which is surprising, actually. We had readers from over 125 countries (up from 80 last year) – though perhaps not surprisingly, the top three were the U.S., U.K., and Canada (just like last year) – and had our most readers in January (thanks in no small part to the great friends who generously contributed their thoughts to the Year in Review).
And speaking of that, since it was such a hit last year, we thought we’d do it again this year!
To review, we asked a collection of marketing people we respect:
What book were you really glad you read in 2013?
What book do you hope to read in 2014?
And lastly, what book do you hope someone will write because you’d buy it in a heartbeat.
Below are the answers – and like last year, they’re terrific because they speak to exactly what this review is all about – that weird intersection of business and culture where advertising lives. Indeed, last year’s list convinced us to broaden the topics of books we covered, which we tried to do. This year’s list says “broaden it some more”. So we will.
Thanks to everyone who participated – clearly there’s a lot yet to read and review.
Biggest thanks of all, however, goes to you – because without you this would have been a complete failure. Knowing that you’re reading and spreading the word makes it all worthwhile So thank you very much. Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already, and of course, if you’d like contribute, shoot us an email – we’d love to hear from you.
Okay, on to 2014…
Ron Culp is a corporate and agency veteran who now serves as Professional Director of the graduate public relations and advertising program at DePaul University . Ron blogs on public relations careers at Culpwrit . He tweets @Culpwrit and regularly posts on his Facebook page.
1. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I met her at a reception prior to an Economic Club of Chicago luncheon and then found myself nodding my head in agreement with most of what she said in her speech, so I simply had to read the book. Although many would suggest it’s written for modern-day corporate women libbers, Lean In also has valuable insights that very definitely apply to men and all young people entering the workplace.
2. First book of the new year just arrived in the mail on Christmas eve: Story Telling in Business by Janis Forman. I am a huge believer in the art of storytelling to help achieve business objectives, so I’m glad that long-time friend Janis Forman penned a book on this topic.
3. Love this question for one obvious reason. I’m co-authoring the book I’ve long hopped someone would write. I gave up waiting and began working with fellow DePaul professor Matt Ragas on a business basics book for PR, advertising and marketing professionals: Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators: Unlocking Value for the Organization and its Stakeholders. The book will be published late next fall by Palgrave Macmillan.
Although a native New Yorker, Caprice Yu started her career at 180 in Amsterdam where she discovered the true meaning of a big idea. Working with an eclectic mix of talent and points-of-view from all over the globe, Caprice found that only what speaks to the gut or the heart transcends geographic and cultural lines. This has shaped her thinking ever since.
After five years in Amsterdam, Caprice returned stateside to work at BBH NY, then to the mountains of Boulder, Colorado at CP+B, before returning to BBH NY. Along the way, Caprice has received national and international recognition for her work on adidas, Google, Cole Haan, Microsoft, Ally Bank, The Guardian, Dr. Pepper Europe and Axe.
Caprice is currently the Executive Creative Director of Sid Lee’s New York office.
1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck: This is probably one of my favorite books of all time so it’s a good time to answer this survey. Steinbeck has been my favorite writer since college and I’m trying to read every book he’s written. East of Eden is a modern take on the story of Cain and Abel set in the Salinas Valley at the beginning of the first World War. It is a classic theme but made relatable by Steinbeck’s insightful, empathetic writing. He somehow gets to the core of the cruelty and beauty of humanity without ever sounding preachy or pretentious.
2. I just bought the Jim Henson Biography by Brian Jay Jones. We know Henson created the Muppets but he had a ton of other incredibly creative ideas – including a dream to create a fully inflatable psychedelic nightclub. He died too soon and he seemed to worry that he wouldn’t get the chance to create enough before he passed. Sounds like a good guy to find out more about.
3. I’m really into post-apocalyptic survival stories lately (too much Walking Dead and a binge re-watching of Lost). It would be funny to read a story about how us “ad people” would survive – who would be a complete control freak and who would just fold like a deck of cards.
Creative director & The Agency Review caricaturist Mike Caplanis’ great claim to ad fame is his lead role in introducing IKEA to America and vice versa. His 34 years in Our Pitiless Industry leaves him wondering where the money went. “Mostly Chinese food and drycleaning”, he figures (when asked, which isn’t often).
1. I’m a big re-reader and I just went back for a third helping of Huck Finn or maybe it was a fourth. Huck and Jim’s trip through Missouri on the raft is like time travel. The archaic and disappeared slang is a great reminder of the churning nature of the English language. The twinkling lights of the little “one horse towns” as the two escapees glide past in the night is the the America soon to come and just waking up in its frontier infancy.
2.Like a lot of people, I used to fantasize about what JD Salinger might be writing in all those hidden years after he stopped publishing (if he was writing at all). Now we know he was. I hope it turns out to have been worth the wait, but somehow I doubt it. Great books from great authors usually find the light. In Salinger’s case, I haven’t noticed any flares sent up from the people tasked with plowing through his stuff to signal the world that more greatness was on the way. I suspect that Salinger knew that he was out of gas and wisely kept his own counsel.
3. The book whose topic has yet to be covered but that I’d love to read has been written, but so far, no publisher. A founder of the advertising agency where I toil, Dave Marinaccio (of LMO Advertising) reports on our industry from the point of view of someone determined to advise but with little consent. He’s written two other books; one an actual bestseller, and Dave’s a myth buster of the first water. And that, is the book’s charm. I’ve reviewed chunks of it and it reads like a George Carlin diatribe. There is much humor and seasoned ad pros will nod along gravely at the stark truths and insights. Starry-eyed kids will run screaming into the night looking for any career other than the ugly jealous little brother of show biz that is advertising.
Thor Ernstsson is the CEO of Casual Corp, which builds companies – both startups around domain experts and internal ventures with Fortune 100s – in NYC. Previously he was CTO of Audax Health in DC (which was named one of the top 5 most disruptive startups in healthcare in 2013) and before that, he was a lead architect at Zynga.
1. Little Bets from Peter Sims. It provides a great metaphor and framework for iterative experimentation that applies very generally.
2. Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb … because I didn’t read it last year
3.An honest and insightful view of what it’s like to build an organization from scratch. Hatching Twitter seems close, but it’s still an outsiders’ view. The glossy retrospectives are about as accurate as recollections of childbirth; most of the details and emotions are simply purged.
George Tannenbaum has over 29 years of experience in advertising. During that time, George has worked for some of the nation’s premier advertising agencies and some of the world’s top brands. George has worked for IBM and Jaguar at Ogilvy & Mather, General Motors and Federal Express while at Digitas, Hewlett-Packard and Sprint at Publicis & Hal Riney and Citibank and Mercedes-Benz while Lowe. Currently George is Executive Creative Director at R/GA on Ameriprise Financial, the agency’s first 360-degree account. In that capacity George is responsible for everything from speeches for Ameriprise’s CEO, to their website, to their national television and print campaigns. George is one of the few “quadri-linguals” in the business, meaning that he is fluent in the four major media languages: traditional advertising, interactive advertising, direct response and experiential advertising. In fact, George has won awards in each of those disciplines for both creativity and effectiveness. Those awards include a total of seven Effies (an award that celebrates marketing effectiveness) culminating in a Grand Effie, a Diamond Echo (the highest award in direct marketing), recognition from The One Show and Communication Arts, as well as numerous Clios, Addys and other awards. George lives in Manhattan with his wife of 30-years, his two precocious daughters, and an exceedingly precocious golden retriever.
1. One of the best books I read in 2013 was by National Book Award and Pulitzer-winner Timothy Egan. It was called Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. Curtis was a pioneer in photography–and he helped make it an art form. He lived and breathed his art and spent his entire career chronicling the dwindling Indian population of America’s west. He lived his passion. Something we can all learn from as we pursue our careers.
3. The book I’d buy in a heartbeat? An expose of the awards industry. The for-profit bs and fake ads.
Helayne Spivak, former Chief Creative Officer of Y&R and JWT, joined the VCU Brandcenter on August 15, 2012 as its director. In that role, she is leading the Brandcenter in its mission of helping the industry navigate change and fueling it with future leaders. Helayne began her career as a copywriter at Ally & Gargano, ran the New York office of Hal Riney & Partners, was GCD at Energy BBDO and Chief Creative Officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness. She has been recognized by The Wall Street Journal’s Leaders Campaign, was honored with The Matrix Award for Women in Communications, and was named one of the top 50 Women In Business by Business Week magazine (1992).
The book I am glad I read in 2013: Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty [Poems] by Tony Hoagland – I don’t read a lot of poetry. Not a lot of it speaks to me. Then a friend gave me this book to read and I fell in love. I adore words and the images that words can form and Tony Hoagland is an earthy and edgy conjurer of images. Contemporary, but he stirs up timeless emotions. I want to read everything he’s ever written.
The book I hope to read: I hope to finish D-DAY The Battle for Normandy by Antony Beevor – The secrecy and planning, and purposely placed false rumors and the sheer logistics that went into storming the beaches is absolutely fascinating and getting insight into the minds of Eisenhower, Churchill and DeGaulle et al is enthralling. D-Day could never happen today. Some kid in France would tweet, or post on facebook or instagram that there seems to be something funny going on at the beach and the war would have been lost.
The book I hope someone writes: Where Did All The Kardashians Go? A true story of the day every one of the Kardashians disappeared from our daily press.
John Costello is President, Global Marketing and innovation at Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. He has global responsibility for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins advertising, marketing, consumer engagement, digital, mobile and social marketing, consumer and business intelligence, and oversees Dunkin Brands’ research and development, culinary team and channel development efforts for both brands globally. One of the early pioneers of omni-channel marketing, John has served as the EVP of Merchandising and Marketing at The Home Depot, Senior EVP of Sears, Chief Global Marketing Officer of Yahoo and President and COO of Nielsen Marketing Research U.S. John began his career at Procter & Gamble, where he held a number of senior marketing and brand management positions and served as Senior VP of Marketing and Sales at Pepsi-Cola, USA. John was named one of the 30 Most Influential People in Marketing by Advertising Age, one of the Top 50 Marketers by Adweek, one of the top CMO Officers by the CMO Club, one of the Top 10 Merchants by DSN Retailing Today and was elected to the Retail Advertising Hall of Fame. He is a director of The Ace Hardware Corporation, the Global Mobile Marketing Association and the Yellowstone Park Foundation, and past Chairman of both the Association of National Advertisers and The Advertising Council.
1. My favorite non-fiction book was Bunker Hill, A City, A Siege, A Revolution by Nathanial Philbrick. He writes non-fiction with the pace of fiction. This books covers the days leading up to the American revolution and reminds us that it takes many great people working together to achieve great change.
My favorite fiction book was The Son by Philip Meyer, a multi-generational history of the Texas and the West told through the history of one family from the Indian raids of the 1800’s through the Oil Boom.
2. Big Data. A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Vicktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. While clearly supporters of big data, the book discusses the implications, pros and cons of how big data is changing our lives.
3.Social Media, Separating Hype From Reality. I think social media is transforming how we live, work, play, and communicate with our friends, but so many books on the topic today get caught up in the hype. I’d buy a book that objectively dissects the pros and cons of social media and offers a cogent view of the future.
In September 2010, Ty Montague and his partner Rosemarie Ryan launched co:collective, a growth and innovation accelerator that specializes in inventing and re-inventing products, businesses and brands. Co: has been engaged by YouTube, Google, Microsoft, GE and Kohl’s among others. Ty is happiest when things are under construction, which is why he has spent his career as an innovator and agent of change. As Co-President, Chief Creative Officer, JWT North America Ty and Rosemarie helped lead a 5-year transformation of the agency which culminated in JWT being named Adweek magazine’s 2009 Global Agency of the Year—the first award of its kind for JWT and parent company WPP. Prior to that Ty launched and helped build the New York office of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, ran the New York office of Wieden + Kennedy and worked at the New York office of Chiat Day. Ty is an author and frequent speaker on the topics of innovation, leadership, business transformation and the power of story. He has two sons, Miles and Mackinnon and lives in Westport, Connecticut with his wife Dany and their beagle Jerry.
1. I’ll fudge and submit two books from the past year that I was really glad I read. The first is Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. A great story of how a passion-led business came into being and the invaluable lessons learned along the way. Hopefully this book is now serving as a roadmap and a tool-kit for a new generation of entrepreneurs who understand what Chouinard discovered many years ago: that conveying your story through action, rather than communication is the way forward in business.
The second is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I had read some of his (magnificent) later work, but this is the book that introduced him to the world and I had somehow missed it until this year. Let’s just say that it reminded me that what I have been doing for the last 20 years isn’t writing. It is typing.
It is not a new book but the story of the company that Ray founded and ran, Interface, is one that I find endlessly inspiring.
3. This will be incredibly boring for some folks, but I genuinely wish someone would write a business textbook for use in the leading business schools of the world designed to help MBAs better understand the power of story in business. Many books on business exist. Many books on story exist. Many examples of great leaders using story to create amazing business success exist. But somehow the business schools of the world apparently remain unconvinced of the fundamental value of story and don’t seem to consider it part of a core curriculum. The next Steve Jobs still won’t come from Harvard or Wharton until this book is written.
Martin H. Frech is responsible for global strategy for Sweets and Refreshment at the Hershey Company. Martin has 15 years of experience in the consumer goods sector, and has worked for or consulted industry leaders in North America, Europe and Asia. Prior to his current position, Martin was Director, Consumer Goods and Services at Accenture Strategy in Singapore, where he led FMCG projects in South-East Asia. Before that, Martin developed and led the Accenture Customer Innovation Network Shanghai, an innovation hub and think tank for the global Consumer Goods industry. Additionally, Martin spent more than a decade consulting large Consumer Goods multinationals in Europe, Asia and North America in topics such as growth strategy, distribution, cost reduction, market entry, M&A, marketing and pricing.
1) This year I read What Have You Changed Your Mind About?: Today’s Leading Minds Rethink Everything by John Brockman. It’s a collection of very short (2-3 pages!), very readable essays, written by the world’s leading minds (Ray Kurzweil, Helen Fisher, Chris Anderson, Richard Dawkins to name a few). Being able to change your mind is a much bigger deal than one would think, and I believe it’s one of the key indicators of intellectual curiosity and mental flexibility. To experts in their field, changing their minds must be even more tricky: not only do they need to admit they were wrong about something, but something they were famous for defending. Add to that a wide array of topics from evolution to the exploration of the universe, and you have a fantastically readable book that will keep you busy (and thinking!) for a while.
2) This coming year I hope to read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. I’ve been recommended the book by a couple of people (and enjoyed the review on The Agency Review), so would love to dive a little deeper into the structure of keeping messaging simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and (most importantly!) telling a story. And I want to apply it throughout any and all communication, internal and external.
3) I’d love to see someone write a holistic view on how some of the “next big things” will converge. There are some emerging technologies that have a lot of promise, but I think the true impact will come from combining them: big data, wearable technology, drones, bio-genetics, robots, artificial intelligence / big-scale analytics, cloud computing. I’d see how those developments might converge.
Cindy Gallop is the founder & CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld (redesigning the future of business) and Make Love Not Porn (redesigning the future of sex). She consults in the area of brand and business innovation, describing her consultancy approach as, “I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.” Follow her on Twitter @cindygallop.
1. I really struggled with an answer to but I’ll go with the following: Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton. It is enormously reassuring to an entrepreneur like myself, battling with their own startups, because it demonstrates what a messy, ridiculous, haphazard process starting a business is; and it’s enormously inspiring, because it demonstrates that great things can come out of the aforesaid messy, ridiculous, haphazard process.
3. The next book by William Gibson. I’d buy anything of his in a heartbeat.
Dusty Summers is Principal & Creative Director at The Heads of State. He likes non-fiction, single speeds, western epics, 3-4 defenses and Levon Helm. He’s never heard of Gillette, and doesn’t care much for wine. He lives in South Philly with his wife and two sons.
1) Appointment in Samarra John O’Hara – I honestly hadn’t heard of John O’Hara until looking over a list of underrated books. After reading Appointment in Samarra I’m still shocked it isn’t required reading. It’s sort of a working class version of The Great Gatsby, and because of that more approachable take I think the story hits home a little harder. There is no glitzy disconnect. You can see yourself filling the white collar shoes of Julian English, the novels Jay Gatsby.
2) Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Richard P. Feynman – On a whim I read Feynman’s second memoir What Do You Care What Other People Think? I’d heard it was a great read and it was sitting on a used book store shelf. I tore through it. I love when you can gain inspiration from a seemingly totally unrelated field or profession. Feynman was a Nobel winning theoretical physicist, best known for his work in “path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as work in particle physics” (I have no idea what these things are). What’s so impressive about Feynman, was his ability to translate these theories in to pure entertainment, and along the way delivery some pretty great anecdotes about science, marriage, creativity and life in general.
3) The forthcoming Salinger Books – 2014? 2015? They’re coming soon. They might be terrible, they might be genius, they might be thirty years too late, but it’s going to be a literary event and it’s going to be fun to watch.