Editor’s Letter: A Look Back (and Ahead) at Marketing Moments That Define Adweek

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Adweek breathed its first breath on Nov. 19, 1979.

It also came close to it being its last.

At 3 a.m. on that date alarms at the Norad missile command center in Colorado sounded a full-scale nuclear attack was underway. Defense analysts’ computers showed 250 Soviet nuclear missiles bearing down on the United States. One congressional investigator years later noted that “compared to this raid, Pearl Harbor was a Sunday picnic.” Fortunately, and quite obviously, the story has a happy ending. Satellite data indicated it was a false alarm.

As things turned out, the Cold War is just one of the upheavals that Adweek has lived through. In the four decades following our founding, we’ve lasted through three wars, five recessions, seven presidential administrations and one long era of digital disruption—and we’ve not only made it, we’ve become the industry’s marketing bible.

We owe our longevity not just to our founders Pen Tudor, Jack Thomas and Ken Fadner, but to our editorial leaders past and present—Clay Felker, Andrew Jaffe, Kevin McCormack, Alison Fahey, Mike Chapman, Michael Wolff and James Cooper—and my co-lead, executive editor Stephanie Paterik. Throughout the years, we’ve remained on point, steadfast in our mission to help marketers do their jobs better.

Our anniversary issue looks at both our own coverage as well as marketers’ biggest moments over 40 years. With senior editor Robert Klara leading the way, we’ve combed through our archives to curate highlights and head-scratchers that defined each of the four decades we’ve chronicled. Kicking off the section, creative and innovation editor David Griner opines about the ’80s and the era of agency consolidation, globalization and peak creativity that laid the groundwork for decades to come. For the ’90s, TV editor Jason Lynch explains how the Telecommunications Act of 1996 set the stage for the media’s biggest mergers and how the Gulf War, HBO and Fox cleared the way for Peak TV. Predicted by Bill Gates as the “Digital Decade,” the aughts—tackled by tech and brand editor Josh Sternberg—saw innovation advance at warp speed, ushering in Google in all its forms, the iPhone and social media, for starters. Sternberg also takes us through the 2010s Connected Era, with the convergence of smartphones, social media, video and voice. Weeks away from welcoming a new decade, I share what might be in store for the ’20s, where we’re sure to have even more discourse and regulations on personalization and privacy.

Putting it all into perspective is Lee Clow, chairman, emeritus of TBWAMedia Arts Lab (and the co-creator of Apple’s history-making “1984” Super Bowl spot), who looks back on advertising’s shift toward becoming more egalitarian, migrating from Madison Avenue to Minneapolis; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; and beyond.

Today, we continue that long road toward equality. In recent years, we’ve seen a real awakening, with meaningful efforts made toward promoting diversity and inclusion. Then there’s #MeToo, an unstoppable movement that’s demanded the dismissal of powerful men for sexual harassment and assault. In her stirring column, Christena J. Pyle, executive director of Time’s Up Advertising, calls on us all to make gender equality the new normal.

Forty years ago, we were a print publisher. Today, we reach our audience of more than 6 million executives and creatives across myriad platforms that include print, digital, events, podcasts, video, newsletters, social media and mobile apps.

Heading into our next decade, who knows what’s next—drone-delivered issues, immersive reality events, keynote speakers appearing as holograms, an entirely new content platform that’s yet to exist? It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities.

I’ve spent a little over two decades covering the evolution of marketing, media and technology, the last eight years at Adweek. Unfailingly, each year proves to be more transformative than the one preceding it. And as we head into the ’20s, you can be sure of at least this: We will continue our commitment to serve and celebrate our community that comprises the most inventive, creative and remarkable people and businesses around.

Cheers to being 40 years bold!

This story first appeared in the Dec. 9, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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