Top ten Traction news stories of 2009

Well, the year's not over yet, but I've got some time before the turkey's ready and lots to be thankful for. Here's a wrap-up of Traction's top news stories of 2009.

1. Traction wins 2009 Interactive Agency of the Year :: BtoB Magazine (Apr 6, 2009) - My favorite story hands-down. Traction named the # 1 digital agency in the U.S.

2. Top interactive agencies benefit from shift online :: BtoB Magazine (Apr 6, 2009) - Traction is highlighted in this article covering shops with a digital edge.

3. Traction pulls ahead :: San Francisco Business Times (Dec 1, 2009) - Full-page feature on Traction after we were named #51 on the list of the Fastest Growing Companies in the Bay Area.

4. Social Media Agencies to watch :: iMediaConnection (August 17, 2009) - Traction was one of four agencies noted for "Moving beyond the experimental phase" in social media

5. Alibaba.com Plans U.S. Push :: WSJ (Aug 7, 2009) - Traction's campaign for Alibaba.com featured in the Wall Street Journal

6. "China's eBay" targets U.S. entrepreneurs :: CNN (Aug 14, 2009) - While CNN wrongly describes Alibaba.com in the title (people who sell on eBay find stuff to sell on Alibaba!), they describe the work well—"The creative is earnest and funny—you may even laugh out loud at Dave, the action figure proprietor"—earning them a spot on my list.

7. Inc. 500 | 5000, No. 1,399 Traction :: Inc. Magazine (Sep 24, 2009) - This was a great accomplishment. Check out my post about my experience at the Inc. 5000 Conference.

8. Ad Industry Innovator: Traction :: Hitch (Apr 21, 2009) - Traction was the first agency highlighted in this series on advertising innovators on the Hitch blog.

9. Designing Minds: Traction :: Adobe TV (Jun 8, 2008) - OK, this was 2008, but I love it and it's video, so it's making my list. Traction was featured in this brief documentary video produced by Adobe.

10. Interview with Susan Bratton :: DishyMix - Last, but definitely not least, I was interviewed by marketing diva Susan Bratton about "Building a Successful 21st Century Agency" on the DishyMix podcast.

Digital marketing resolutions for 2010

If nothing more, 2009 was a year for everyone in this godforsaken industry to reflect. For most, it was a year of tremendous struggle. That's OK. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. And we're far from dead.

I had the good fortune to see Jim Collins, the author of "Good to Great" at the Inc. 5000 Conference (Traction was proud to be No. 1,399 on the list) a few months ago. He gave some sage wisdom to the crowd:

Don't just have a to-do list. Keep a not-to-do list.

That's wisdom I've taken to heart, so I've kept my list of resolutions this year to a list of not-to-dos.

So, what did we learn? What can we do about it next year? I run an agency, and here's a list of my New Year's resolutions.

1. Do not gain back that five pounds.
2009 was a year of belt-tightening for everyone. It forced many of us to become more operationally efficient. We became a lean, mean, interactive experience-producing machine.

As business picks up in 2010, I'm going to make sure my agency is running a streamlined operation.

2. Do not build silos.
A long time ago, agencies were not quite sure what to do with this whole "internet thing," so they created little silos filled with hairy, tattooed kids and kept them around the corner from the "real" creatives that wrote the TV spots and print ads. I was one of those kids and thought this was utterly stupid.

So stupid, in fact, that we started our own agency that was born integrated -- we had one team that produced ideas and then thought about how best to execute them across channels. Now, many of those "traditional" agencies are crumbling. Who was right?

Today, agencies are not quite sure what to do about this whole "social media thing," so what are they doing? You guessed it. Silos.

Not this guy.

3. Do not tell my clients it's the year of mobile.
Mobile is myopic. It's a tactic, not a strategy.

The real trend is that people are empowered to consume media and content on their own terms. Mobile devices, netbooks, interactive television, digital billboards -- screens are everywhere we look. Brands need to be thinking about how they can produce content people want to consume and how they can distribute it as efficiently as possible to all of these channels.

I say it's the year of distributed consumption.

4. Do not talk the talk without walking the walk.
It's very easy for us to read a few articles on social media, add the word "guru" to our LinkedIn profiles, and start talking about transparency as keys to success in social media.

But how many agencies are actually being transparent in how they do business?

Just as transparency has become an expectation of consumers in their interactions with brands, it is becoming an expectation of brands in their interactions with agencies. The agencies that try to hold onto their smoke and mirrors in 2010 will be in for a struggle.

5. Do not believe the recession is over.
For some of us, 2009 was actually a good year -- perhaps because we were in the digital place at the right time. Perhaps because we were more willing and able to change with the market. For many, a flurry of new business activity in Q4 has us feeling optimistic about the economy coming back in 2010.

Optimism is good. Over-confidence, however, can be a brutal mistake.

The global economy is shifting dramatically and will continue to do so for quite a while. Millions of feet of commercial real estate will become vacant next year, sending new ripples through our financial system.

What impacts will these issues have on our business? Beats me. But, you can bet they will have impacts.

6. Do not train people. Cross-train them.
No, I'm not talking about taking them jogging and then out for a bike ride.

I'm talking about the absolute fact that if your people are not well-versed in multiple aspects of the advertising business, they are simply not prepared to be of valuable service in this day and age. It is not enough to train your people to be great at your job. You need to cross-train them.

Designers need to understand media. Account people need to understand social media. Copy writers need to understand analytics. And you need to set up the means by which they can gain this understanding.

7. Do not give up on big ideas.
There's so much focus on direct response and social media right now that it's easy to forget that great ideas can have a transformative impact on brands.

I was at a client's office the other day, and the company had York Peppermint Patties in the candy dish on the receptionist's desk. I excitedly picked one up and said to my co-worker, "When I bite into a York Peppermint Patty... " How many years has it been since I've seen that commercial? Fifteen? Twenty? But it's still embedded deeply in my memory.

And as powerful as ideas have always been at creating emotional resonance between brands and consumers in advertising, they are even more valuable today. Now, the definition of what an ad is has exploded, and a limitless palette of opportunity lies before brands.

An example: Tampax wanted to build connections with young women, but how do you identify with a tampon ad? Well, here's an idea: BeingGirl.com, the online community that is "for girls, by girls" -- and sponsored by Tampax. And hundreds of thousands have shared intimate experiences with one another and with that brand.

Ideas have allowed brands to go far beyond Mr. Whipple. Ideas are what fuel innovation. Innovation fuels growth.

So in 2010, I'm going to be sure to not stop bringing ideas to the brands we work with every chance I get.

This article was originally published on iMediaConnection.com.