What We Learned In 2019

A year-end roundup of what the people of Decoded learned about brands, life, and extremely nice office views.

Decoded Advertising
4 min readJan 7, 2020

2019 was a big year for Decoded: We won some awards. We moved into new offices on both coasts. And we were named one of Adweek’s Fastest Growing Agencies of 2019. But maybe most importantly we learned a lot. Here’s what some of our people had to say about what they learned last year that we’ll be using to do bigger and better things in 2020.

Chris Williams, Associate Creative Director, NY:

In a time when brands of any size and any discipline are trying to act like performance brands (to ‘perform’ against any KPI), we’re seeing that brand work works. More than ads packed with RTBs or hard-hitting product advertising, we’re seeing that unexpected (thought-provoking?) brand work drives performance against some pretty functional KPIs: brand health metrics and even acquisition.

Tamara Brown, Group Brand Director, LA:

I’ve learned that everything I’ve been taught about advertising could be wrong. And that a brand can mean many things to many different audiences, so we should stop trying to fit brands into small boxes.

Leah Butler, Creative Director, NY:

This year I had a baby (my second one actually), and so it’s become incredibly clear in my own social feed and media consumption how one-dimensional marketing to mothers has become. I don’t want to get on my soapbox and yell “AS A MOTHER,” but seriously, AS A MOTHER, marketing to mothers is BORING.

I have never had a moment where I’ve seen a mother portrayed in an ad and seen myself reflected back. Probably because so many mothers, myself included, are quick to judge other mothers on their choices, so the work in the category has become banal. I feel like we need to have a bit of a reckoning like the feminine hygiene category did about 10 years ago.

So in 2019, I guess I’ve learned that we still have a long way to go in advertising if we want to reflect the complex reality of motherhood.

Lannie Hartley, Senior Copywriter, NY:

When producing content or ads or anything really, make something for yourself — how you’d like to interact with it, the music you’d like, the humor you’d like, the visual style you like and then give people multiple ways to interact with it.

If you like a thing, that’s because it’s likeable — not necessarily because you have a level of taste that’s above or below others. If you make something you like at every step of the way, other people will inherently follow.

I read a thing today where someone said it better than me: make it for you, then make it scalable. That’s the secret.

Annemarie Cullen, Associate Creative Director, NY:

What I Learned in 2019: A Haiku

What I learned this year

Is that offices with plants

and big windows rule

Katie Bartasevich, Group Brand Director, NY:

I learned that there is always a lot happening on the East River. I could watch that water all day. I learned that one woman from a neighboring company has an aggressive mouthwash /toothbrush routine every day around 2pm. And one real one: I have learned that sound design matters in advertising, more than we could have realized. You should always take the chance. Never stop asking questions.

James Stephens, Partner + Managing Director, LA:

The ability to act fast should be the focus of how companies organize themselves. Being able to quickly make decisions to optimize to a campaign/message that is working, or away from a campaign/message that is not, can make or break a business.

Decoded has seen brands for which the opportunity to optimize post-launch can be as impactful as getting to launch, even though most agencies and brands devote the majority of their time and energy to long processes to get to launch. Outside of Decoded’s own work, we’ve seen Peloton’s stock price suffer when slow to acknowledge the negative response to an ad, and Aviation Gin be praised by acting quickly to capitalize on the negative response to that same ad.

Tyler Mummery, Media Analyst, NY:

What I learned in 2019 is that we should never limit our focus to the individual consumer. The people around them impact their decisions, both big and small. Having a parent be loyal to a brand impacts their child’s loyalty, representing the under-represented builds trust with those around them and their tight-knit community, and so on.

Andy Currie, Group Creative Director, NY:

Never discount the difference even a little variation can make to a stubborn client or unrealistic request to get to the thing you actually wanted in the first place.

Emily Diehl, Project Manager, Media Strategy, NY

Coming to Decoded from a different industry this Fall has been a new, active classroom. So far, I’ve learned that media representation impacts the way you interact with the world around you. Being a thoughtful consumer of media images helps me decide where I want my money to go.

So much thought and intentionality goes into what appears on my screen or yours, and the crazy part is: your digital world is likely entirely different then mine. There’s so much power in the differences between our screens.

Also: working for a company that values their employees as people first is life changing, and I highly recommend it.

Kelly LaCorte, Senior Project Manager, NY:

I learned that requesting people to write Decoded brand content for Medium is similar to requesting people to submit their hours.