1. M&S PUTS PLAN A INTO ACTION
Barely a week has gone by this year without a brand launching an ethical initiative. But amid the reusable shopping bags and ethically sourced frappuccinos, it is worth recognising the audacity of Marks & Spencer. The retailer's launch of Plan A in January, just a few months after the Stern Report and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, was a marketing masterstroke. The eco plan takes in every part of the business and the retailer aims to be carbon neutral by 2012.
M&S set the green agenda that everyone followed, but while it is reaping the rewards now, M&S bosses might still be feeling a little hot under their fairtrade cotton collars; some experts claim it has little hope of meeting its deadline.
2. VIRGIN MEDIA REACHES FOR SKY
The media story of the year has been Branson versus Murdoch, with the launch of Virgin Media providing a fresh challenger to BSkyB. The UK's first quadruple-play provider was created in February from the merger of NTL, Telewest, Virgin Net and Virgin Mobile, and quickly engaged in a bitter public dispute with Sky. As part of the slug-fest Sky withdrew its key channels and Virgin Media took it to court for abusing its dominance.
Virgin Media, which has been censured by the ASA for misleading ads, has invested more than £32m in the battle, but Branson's customary David vs Goliath approach has had limited impact this time round.
3. FACEBOOK WINS LEGIONS OF FRIENDS
Who had heard of Facebook a year ago? Now, one in five UK web users visits it regularly. Its status as this year's internet fad was confirmed in August, when it boasted 6.5m monthly users according to Nielsen//NetRatings, overtaking MySpace's 6.4m.
Thus far, marketers seem more content 'poking' each other via the site than using it commercially, with only a few exploring its potential as a consumer communication channel. Of those brands who have tried, several pulled their ads over the summer after finding them next to inappropriate content. The appointment of Blake Chandlee as UK head of sales in October heralded a fresh drive to develop commercial opportunities for advertisers on the site - Facebook's challenge for 2008 is to prove it is a sustainable advertising medium.
4. OLYMPIC-SIZED ERROR?
Olympic logos are not prone to causing a stir, so it is an achievement of sorts that the unveiling of London 2012's branding managed to dominate the headlines. The motif was likened to the work of a chimp and, more disturbingly, a Simpsons character engaged in a lewd act. Within hours, an online petition calling for its replacement had gathered more than 3000 signatures, and newspapers had a field day with its £400,000 price tag.
Bright colours and creative jargon might work in a branding pitch, but clearly don't wash with the man on the street. As the furore abated, Lloyds TSB breathed a sigh of relief - having become the first top-tier sponsor of the games in a deal worth £80m, it was keen not to see the fruits of its labour disappear in a swirl of migraine-inducing puce and banana.
5. BROWN'S NEW NEW LABOUR
In one of the longest-awaited brand launches in history, Gordon Brown finally became prime minister. The Brown team delivered a marketing campaign that depended on a comparison with Tony Blair, emphasising the former chancellor's virtues of solidity and trustworthiness. Events such as the terrorist attack at Glasgow Airport and car bombs in London gave him ample opportunity to demonstrate these virtues, and his calm and reassuring presence won him plenty of points early on. Meanwhile, the new government decided to take a tougher stance on issues such as alcohol and food promotion.
However, Brown's dithering over a snap election has squandered this early advantage. As the year draws to a close, he is embroiled in cash scandals and a missing personal data debacle. His team is probably already working on a 2008 rebrand.
6. BIRD FLU STRIKES AGAIN
It wasn't such a boootiful year for Bernard Matthews, after avian flu was found on one of his farms. The episode highlighted the gulf between the rural idyll portrayed in the brand's ads and the reality of factory poultry farming. But it was the delay in Matthews explaining how the firm was addressing the crisis that undermined customer trust further.
With sales in decline, the brand has responded with an overhaul of its range, backed by a £7m national press and radio campaign designed to rebuild consumer confidence.
7. MARS' MEATY MISTAKE
Do vegetarians matter? It didn't look that way when Mars made its extraordinary decision to include a product derived from animals in its chocolate recipe. It attracted 6000 complaints within days, highlighting both the speed at which information travels on the web and the power of the online consumer. In May the firm reversed the decision and took out full-page newspaper ads to apologise. It will back up this new-found appreciation of food provenance with a vegetarian labelling scheme for key brands early next year.
8. CARPHONE WAREHOUSE HANGS UP ON BIG BROTHER
Carphone Warehouse became embroiled in the Celebrity Big Brother racism row when it decided to pull its £3m-a-year sponsorship of the show in March. It had sponsored Big Brother for three years, using it as a key plank of the promotion of its Talk Talk service and the launch of its 'free' broadband proposition.
While some thought the damage-limitation exercise was sensible, others wondered why it took Carphone Warehouse so long to disassociate itself from a TV show that has been plagued by controversy, as well as falling ratings. Either way, the decision gained a good deal more press coverage for the company than if it had silently ended the deal between series.
9. BAD CALLS
The 'TV fakery' scandals provided the press with no shortage of ammunition during the quiet summer months. Some of the 'scandals', such as that of the Blue Peter cat, were trivial, while others, such as the phone-in votes scandal, bordered on the criminal. All combined to damage public trust; a poll commissioned by the Edinburgh TV Festival revealed that four-fifths said they would not enter a TV phone-in competition again.
Although the BBC received a lot of the flak, ITV's revenues have been hit. Voting levels for The X Factor are down 50% on last year, resulting in a loss of about £10m, according to one report.
10. AA PARKED AT SAGA
The £6.2bn venture capital-backed merger between the AA and Saga during the summer was driven by commercial logic, rather than brand synergy, though the alliance seems a better fit than the one the AA previously enjoyed with British Gas under the Centrica umbrella.
The deal certainly created value for some of the staff - not least Saga marketing director Tim Bull, who pocketed a cool £50m. The spoils were less sweet for Kerry Cooper and David Tyers, the AA's two most senior and long-standing marketers, who lost their jobs as a result of the merger.