Third & GroveThird & Grove
Dec 15, 2020 - Justin Emond

Third and Grove 2020: A Year in Review

dinosaur party

You know, when I sat down to write this end of year post, I quickly realized two things: 1) We didn't have time to do something cool like the Postmates 2020 recap, and 2) I didn't want to write some bullshit post about how we are all in this together because that is an empty sentiment, and, well, empty sentiments at digital agencies survive about as long as a Magento infrastructure on Black Friday. 

As I reflect on this past year, I want to hit on three themes:
1) The mental power of optimism
2) Your typical not-so-humble agency humblebrags
3) The Rona

One of my priorities in life is to read. I will freely admit that I embody the cynical complaint that the whole point of reading books is being able to talk about how many books you read. But the reason I believe you have to be careful about what you read is that whether you like it or not, you are what you read. 

I believe this is central to dealing with the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most people only read the news, which, since the 1960s, has slowly but surely gotten more and more negative. In 2020, a measurable 40-year trend of historically high negativity in the news collided with a once-in-a-century pandemic. This explains why, today, when I remind friends and family that the western response to the coronavirus pandemic represents one of the greatest triumphs in 10,000 years of modern human history and deserves one helluva party, they look at me as if I'm a complete lunatic. 

You wouldn't know this from reading the news, but while every single pandemic over the last 10,000 years of human history has been equally deadly and uncontrolled, for the first time in the history of our species, we are on track to reduce the death rate of this global pandemic. And not by a modest amount, but by what is looking to be an astonishing 99%. 
However, you would only be able to appreciate how profound a triumph this is if you read certain books. 

The pandemic is a serious health crisis. The Federal response in the US has been mediocre, and too many Americans are dying. I in no way mean to diminish the tragedy and suffering this terrible disease has inflicted on so many lives. But it is crucial, I believe, to help deal with the stress of 2020 by remembering just how extraordinary a time this is, just how radically and unrecognizable the last century has been. It's unlike any other century before it, and it has profoundly transformed our society for the better. 

If we can reduce the death toll of a pandemic by 99%, then grave challenges like climate change have little hope of resisting our effects to defeat them. 


Wonder Woman: The legacies of our once-in-a-century pandemic

As others have written, the pandemic has not so much created new trends as accelerated existing ones. The oft-pointed-to example is the shift happening in the traditional retail and digital commerce. But more consumers buying online and less in stores will not be a legacy of the pandemic; that was already happening and already inevitable when we toasted the start of 2020 on New Year's Day. 

The pandemic's real legacies will only become clearer over time. 

The announcement a few weeks ago that the new Wonder Woman movie would be released on Christmas Day on HBO Max for streaming instead of theaters made headlines. But the more important news was the recent decision by Warner Brothers to release their entire 2021 lineup on streaming and the movie theaters at the same time. Social proof will now kick in, and we should expect most of the remaining studios to announce in time similar plans. 

One sure legacy of the pandemic will be the permanent shift to the simultaneous in-theater theater experience and streaming of new movie releases. Were it not for the existential crisis facing AMC and other movie theater chains this year, this may never have happened in our generation, and the shift is unlikely to revert when the pandemic relents in 2021. With apologies to Milton Friedman, 


"Nothing is as permanent as temporary digital consumer options." 

Wasn't I here to read about Third and Grove? 

We have been fortunate this year, and for that, I am grateful. Our entire team has graciously rolled with the punches, changes, and disruptions I've had to inject into our day-to-day. It inspires me still. 

Highlights on the year include:

  • Winning some of the most high profile brands in the history of TAG in a single year (more on this next year when I can start talking publicly about these projects)
  • Launching some incredible client work
  • Winning over half a dozen prestigious digital awards
  • Being hired by our most crucial channel partner, and leader in the DXP space, Acquia, to redesign their website
  • Helping clients ride the IPO roller coaster
  • Being the most awarded Acquia Drupal agency at the Acquia Engage 2020 conference 
  • Ordering a custom white neon sign for our office Zoom backgrounds (take that, Room Rater)
  • Text messages from my mom with constructive feedback on my room background while watching a presentation I gave at a virtual conference (Thanks, Mom!)

It hasn't been all peaches and cream – we had millions of dollars of pipeline evaporate in three weeks, lost one of our major clients at the start of the pandemic as their billion-dollar business disappeared in a matter of hours, and lost a few deals we wanted. But despite the losses, 2020 will end up being one of our best years ever, and we are poised to roar out of the pandemic in 2021. 

For many businesses like TAG, 2020 will end up being a great year. For millions of Americans and many companies, 2020 has been a tragedy. Many people need urgent help and support, which is why we've decided to donate to Feeding America

I believe it is important to remember that the thing about a once-in-a-century pandemic is that they end. This pandemic will end, life will go back to normal (eventually), and our lives in 2022 or 2023 will look pretty similar to 2019. There are challenges ahead and disruptions to life still, but with a healthy mix of empathy and support, and investment in the country we all live in, the future will continue to be bright.