Perspective - 2023 was an ice cream on a 30 degree day

By Emilia Chambers | 7 December 2023
Emilia Chambers.

The AdNews end of year Perspectives, looking back at 2023 and forward to next year.

If I had to describe 2023 as a food, it would be an ice cream on a 30 degree day. It had all of the delight of an ice cream in the form of incredible innovation, more opportunities to gather together as an industry, and a real sense of returning back to the norm. But then the sun heated up; with economic challenges, global unease and the threat of technology moving faster than we could keep up with, and we found ourselves fighting to keep our excited, opportunity filled, ice cream from melting away.

There’s no denying that this year was all about AI, specifically GenAI. Advancements in GenAI really took off in 2023 and unlocked a range of opportunities for us to streamline processes, deliver efficiency at scale and made previously out of reach opportunities attainable. But with this came the challenge on how to utilise this technology in a way that complemented human skills and didn’t squash critical thinking or creativity. I don't think we have cracked this challenge yet and expect to see this be addressed further into next year.

We also saw many brands struggle between going big or bunkering down. Economic challenges, specifically the drastic increase in cost of living and rise of interest rates, caused many consumers to assess their spending habits and cut back on discretionary spending. This created a fork in the road for many brands. Some chose to go big and focus on building brand to keep their brand top of mind when consumers are in-market, while others scaled back and have chosen to ride out the economic challenges and reemerge bigger when the economy stabilises. It’s likely that as we head into the second half of next year, we will see who the big winners are between the two strategies.

When thinking about 2024, I’d be crazy not to have GenAI as a key part of 2024. We’ve really only scratched the surface of what this technology can do and its speed of advancement in capabilities, meaning that a lot of how we use it now may be obsolete in the not too distant future. The biggest opportunity I see for GenAI is in search and creative development. Search had been one of the most unchanged digital platforms until GenAI came onto the scene. Now, as GenAI powered search gains traction and broadens its impact across anything from customer brand recommendations to product inspiration, and we’re likely to see more opportunities open up in 2024 that will allow us to target specific, and more importantly qualified, consumers.

In the creative world, GenAI is either met with optimism or concern. In 2024, I think we will really land on how we can use this technology to deliver higher quality creative and content, at scale, but with efficiencies in time and cost that we couldn’t achieve before. Using AI as a tool in the process of creative generation, and not a complete solution, is how we can win. Humans have nuance, context and experience that leads to creative ideation brilliance that simply cannot be recreated by GenAI. Brands and agencies that embrace GenAI and find the balance between human thinking and technology will see the greatest success in 2024.

Beyond GenAI, what I’m most excited about ahead of the new year is where retail media is heading. The IAB released its inaugural Retail Media State of the Nation report earlier this year which forecasts that retail media will be a $2 billion segment by 2026 and I believe that 2024 is going to be a critical year, with data being key. We’re on track to finally see the deprecation of the cookie in 2024 and this is positive for the future of retail media as a key benefit of partnering with a retailer is access to first-party data. Retailers have an opportunity to exploit the increased demand for quality first party data and use it for valuable insights for retail media buyers.

I’m also expecting retail media to extend beyond typical FMCG, retail, health and beauty, and alcoholic beverage categories. Complementary categories, such as travel and hospitality, can unlock big opportunities in the retail media space, by partnering with retailers to gain access to data and insights into audiences that they cannot gain through their channels alone.

Overall, I’m optimistic that 2024 is going to be a good year for brands and agencies. With economic challenges likely to affect us all well into 2024 it’s by no means going to be an easy year but we have an opportunity to use technology advancements to refine how we work and what we produce to work smarter and be more agile, allowing us to respond to, and mitigate, risks faster and create more opportunities for success. Here’s to keeping our ice cream cold and our melting to a minimum.

Emilia Chambers is Head of Strategy at The Pistol

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