Perspective - 2023 was challenging, but not damaging

By Mark Coad | 28 November 2023
Mark Coad

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

2023 was a challenging year for most with a lot of volatility.

Generally, client spends have been flat to down as many are feeling the impacts of supply disruption, fuel and energy price increases, staffing / salary pressures that come with inflation and interest rates on borrowing. I say ‘generally’ as the market continues to show different speed for different categories. If you are in building, property, retail or consumer electronics – it’s most likely been a tougher year than those in automotive, travel and banking.

I remain optimistic that if we get on top of inflation before the end of year, we can look back on 2023 as challenging – but not damaging.

In the media world – we continue to see structural shift toward digital, but on a wide scale we are also seeing the traditional players driving that agenda and capitalising on their own transformations to compete in this world. Anyone who saw any of the upfronts would have seen these organisations lead with their streaming/digital platforms, launch initiatives that allowed their advertisers an ‘all of audience approach’ with tools and platforms to match.

The market is no longer interested in linear broadcast audiences alone – rather access to their entire ecosystems in a seamless and integrated manner.

Yes, the market is short and will continue to remain so as we move into 2024. That is simply a reflection of the financial pressures mounting on consumers with further interest rate rises and the increasing cost of living. That is, after all, the intention of interest rate rises. To curb consumer expenditure, to reduce demand for goods and services – to ultimately bring price increases (inflation) down. Until that is achieved, the market will remain short.

The talent market has certainly stabilised. We are definitely not seeing the competition for talent like we saw last year. There are some great people in the market after a number of retrenchments across all areas of the industry – but there are still enough opportunities for them. We just aren’t seeing the same situation where the entire industry had more roles to fill than people available to fill them.

AI has only just started to get going, and 2024 will be a year of evolution as we start to test, learn and take advantage of generative AI and large language models and how they can benefit not just our own businesses but how we plan and buy activity on behalf of our clients.

Advertising and marketing will begin to “adopt a new speed to market” that we haven’t seen before. Already changing the creative industry with the ability for AI to translate text to image, image to video even text to video. Placing this alongside more intelligent media planning, buying and optimisation practices will put our industry at lightening pace. We have been saying for a while that speed to market will be the new competitive advantage.

By that, I mean the ability to get the right message to exactly the right audience (with precision and at scale) at precisely the right time – quicker than your competitor can do the same thing – will become a competitive advantage. We’ve used data and tech to wage that battle, but AI will take it next level.

Applied sustainability will gain more and more traction where the emissions vernacular becomes the norm in discussions with our clients about media plans. Large commercial decisions by advertisers and the media partners they work with, will be made using sustainability as a criteria.

Carbon calculators have launched by many players but wholesale traction will be gained via a single measurement thru Ad Net Zero / the MFA. Consumers are asking brands and companies to improve their footprints – not simply as a criteria for buying choices, but because of the demands consumers have for big companies to play their role in improving the planet. So, it’ll be a key topic next year.

And finally, privacy reform is coming. How that affects the media industry and clients depends on what measures get put in place – but brace for impact. It will bring reform, it will change certain practices and it will be widespread.

Mark Coad is CEO of Mediabrands Australia

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