Perspective - A year that showed the strength of advertising 

By Matthew Turl | 5 December 2023
Matthew Turl.

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

2023 in Australia was a year marked by defining moments in technology, television and women’s sport.   

In August, the Matildas lit up our screens and set television ratings records, reaching an incredible eleven million viewers nationally. The team drew the nation in, sat them on the edges of their seats, left indelible memories and put a rocket behind the growth in women’s soccer and the commercial viability of female sport. Post tournament, the Matildas were assessed as being Australia’s most valuable national team. Channel 7 could well afford a Cheshire cat-sized grin as they contemplated the ratings return on a reputed $5 million investment for fifteen of the Women’s World Cup games. 

While Australians sat glued to their television sets, the world was embracing the rapid emergence of large language models, with ChatGPT, arguably the archetype for the category, launching less than a year ago. On the one hand, Hollywood writers were citing the threat of artificial intelligence replacing them in their now resolved, long running strike. Here at Spark Foundry, we were quick to identify the opportunities for our industry, from the development of multi-variant seating plans by team, by day, by client and/or by discipline, to even using AI-generated avatars for all-staff presentations.   

It was also a year in which consumer confidence remained low, marred by inflation and several interest rates rises. The ANZ-Roy Morgan Australian Consumer Confidence index sat at 74.3 for the week of November 6 - 12, having stayed below 85 for a record forty-one straight weeks. This is in contrast with the long-term average of 115 (since 2001).  

Consumer confidence was one of a puzzling group of economic pointers – GDP in growth, inflation stubbornly high and unemployment low – which parlayed into an uncertain advertising market that was trailing 2022 levels of investment by 3% at the end of August (SMI January – August 2023 vs. 2022).  

A set of circumstances that made the recent release of Deloitte’s ‘Advertising Pays’ study more than a little timely. The headline number was that advertising contributes $53 billion to the economy, more than either Accommodation and Food Services or the Telecommunications industry, and that impact has grown by 12% since 2014. So, all the hard work is paying off. Well done, everyone.  

Simultaneously, the IPA released the results of a 200+ participant study which showed that ‘strength of brand/marketing’ is the factor most frequently cited by UK and US financial analysts when asked how they appraise and analyse publicly listed companies, outscoring ‘leadership quality’, ‘technological innovation’ and ‘reported profit’.   

Which brings me to this year’s Grand Effie winner, a case study in marketing turning the tables on the inflationary pressures that are impacting many categories, none more so than FMCG. How better to protect share against cost of goods enforced price rises in a tightening consumer market, than with a campaign tying together a broad portfolio under one binding thought to both defend and reduce price sensitivity? A big hand please for Arnott’s and The Neighbourhood. Full disclosure, The Neighbourhood is powered by Saatchi & Saatchi and Spark Foundry, but hey, it’s a Grand Effie!   

So, what will 2024 bring?

I’m curious about the efficacy of Google’s suite of cookie-alternatives, with web-based cookies disappearing from July. 

I’m optimistic about progress on the measurement of our industry’s carbon footprint.   

I’m cautious on the outlook for adspend – the global political and economic outlook remains highly unpredictable, and Australia is not immune.  

I’m pessimistic on an aligned method of measuring screen audiences... Unfortunately, no surprises there. 

And I will continue to be proud of the tremendous effort our industry puts behind supporting so many worthy causes. 

Matthew Turl is Chief Operating Officer at Spark Foundry ANZ 

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