Perspective - AI and retail media to dominate in 2024

By Melissa Fein | 13 November 2023
Melissa Fein

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

What. A. Year! It’s clearly been a very demanding one and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. War and global insecurity, underpinned by the current cost of living pressures and rising inflation, alongside a looming recession facing Australians and the knock-on effect to our client’s businesses; one of the biggest tests I have faced professionally as a Media Agency CEO is looking to help our clients navigate this challenging landscape.

Talking of challenge, and in a year that included the Voice referendum, it seemed the industry had a moment of reflection post the ‘No’ result, contemplating the role that advertising, in particular the paid media elements had on educating Australians, and the overall effect on both sides of the vote and ultimately at the polls.  As an agency we are staying committed to change and progressing our RAP plan.  Earlier this year we went beyond our own internal RAP plan by actively corralling CMOs of the nation’s biggest brands by leading a cultural immersion in the heart of Uluru, ultimately furthering their education.  We remain devoted to investing time and effort to continue to take meaningful action here.

Culturally we know Aussies love their sport, and this year has been a huge year – along with the rest of Australia I cheered on the Matilda’s at the Women’s World Cup; it was great to see everyone get behind the team and the event, giving the sport the attention it truly deserved on the world stage.  And, as a board member for Swimming Australia, I can’t wait to see how our women (and men) fare against the world’s best at the upcoming Olympics in Paris next year – it’s going to be amazing to watch and a phenomenal time to be in the media industry with higher-than-high client expectations to get their brands front and centre in a cluttered and volatile market!

Changing tack to a little closer to home, and the ongoing media industry talent crisis – it’s fair to say that it is something that has been top-of-mind for the industry the last few years in looking to attract and retain staff, but also ensuring we tackle critical issues like the gender pay gap and salary transparency to make the industry attractive to all.  It’s something that we need to address at an industry level, but also within our own agency backyards through constantly reinventing our entire employee experience and resetting expectations about what life can be like working in media.

What to expect from 2024

AI has clearly been the talk of the town, and moving into 2024 I can’t see that ending any time soon.  It’s an exciting and evolving space, but I believe there’s a need to bust myths and preconceptions and looking into how we can use AI to be better, smarter, and more efficient.  Look out for some exciting developments in this space over the next year where we will utilise AI tools to enhance our data processing capabilities, as well as focusing on better-informed media planning and selection, and even to fuel our strategic thinking and creativity.

From AI to more of a people focus, and there has been plenty of debate and discussion around working from home versus being in the office – now there are clearly pros and cons around productivity, fostering a better culture, work/life balance, (…the list goes on), and we are even seeing some companies in Australia and over the ditch in New Zealand moving to a four-day work week.  It’s something as a CEO I will be keeping an eye on – the number one priority for me remains ensuring our clients are expertly and efficiently serviced. 

In getting out the crystal ball and looking at what else is to come in 2024, it would be remiss not to talk about the huge transformation within the Retail Media space.  With surging levels of investment and focus, it’s an interesting area that will redefine the shape of things to come within our industry.  Through combining trade marketing and media budgets and aligning sales and marketing spend in a bid to unlock bigger and better bang for buck across brand and retail media investments.  We have witnessed this first-hand with one of our clients Goodman Fielder overhauling its investment approach, and I expect others to follow in their footsteps.

At Initiative we’re unashamedly focused on growth and progression as we move towards 2024. We know that through ruthlessly reinventing our entire way of working around operations, technology and process will free up our people by not wasting our high-value talents’ time on low-value tasks and will help them to create career-defining work.  

Although awards aren’t the be-all-and-end-all, it’s been a very rewarding year for us at Initiative and we have no intention of slowing down. With a swathe of wins from local, regional and international awards shows throughout the year for both our people and our work we are looking to get back on the Cannes stage in 2024.

Our strategy now and moving into next year will laser-focus on who we are: Initiative by name, Initiative by nature.

Melissa Fein is the CEO of Initiative.


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