Perspective - Bah Humbug or Jingle Bells?

By Mike Wilson | 4 December 2023
Mike Wilson chairman of Hatched.

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

Now that Mariah has well and truly started battling Bublé for the coveted Christmas golden earworm prize*, I asked two seasoned Yuletide commentators for their reflections on 2023 in the worlds of advertising, media and marketing. And I asked them to give their crystal balls a rub too.

First up, that miserable old sod, Ebenezer Holdco Scrooge.

“2023 has been a right pain in the proverbial. Consumer confidence has been shot, interest rates have killed spending, and all the clients have been cutting budgets.

“This has taken any sense of momentum out of the market. Agency productivity is down (because we haven’t got the post-COVID return to work model right yet), and there are still thousands of unfilled roles in agencies. Which means the cost of hiring average talent is exorbitant.

“The bandwagons we jumped on last year (NFTS, Blockchain…) seem to have stalled, and there are some big ones coming at us too quickly for us to know what to do. AI is going to make us all redundant, and the advent of retail media is going to change media mix priorities and force structural reorganisation in agencies everywhere.

“Many marketers seem to have abandoned their brand-building principles and are now mainlining performance media like it’s the only game in town. And they always want more out but continue to put less in. So agencies are under unending margin pressure resulting in less-skilled staff and therefore poorer outputs. Which, in turn, fuels lower fees.

“But my global bosses want more revenue and margin growth. WHERE ARE THOSE SCISSORS?

“And, I’m 90 years old in an industry where no one survives past their 40th birthday. Bah!”

Blimey. I bet he’s fun at parties.

Anyway, thankfully we have a more positive view from Indie Elf who thinks 2024 is looking rosier.

“I know the economy is still in the doldrums, but recessionary talk seems to have abated. In any case, Australia always seems to miss the worst of it, and some trends are still very upbeat.

“Most surveys say that client spend will at least stay flat, which encourages innovative thinking from smart movers. That energy is reflected in a bumper crop of exciting new agencies in the independent sector that are giving the old guard a real run for their money.

“In this area, there seems to be a focus on deep technical specialisations and a long-overdue renewed focus on inspirational strategic thinking. There’s a glut of young business owners who are going to be the industry leaders of the future.

“They appreciate that it is just as important to do good, as it is to do well. They are moving fast, building new models, quickly understanding new trends and the impact of new technologies on the market.

“Look at the example of the success of the global-leading retail media platform Zitcha as evidence of this. Or the successful launch of Aussie influencer platform Hypetap into the UK market.

“A sluggish economy does nothing to deter smart, ambitious entrepreneurs, and we’ve got lots of them in our industry.

“AI will be an accelerator and a job creator. Everyone who is investing their time in understanding AI believes that it will make our work lives easier and our businesses more productive.

“In media terms, there’s a massive Euro football tournament and an Olympic Games to look forward to. There’s a US election too.

“Glass half-full types like these sorts of events as marketing economic boosters. Seriously, 2024 could be a bumper year.”

That’s more like it. Thanks, Indie Elf.

A final thought from me – the industry is going to continue to accelerate its development as an industry of specialists. And so there will be plenty of smart leaders in full view. It would be good if we developed a few more wise ones.

Merry Christmas!

*the best Christmas song ever is ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ by Wizzard.

Mike Wilson is the Chairman of Hatched.

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