Perspective - Did anyone win in 2023?

By Stu O’Brien | 6 December 2023
Stuart O'Brien.

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

After the ‘collective enemy of covid, the world has seemingly returned to a new world of normality, that doesn’t feel normal at all.  

There remains a collective pain, driven by rising interest rates, global and social unrest, generational domestic historical moments (of which we have ended up on the wrong side), climate crisis, wars, unprofessional acts by the big end of town, unbelievable technology leaps with AI (or not), and an entire tapestry of ‘stuff’ our brains struggle to deal with.  As a result, people appear to be wandering around in a daze.  

This is never good for business. Although our position in the market is critical in times of crisis and change, when the phone calls slow, I know the world really is struggling to move forward as it looks for leadership and direction.  

We are often the canary in the coal mine, and given we are a few months out from 2024, no one’s ready for a ‘big start’ to the year. We are all in survival mode again.  

For those of us that have been around long enough, survival mode resets us all. We make harder decisions; we don’t accept waste. We can’t, and we are all able to reset – re-focusing and ensuring we are ready to perform and deliver.  

We remember what is important and that none of us can take our jobs, clients, and opportunities for granted.  

As a 100% project business, with 100% full-time staff, our model is extremely vulnerable to market conditions. It’s why I have always committed to a tight, full-time team of expectational talent – no more than the size of minibus, as we say.  

I use the analogy of vines on the vineyard when explaining this to my accountant. Good years produce good yield, bad years produce smaller yields. Though like great wines, great agencies and businesses can protect the quality of their output, and that is the critical part of long-term survival and success. Our people are our vines. We nurture them, care for them, give them what they need based on the world we are in.  

So, we respond. We say yes to more, we do more, which means smaller more price sensitive projects that keep our team together and engaged – ready for the time the market returns. It’s also an opportunity to give to those that need us. Turning our attention to not-for-profit and organisations in need. In turn, we get a lot out of this reset too.  

We see it in other areas of society. When there is a collective time of pain or downturn, people reach out and give to others – it holds us together. 

So, 2024. Let’s be honest, who knows. But, like the years before I hope the year ahead will be a better one. I hope that the world finds more reasons to come together and be great, rather than tear itself apart and find reasons to destroy itself.  

I love my job. I love making things and creating things, that’s when we thrive. That is when the world thrives. So, I hope that is what 2024 has in store for everyone – a doing, creating, and making world, that starts to break down the collective barriers we all face.  

Stu O’Brien is CEO & Founder of Houston

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Read more about these related brands, agencies and people

comments powered by Disqus