Perspective - Looking back at 2023: a year of resilience and adaptation

By James Rose | 14 December 2023
James Rose.

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

Looking around the market and talking to people the sentiment is almost universally that it’s definitely been a tougher year than we’ve had in a while. But it’s also one that’s brought the industry closer together as well.

The market was undeniably short, and every dollar spent had to be justified more than ever. It was a year where we saw the true colours of businesses, products, salespeople, agencies, and brands. The key takeaway? Those who thrived weren't necessarily chasing immediate results; instead, they were strategically setting themselves up for long-term success. It was about riding out the storm with an eye on the horizon.

We’ve witnessed a significant realignment in media spending. Budgets increasingly migrated from traditional media to digital platforms. However, this shift isn't a straightforward swap of TV for digital. It's more nuanced – understanding the unique strengths and weaknesses of each platform has been the key.

In this evolving landscape, the emphasis should continue to be on placing the right content on the right platform to engage the intended audience effectively. It's about creating a balanced media mix that aligns with changing consumer behaviours and preferences.

Looking at agencies it’s also been a challenging year. Indies have taken a lot of the awards and spotlight which is testament to so many strong local players. And while the network agencies have been undergoing a bit more pain when it comes to restructuring, there’s an underlying transformation which I think is going to set them up for the next phase of our industry’s growth.

They are moving to models that emphasise responsibility and transparency. This change is driven by the need to demonstrate impact on business outcomes, not just deliver on media metrics as marketers get more sophisticated and investment more accountable.

Agencies are now required to provide more comprehensive solutions that align closely with their clients' business objectives. This involves a deeper understanding of clients' industries and challenges, and a focus on delivering real value.

The market is expected to remain flat, with growth hovering anywhere from zero to five% – probably less than inflation. Despite this there is a sense of optimism still from people I speak to, and I'm bullish about the future. In my view, the market is never as bad (or as good) as forecasted.

This uncertain landscape is precisely where innovation thrives. We're at a pivotal moment where digital transformation is accelerating, and privacy legislation is evolving, compelling brands to think differently about their marketing strategies. It's not just about adapting; it's about leading the charge into new, uncharted territories.

There's been a dynamic shift in the narrative surrounding traditional versus digital media. As we advance, the understanding has taken hold that everything is becoming increasingly digital. However, it's not just about the platform; it's also about the context in which ads are placed and understanding the audience which will be the main job for every media player - explaining its point of difference and justifying that place on the media plan more than ever.

The focus is on leveraging audience proxies, especially in local media, to deliver more targeted and contextually relevant messaging. This approach bridges the gap between traditional and digital, creating a more integrated media strategy.

That’s all because for marketers the conversation is pivoting from mere metrics to effectiveness. It's no longer enough to just have high numbers; what matters is the impact of those numbers on business results. This shift in focus requires brands, agencies, and publishers to engage in more meaningful discussions around what effectiveness means in their campaigns. It's about aligning marketing efforts with business goals and measuring success in terms of real-world impact.

Yes, the market is short, but that's not the whole story. A 'short' market forces us to be strategic – we need to invest in smarter strategies and more effective targeting. This environment demands long-term value over short-term gains. We're not just surviving; we're setting the stage for future success. It's about building robust, adaptable strategies that can withstand market fluctuations and keeping the eyes on the prize that is long-term growth over short-termism.

James Rose is MD of Australia for Channel Factory

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