Perspective - Michael Rebelo and adland’s year of the chicanes

By Michael Rebelo | 11 December 2023
Michael Rebelo.

In Formula One racing, chicanes are a series of tight corners in opposite directions. On a racing circuit, while it’s easy to drive down a straight at high speed, driving through the chicanes requires intense skill, precision and focus. It’s where you can make a bold move to overtake a competitor or really separate yourself from the pack by doing the hard part right, consistently.

2023 was the ‘Year of the Chicanes’ for the media, marketing and advertising industry.

In the two years leading up to 2023, we had an industry experiencing double digit growth. We saw the straights and powered down them.

Cut to the beginning of this year and it didn’t take long for the first sets of yellow flags to be raised. In F1, this indicates danger on the track.

It has been a precarious year for the Australian economy, marked by aggressive interest rate hikes and fragile consumer confidence. According to the monthly Zenith Imagine Consumer Panel of 2,750 Australians, in November, 55 percent said they were feeling “less positive” about the economy versus 12 percent who said they were “more positive”. Retail sales data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals we are in a retail recession, and we are also now in a per capita recession.

In our sector, we have seen large-scale restructuring and redundancies; while some investments in tech have either stalled or been moved to 2024. There is no doubt that agencies are going through a period of austerity.

What that means for anyone who leads a business or a department, manages talent, runs a client account, or a holding company for that matter – is it’s not just about navigating the first turn, but the several that follow. In rounding a sharp bend, it’s also where you are most likely to spin out, ending your race. Throw in adverse conditions and more factors come into play. It’s the engine you run, the tires you’re using, how aligned your pit crew are, and the type of driver leading at the wheel.

As we round the corner to 2024 there is no doubt that we will continue to face more twists and turns.

However, there are reasons to be hopeful. Real wages are starting to rise and our nation is experiencing strong population growth. We’re also seeing an increase of clients in market navigating through the same twists and turns, and adapting their strategic approach to match the conditions.

Adaptability, dexterity, creativity and having a forensic focus are absolutely critical to our success. So, while 2024 will bring its own challenges, I believe the industry has spent the last 12 months gearing up to take them head on. I know we have at Publicis.

Michael Rebelo, Chief Executive Officer Australia & New Zealand, Publicis Groupe

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