Perspective - Pia Coyle on the chaos and what to expect

By Pia Coyle | 8 December 2023
Pia Coyle

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

When asked to wrap the year that was 2023, most industry leaders will talk about market conditions, investment levels and all the sexy stuff that sits on the horizon for agencies and clients, like AI or privacy reform or digital transformation. I’m not going to do that. I’m eight months into the role of Sydney MD at PHD, and there’s never a dull moment. 2023 has been a big year. Weird, busy, exciting, a rollercoaster.

Being back in a big, global agency has been so fun and rewarding. I loved my two years in an indie, but I missed the chaos and scale of a big, globally connected agency.

Working with a huge team, and the challenges that come with keeping our people engaged, learning and balanced, and having more meaningful conversations with our clients than ever before.

Nothing about 2023 has been easy, but we have built a killer culture, with our people happier than they have been since before COVID, and our client engagement scores are at a four year high.

The narrative we are hearing from clients at the moment, is that it’s felt like their hardest year yet. Veterans of media and marketing are struggling with a sluggish market, cost cutting and rationalisation, and what seems to be like an endless stream of scenario planning, pivoting and pitches.

Oh the pitches.

We have had some big ones and been on the wrong side of a couple of global decisions. Our pitching process and product has been refined through this heavy pitch cycle and we’re feeling strong momentum internally that the efforts will come to fruition, it’s coming.

Whilst clients, media owners and agencies are battling economic headwinds, global and local pressures, they want and need more than ever before. Value has been redefined, deals are being squeezed, and we are all working harder than ever. But I’m buoyed by the very real and vulnerable conversations. The best of people comes out in times like these. There are sparks of positivity into 2024, and a lot of opportunity to do things differently, embracing a challenger mentality like never before.

What to expect in 2024

Short markets and short term decisioning have become the new norm. Being agile and laser focused on client’s growth is what 2024 looks like for us. Every dollar will be rationalised, negotiated for maximum value and placed for maximum impact.

It’s not the big, wholesale changes that are going to bring the most value and growth potential to clients, it’s the tweaks around the edges. Being crystal clear in what we need to deliver, the tools to help us get there – and all parties being privy

to that, skin in the game for all of us, agencies, and media partners alike. Clients need the most shit hot thinkers and hustlers in their agency teams. Media agencies need freshness and the willingness to take risks from their media partners. One thing we all have in common, is we need empathy.

In an ideal world, I’d like to see a settling of the people crisis in media too. Less churn, and jumping ship for the next shiny thing, or the next $10k in danger money. It’s in times like these that you learn the most in your career by entrenching yourself in your client’s businesses, getting deep in category, and pushing hard for a common goal.

I sound old… “back in my day” … but it’s true… you learn a lot when you commit to something long term, and the relationships you forge in hard times are enduring ones. Your stressed-out Marketing Manager asking you to re-do a plan today will be the visionary CMO tomorrow, and they won’t forget you.

So, what’s going to define 2024?

A common goal, to grow the market, the industry and the economy. For the sanity of our clients, but also to drive confidence from a consumer POV. Real conversations that uncover what we actually need to deliver, and a willingness to push boundaries to get it done. And some luck. We all need a little more of that.

Pia Coyle, Sydney MD, PHD

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