Perspective - The year of stretch

By Taryn Payne | 12 December 2023
Taryn Payne

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

One of the gnarliest impacts of COVID-19 is that it can have lingering side-effects long after the brunt of infection. I have felt them this year. Not in health, but in the advertising industry.

Stretch goals

In many ways, the pandemic showed what was possible in business. At the time, it was about survival. Systems administrators rushed get MS Teams and other infrastructure functioning so that business could go on. In a matter of days we realised we could produce in the absence of an office and each other. Technology prevailed.

Following the initial panic to build capability, in 2022 there was reflection. Although reeling from the chaos and happy to accept uneventful business as usual, there was emergence - of new possibility for the shape of businesses; reduced overheads, access to new talent pools and revolutionary customer experiences. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.

In 2023 we felt this impact on planning cycles. The brands we work with began transformational change – buoyed by their successful, large-scale organisational change and during Covid. Government departments reorganised to deliver new customer service apps, emergency services restructured towards a single customer view, private enterprise revolutionised their product offering. Whilst it was exciting to see evolution underway, it spelled a waiting game in ad land.

Stretch roles

Major planning involved a major investment of time from senior marketing clients. CMOs were addressing a much larger scope than ever before. This includes product innovation, people and culture and digital ecosystem. Their time was pushed.

Many in our industry found that major communications initiatives were iced and funding was held back to support ‘bigger things’ in the works. All waiting until business plans were concrete.

Which resulted in agencies continuing to have interesting strategic conversations with clients; they were consulted and supported, but missed the major production work that typically generates steady revenue.

Stretch economy

Of course, there’s been brutal macro-economics at play as well. Sustained economic slowdown due to high interest rates and inflation. There is simply less cash to go around, and psychologically consumers and businesses are ultra-cautious.

For a while now, the pressure has been on for agencies to prove their value and to me this year is the crescendo.

Whilst I think that 2024 will see plans come to fruition and clients engaging agencies again to help realise their goals and potential, it’s naïve to expect this to happen as it always has.

Stretching ourselves

Whilst 2023 has been hard, nothing great is ever easy.

The agencies who will create success in 2024 are those who have used 2023 to really listen to clients, and understand where they are deriving value and how to offer it. Who are not afraid to reshape. Those who evolve quickest will triumph.

So what’s important for 2024?

As we move into next year, having smart senior people who truly listen will be more important than ever. People who can engage in the boardroom and help translate business strategy to communication strategy. Who can handle brand definition projects sensitively and deliberately. Who offer opinions and plans to help solve enterprise wide problems, will lead to business growth.

Working harmoniously with cost-effective production. Efficient, low-fuss, innovative ways to bring to life the fruits of smart strategy when production begins to trickle down.

The agencies who can nail this blend whilst making it feel seamless will find themselves in rich client relationships, tackling business and communications challenges with captivating work (no pressure).

Taryn Payne, head of business management, 303 MullenLowe Perth.

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