B&T’s A-Z Of Advertising’s 2023 Part 1: A-K

Vector distressed old uppercase alphabet. White letters on black weathered texture background. Grunge and weathered capital letters.

With the Melbourne Cup behind us and the B&T Awards this Friday, it’s alarmingly close to pencils down for another set of 12 months. Of course that can mean only one thing, let the retrospectives roll and the predictions flow in. Here B&T offers its A-Z of 2023 from what impacted advertising. Well, part one at least! You can read part two here!

A – Adobe

Adobe joined the generative AI bandwagon with the launch of its remarkable Firefly engine. Purpose-built for the creative industry working across its suite of applications within its ubiquitous Creative Cloud offering. Showcasing some of the breakthroughs the company made even in its Marketing Cloud and Document Cloud at its Max Conference held in Los Angeles in October, there were literally hundreds of new features making processes take seconds rather than in some cases weeks.

What was obvious with Adobe and other artificial intelligence enhancements was acceleration! The pace of change has reached bugs-in-the-teeth speed and would appear to only be getting faster. With all new fast changes, fear was an understandable reaction and many predicted the demise of the creative industries. As David Droga observed when in Sydney for SXSW, Gen AI was probably going to fill the Internet up with mediocre offerings at a scale never before seen. What that means, of course, is work will need to be even more extraordinary to have cut through. Relax humans, your jobs are safe, they’ll just be a little different and what you’ll achieve will be some much more.

B – Bud Light

Bud Light scored one of the most spectacular own goals when it underestimated how far middle America had progressed. Bud hired the services of transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, sparking a massive anti-trans backlash. Kid Rock posted a video of himself blasting cases of Bud Light with a rifle. A boycott swiftly spread.

America’s number-one beer since 2001, Bud Light found itself usurped by Mexican lager Modelo Especial, according to the market research firm NielsenIQ.

A quick appraisal of who America elected as President on 9 November 2016, and is odds-on favourite to do it again if he’s not in gaol, would be a hint as to how much AB InBev’s marketing team overreached. B&T readers could not get enough of the story with our coverage gaining massive traffic shares.

Of course, while the whole saga was a massive cautionary tale on brand activism, Bud Lite’s fate was probably already in train with the rise of craft beer.

C – Cannes in Cairns

Darren Wooley Cannes in Cairns

Cannes in Cairns came back in May this year proving it wasn’t a one-hit wonder off the back of COVID. With double the delegates, the event inked itself in the calendar of Australia’s advertising, marketing and media industry for the foreseeable future. Determined to prove Australia’s place among Asia and as a leading light in the regional creative powerhouse, B&T also announced the Crocodile Awards would be part of the late May/June event from 2024 onwards.

D – Death of Marketing

Death of marketing and marketers has been a common theme of coverage for pretty much time immemorial. This year was no different when US marketing professor and raconteur Scott Galloway advised the crowd of ADMA’s Global Forum that marketers would be dead within 18 months. Before Mark Ritson storms B&T’s offices and kills me where I sit, Galloway qualified his remarks by saying that CMOs who are not looking to evolve their roles away from advertising, brand and media budgets towards a role that affects more of the business will be a thing of the past soon.

E – Elon Musk

Elon Musk

What would a year in advertising be without a mention of the man who doesn’t believe in advertising? Elon Musk embarked on one of the most spectacular brand value destruction adventures seen in recent times. Perhaps all time. Following his purchase of Donald Trump’s social media of choice (before he got banned) Twitter, Musk dumped most of the platform’s safety measures against fake news, hate speech and vilification as he embarked on a cost-cutting measure involving dumping a majority of its workforce. He then rebranded the business to X, and firmly moved his personal brand from slightly kooky genius to total nutjob.

F – First Digital Nation

The “First Digital Nation” was a campaign created by The Monkeys for the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu and won the Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions in 2023. Highlighting the drastic impact climate change is having on the nation, it’s been uploaded into the metaverse to preserve its many landscapes and culturally significant places before they’re claimed by the sea. Special was also in the running for the top gong in Cannes with its amazingly effective and imaginative campaign for insurance firm Partners Life. While it won a bag full of awards, it was the Monkeys that claimed Antipodean bragging rights on this occasion.

G – Global Warming

Global warming took centre stage again in 2023 with the year being officially branded the hottest on record. In July, 21 of the 30 hottest-ever days globally were recorded. Humanity’s apparent inability to rein in global warming has started switching from a need for urgent action to despair. It’s a global marketing challenge to keep hope alive and therefore motivation to keep searching for solutions rather than moving to rearranging chairs on the Titanic. The opportunity for brands to play their part is enormously balanced by the threat of being perceived to be greenwashing and suffering the inevitable backlash.

H – Housing and Rental Crisis

Housing and the rental crisis became focal points in the minds of consumers as the cost of living bit. Perceived value became central to marketers’ playbooks but with more interest rate rises on the horizon, studies are now showing younger consumers in particular are now going without essential items such as petrol and insurance in exchange for food and exorbitant rent.

I – Initiative

Initiative also did Australia proud taking out the Campaign Global Media Agency of the Year. The IPG agency also took the MFA’s Grand Prix and a clutch of other awards (10) from the industry’s peak body for media agencies. Led by its inspirational CEO Mel Fein, who herself was named CEO of the year only last week, Fein was also B&T’s Woman of the Year in 2022.

J – Job Cuts

Job cuts, sadly, were a very large part of the story in 2023. Initiated by the aforementioned Musk, under the cover of his headlines, pretty much all tech firms piled on the job cuts bandwagon. From Amazon and Alphabet to Microsoft and Meta to Disney/ESPN and Dell, who didn’t lay off percentages of their workforces? Interest rates and access to cheap capital brought an end to the irrational exuberance the market had foolishly basked in since the Covid lockdowns became a memory. S4 Capital was the most visible victim, but certainly not only, in agency land to feel tech’s pain. Sir Martin’s predilection for tech clients came back to haunt him hard in 2023.

K – Knifings

Alan Joyce

Knifings of high-profile CEOs and board members was quite the thing in 2023 with Qantas’ Alan Joyce and Optus’ Kelly Bayer Rosmarin both exiting.

Bayer Rosmarin paid the price only this week for two major communications failings, one being for the Optus data hack last year and, of course, last week’s outage including access to 000 emergency calls.

Joyce, on the other hand, fell from grace when he showed no remorse for the airline’s sale of zombie tickets. This flagrant abuse of customers was the straw that broke the camel’s back after a string of shoddy services, cost-cutting mixed with price gouging does not make for happy customers. The bizarre use of the exclusive chairman’s lounge as a currier of political favour only gets you so far apparently.

Ex-advertising guru come body hacker Todd Sampson narrowly avoided the chop from the Qantas board as much of the brand damage was sheeted home to his lack of action. No amount of feel-good ads can make up for the damage wreaked by the bad actions of a CEO. Plenty of brand work coming the industry’s way for two of our leading organisations we would surmise.

Read Part 2: L-Z

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