What (possibly) lies ahead in 2023

By Mark Tungate

At the end of this column in January 2020, when a strange virus in China was still a distant rumour, I wrote: “Whatever happens this year, one thing is certain – the future never works out quite the way you pictured it.”

At least I got that right. You might have imagined that, since then, the industry would have put away its crystal balls. But not a bit of it – the prediction game has remained as lively as ever. So what will 2023 look like? Probably not like this fun spot from The Visionaries for Adidas.

To get some realistic answers, let’s start with WPP, which has quizzed many of its leaders on “the new opportunities that 2023 will bring”. According to WPP’s Hannah Harrison, brand behaviour encourages consumers to live more sustainable lives. She says: “Think about how your brand brings it all to life through business behaviours. Does your workplace reflect commitments to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? Are you reducing waste before asking consumers to do the same?”

The importance of diversity to creativity is underlined by Rose Herzog, WPP’s President, Australia and New Zealand. “Diverse voices lead to a much better creative product. We need voices around the table telling us how to communicate with customers who are themselves diverse.”

(WPP trends for 2023)

Over at Accenture, its Life Trends 2023 report has a couple of insights that feel potentially accurate. One of its main themes is “control”, as people try to adapt to a world that’s permanently in crisis. One direct challenge for advertising and media is that consumers will keep a tighter rein on their spending, cutting down on luxuries and cancelling subscriptions to streaming services.

Accenture also suggests this may be the year when artificial intelligence becomes widely accepted as a “co-pilot for creativity”, by generating text, images and music. Given the furore around the launch in November of the AI chatbot ChatGPT – which can write chillingly “human” articles, essays and poems – we haven’t heard the last of this subject in 2023. (This article was written by a human, by the way.)

(Accenture life trends)

Time for another commercial break, as we discover that Deutsche Telecom and Saatchi & Saatchi were already considering the implications of such technology back in late 2021.

Meanwhile, consumer intelligence company Talkwalker delves into what we can expect from social media this year. Its research suggests that people are becoming more sceptical about social content. From Instagram influencers peddling fake lifestyles to deepfake videos depicting “people engaged in activities that never actually happened”, we’re both aware and more wary of the world depicted on social media.

Talkwalker’s report also mentions “multi-sensory social media content” that goes beyond the visual. It sounded thrilling – until I saw that a typical example involved burning a scented candle that smelled of Campbell’s soup while looking at the brand’s Instagram post. A little way to go, there, I feel.

You can download the full Talkwalker report – which is packed with interesting insights – free of charge via its site: https://www.talkwalker.com/

By now you may have begun hoping that I wouldn’t mention the metaverse. But no such luck, as it’s among the subjects covered by a trends report from market research company GWI. Acknowledging the fact that the buzzword seems more like a wish than a reality, the report notes, “No ‘true’ metaverse exists yet, but consumers and brands are exploring and experimenting in online gaming spaces like Roblox, Fortnite, and The Sandbox.”

That’s totally accurate – even my 11-year-old is on Roblox, happily driving trains and sports cars via his blond-haired avatar. The metaverse won’t be for everyone, or every brand, but immersive virtual spaces are likely to attract more attention as the months go by.

Back in the real world, GWI notes an alarming decline in the number of consumers for whom sustainability is a leading issue. People are de-connecting from the constant cycle of bad news, focusing on their immediate needs – like saving money in the face of inflation – and worrying more about their own health than that of the planet.

“Sustainability in the year ahead will look increasingly like a luxury,” the report proposes. Will industry and brands continue to act responsibly when there’s less pressure on them from consumers? We can only hope so.

Once again, you can download the full GWI report on their site: https://www.gwi.com/

Many more predictions will no doubt emerge before the end of January. Some will be more accurate than others, but change is the only certainty. As this next guy finds out, in a spot from BETC.

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