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Prepare for the ‘trough of AI disillusionment’: ad execs’ H2 2023 predictions


By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

July 4, 2023 | 12 min read

As we hit the second half of 2023, we bring you a tasting menu of Drum Network leaders‘ predictions, from AI disillusionment to... fungal growth and changes for pet owners.

A crystal ball, in a human hand

Ad executives make their predictions for the second half of 2023 / Drew Beamer via Unsplash

Julio Taylor, chief executive, Hallam: “AI will continue its rapid ascent toward the peak of inflated expectations. As more AI tools launch, the internet will be flooded with more derivative content, created at great speeds and, often, with little thought for the user.

“Over time, consumers will grow tired of low-effort generated content and will learn to tune out content that is obviously created by AI, in search of authentic experiences.

“Toward the end of H2, expectations will readjust, and marketers will enter the ‘trough of disillusionment’, as we enter 2024 with a more balanced, considered, and responsible approach to the role of AI in marketing.”

Alan Ng, technical and insights director, Connective3: “The launch of GA4 and depreciation of Universal Analytics will pull data much more into the fore for businesses using marketing analytics. Companies have, up until this point, had their data collection, visualization and insights served to them for almost free with Universal Analytics.

86% of all websites that use traffic analytics tools use Google Analytics. It dominates the landscape. Businesses have underinvested in their data and business intelligence capabilities.

“That will be changing with GA4. GA4 currently has a strong focus on data collection but much less focus on data visualization and ease of extracting insights. Until Google addresses this (if indeed they do), marketing teams that rely on the Google stack for insights will struggle to use the interface and will turn to either their data teams or look elsewhere for marketing insights. GA4 will bring about a re-evaluation of the data priorities in H2 for businesses.”

Imogen Coles, UK influence lead and managing partner, Ogilvy UK: “‘I-commerce’ has held strong in influence test-and-learn strategies over the last 18 months. However, many brands viewed it as a simple proof point to test consumer shopping behaviors on social platforms, rather than a true revenue driver – until recently.

“Over the last six months this has all changed, but it hasn’t been brands driving the evolution. Instead, with the creator economy diversifying revenue opportunities for influencers, content creators have used the TikTok shop to take control of their earning potential. In doing so, they’ve helped accelerate this consumer mindset, and turned our entertainment platforms into integrated shopping channels.

“The #TikTokMadeMeBuy hashtag has never been truer for social media users and, as such, full-funnel influence is increasingly demanding a seat at the paid media end of the table. Over the next six months, we’re excited to see how agencies start to use the everyday selling power of consumers as influencers to build clear ROI for brands.”

Debbie Ellison, global chief digital officer, VMLY&R Commerce: “Earlier this year, VMLY&R Commerce’s global chief executive Beth Ann Kaminkow predicted a Commerce Revolution and fresh from judging the Creative Commerce category at the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I’ve seen this prediction realized by brands first-hand.

“The most forward-thinking brands are no longer seeing commerce as just a lower-funnel activity, but are finding new and creative opportunities to deliver growth that, in parallel, also builds their brand. For example, K-Lynn lingerie, Dubai updated their PDP images to help women learn how to self-check for cancer, helping to differentiate the brand and increase online sales by 23%. And Lunchables, a staple of US school lunches, reformatted their products to create 31 unique food builds – from dinosaurs to baseball diamonds, growing their sales by 38%.

“If marketers don’t find ways to expertly and creatively link brands people love with brands people want to buy, they will be watching the revolution from the sidelines, instead of leading it.”

Emil Bielski, managing director (UK), Croud: “Increased specialization and advances in automation have enhanced workflow speed in agencies, buying more time for marketers to focus on creative and intellectual pursuits. The platforms we use to deliver activity for clients are improving at a rate of efficiency of about 25% per year. This means that within three years, we could see around 60% of people's time freed up: a huge opportunity.

“What does this mean for agencies? We’ve all seen what happens to brands that fight against innovation; Blockbusters' refusal to acquire Netflix speaks for itself. We shouldn’t fear how AI innovations may impact our industry; instead, we should embrace the new potential.

“Agencies are faced with a couple of clear choices in the near future. They can strive for efficiency and undercut the competition at the risk of commoditizing their work, or they can prioritize creating new and strategic value for their clients and their business.”

Lisa Gramling, senior vice president, research innovation & intelligence, Momentum Worldwide: “When, last fall, we made predictions for 2023, there were some trends we could easily agree on, like AI. But one prediction had some questioning our choice: our belief that the ‘Funghi Future’ would take off, with the mushroom market predicted to increase from 2021’s $56.8bn to $86.5bn in 2027.

“Given the popularity of plant-based alternatives, we leaned in heavily, speaking to the fungi’s rising popularity and its resurgence for medicinal purposes.

“The mushroom has bigger plans for us all. Scientists have been using the mycelium (root-like filaments) from mushrooms to grow bricks and other materials for more sustainable and eco-friendly construction. Fashion brands like Balenciaga are using ‘mushroom leather’, and beauty companies like Neon Hippie are using mushrooms as the key ingredient in skincare products.

“And that’s just how the ‘Funghi Future’ trend has evolved over the last six months. This is a trend that we’ll still be talking about in 2024 and beyond.”

Federico D'Uva, marketing lead at Rawnet: “One of the most significant predictions for this year was the exponential growth of social media marketing, with TikTok and Instagram emerging as the front-runners. This prediction remains highly probable, although the current economic outlook might exert a slight influence on this trend. If consumers are cutting back spending, businesses may opt to limit their media expenditures.

“In such circumstances, businesses might shift their focus toward more cost-effective marketing strategies. This shift could entail an increased emphasis on organic search, leveraging the power of artificial intelligence in SEO, and organic social media marketing to tap into and capitalize on existing audiences and followers.”

Zoey Woodward, head of events and experiences, Fox Agency: “Since in person events reasserted their relevance post-pandemic, we’ve seen technology taking center-stage as events morph into immersive experiences. You can’t move for AI, VR, apps, and a whole raft of other technology promising to be ever-shinier, and ever-newer.

“I predict that the next six months will see the pendulum swing away from embracing the next immersive mind-blowing gadget just because it’s new, and instead focus on what will enhance the visitor experience. We’ll see a renewed emphasis on the basics done right. Simple and straightforward registration, clear and targeted event comms, and smoothly managed on-site check-in can all be enabled and enhanced by technology too. The novelty of being able to attend events in person again has worn off, and event organizers will have to work harder to capture and keep their audiences. This will be done by the right technology, deployed in the right ways.”

Elise Stieferman, director of marketing and business strategy, Coegi: “AI will be H2 2023’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: both hero and villain for marketers, depending on expertise and perspective.

“From those who see it as a glass-half-full opportunity, we’ll see increased AI adoption to improve both business and personal efficiency. Testing Google’s Bard as an automated collaborator, expediting content creation through ChatGPT, or leaning into the power of machine learning on programmatic – some will use AI to minimize tedious tasks and maximize the powerful combination of data and human intellect.

“Meanwhile, there’ll still be a sizable group of marketers threatened by AI. Those in the fear-mongering boat will continue spouting concerns of AI-generated machines taking over and ridding the world of morality. Or, in a more realistic evil outcome, marketers will lose their livelihoods from short-sighted leaders who believe AI replaces the need for human oversight in content and creative, blinded by dollar-sign opportunities to cut costs and go faster.”

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Samantha Scantlebury, brand strategy director, Signal Theory: “One of our firm’s focuses is on pet health and nutrition. Going into 2023, I spoke to the pet industry about the cognitive overload the modern pet owner feels about the vast array of pet health and nutrition products available. Overload is especially pronounced for young pet owners who experience greater financial stress. That cognitive overload persists, but it’s interesting to see how AI is creeping into the pet industry through problem-solving robotics (with skills in training, feeding, and exercising your pet) and also through counsel and product recommendation from generative AI models like ChatGPT.

According to the World Economic Forum, AI is on the precipice of decoding animal communication, which would unleash (pun intended) a whole new world of insights that can help pet owners make decisions. These advancements can serve as resources for the decision-fatigued pet owner in 2023 and beyond.”

James Murray, senior digital PR executive, Builtvisible: “Audiences have become more discerning, demanding greater transparency and seeking genuine connections with brands. With increasing media comprehension comes a need to move away from tactics focused solely on virality, toward authentic campaigns that genuinely connect with audiences. But we’re not seeing brands evolve toward this at a pace to match consumer demand.

“While securing a viral moment might generate short-term buzz, it often lacks depth and sustainable growth. We need to focus on creating campaigns that resonate on a deeper level with consumers, forging real connections and producing outcomes.

“Brands must be mindful of how campaigns impact society. In an era where misinformation spreads rapidly, efforts should go beyond brand promotion or lead generation. We should aim to contribute positively to public discourse and empower audiences to make informed decisions. By aligning campaigns with these values, we can engender deeper trust with journalists and audiences alike, establishing a more credible industry.”

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