Introducing our inaugural monthly trends and hot topics article, our newly launched regular series that zooms in on compelling commercial insights from recent press in a concise monthly roundup. This month’s spotlight features three key topics: ESG accountability in the industry on the back of the recent open letter backed by a large number of media giants, consumer trends poised for 2024 and the ongoing momentum of retail media.

ESG accountability, under the microscope

With COP28 now underway in Dubai and drawing substantial media attention, the recent open letter signed by 131 influential companies in the advertising sector holds particular significance. The letter was deliberately aimed at steering and influencing the media conversation at this conference to provoke actionable outcomes. In the lead up, signatories including industry giants like Unilever, Vodafone, BT Group, Ebay, Volvo, Curry’s Danone and Ikea, directed a plea to government officials, urging immediate action to combat fossil fuel usage.

While initial perceptions might suggest it’s another PR move or greenwashing attempt to show change is happening, many senior executives and higher ups are vocalising the importance of this letter, allowing themselves to be exposed and held to account. It may be the first collective power move that places real ownership on the companies involved to “do their bit” as energy users and producers, not only calling out the government, financial institutions and fossil fuel producers who undoubtedly need to share the ownership. Brands seem to understand ESG needs to come earlier on in the commercial process, embedded into strategy and process from the outset, even if it affects certain factors of a project. Above anything else though, this letter demonstrates ESG is higher on advertisers’ priority list, potentially leapfrogging those who haven’t made it a focal point. It will be interesting to hear what comes out of COP28 and see how the letter stands up.

Consumer trends 2024 – human and relationships

It’s always front of mind as Q4 draws to a close, what does the next 6-12 months look like? Speculation over consumer behaviour is meandering its way through the press given it impacts heavily on media decisions throughout the whole industry. Two interconnected trends which seem significant are the revival of relationship-based marketing and the element of a human approach in an AI moving world.

There’s a desire amongst consumers for real world connection and relationships. This doesn’t and won’t mean consumers will move away from online or social purchasing, but it demonstrates they don’t want to leave behind the physical “experience” based purchasing either. Brands need to be thinking about striking the right balance to satisfy more consumers. The “being human” trend is more directly linked to the anxieties of the consumer around AI technology and enhancements it can and will make, but the risk and concern that comes with it. It’s apparent that brands need to ensure they are using technology to enhance their creativity, products and marketing but also ensure its use doesn’t alienate customers. There’s a risk of going too far and taking a one size fits all approach which won’t work with a varied customer base. We have seen good examples of how AI or even smarter technology can make a real impact. There have been the iconic faux OOH campaigns, from Maybelline NY’s false eyelashes on the London tube to the recent ad campaigns from Heinz ketchup which used AI to engage and resonate its brand story with a younger demographic. If collectively we use tech smartly, we can enhance and innovate, not replace.

Retail media acceleration

Retail media feels like a buzzword at the moment as it’s causing a fair bit of excitement and optimism in the industry. This is due to the continual measured growth specifically in relation to marketing effectiveness as well as the innovation and opportunity there is for retailers to invest in their own platforms to monetise their shopping data and advertise space.

The expansion of retail media networks is seen as a pivotal trend, with retailers recognising the value of leveraging their customer insights to offer targeted advertising solutions to brands. As retail media gains prominence, there’s a need for brands to adapt their strategies to this evolving landscape by exploring partnerships and investing in technology that enables better data utilisation and personalised advertising. What’s particularly interesting is how the convergence of shopping and advertising within the retail space is creating new opportunities for brands to engage with consumers directly and efficiently. Smart brands can leverage the rich data available from these retail platforms to tailor advertising content.

Retail has been deemed an effective sector in a recent report by the DMA. Standing up against rival sectors, providing fruitful effectiveness for marketing and media campaigns with positive signs of continuing on an upward trajectory. In a recent article, we discussed some of the interesting takeaways from the DMA Retail Effectiveness in Marketing Report which looks at effectiveness metrics over the past couple of years and onward to 2024. The key message that resonated was that campaign response effectiveness has proven often to be high in retail, but it’s the campaign brand effectiveness which is growing and is most important for brands to grow long-term.


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