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Sunday, December 3, 2023

How creativity and advertising can help drive growth in uncertain economic cycles

Mark Green is chief executive, The Monkeys. Accenture Song ANZ president and chairman of Advertising Council Australia
Mark Green is chief executive, The Monkeys. Accenture Song ANZ president and chairman of Advertising Council Australia

Yes, that just happened. 2023 was seriously chaotic and scary in equal measure. If we want to take a good versus evil look at the world we could easily slip into a negative echo chamber of our own making, yet there have been wonderful gifts that prove creativity can bring light into a gloomy world. Arguably no one led the way better than Taylor Swift.

“If Taylor Swift were an economy, she’d be bigger than 50 countries,” said Dan Fleetwood, president of QuestionPro Research and Insights.

Post pandemic, Taylor Swift has reached unstoppable heights and we will see this in all its glory in Australia in February.

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On the flip side, the collective efforts of the advertising industries were not enough to help change the lives of our First Nations people and unite our great nation.

Even John Farnham’s song You’re the Voice wasn’t enough to sway voters. Advocates of the voice have labelled it a missed opportunity. The Advertising Council Australia and many of its agencies rallied behind the voice in great numbers.

But as Stan Grant said in his ANU speech: “We who dare to speak of justice or racism, we are cast as provocateurs, we are the troublemakers, we are the truth that dare not speak its name.”

We are happy to be in this camp. And let’s face it the no campaign didn’t let the truth get in the way of its message. Unfortunately, as it stands right now there are no legal requirements for the content of political advertisements to be factually correct.

Despite the loss, we pushed as hard as we could as an industry, and I am proud of, at the very least, moving the conversation forward. And speaking of moving forward, AI is still being questioned as a force for good or evil.

On the plus side, we found ourselves listening to a brilliant new Beatles song courtesy of such technology. Now and Then looks set to hit No 1 as we speak.

On the negative side, Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI has warned about the risk of human extinction from AI, saying that “mitigating that possibility should be a global priority alongside other societal scale risks, such as pandemic and nuclear war.”

Good or evil has also permeated the business of social media and has transformed into a billionaire’s arms race. Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been impossible to ignore to say the least. And July saw Meta release its answer to Twitter, Threads, which had a whopping million sign-ups on day one. Musk of course threatened to sue Threads and followed by rebranding Twitter to X. And in the ultimate high-stakes comedy move Musk proposed a MMA cage fight with Mark Zuckerberg. Oversized gloves please.

Thank God for the Matildas, I hear you say. This year’s Women’s World Cup had Australia on its feet. A watershed moment for the code derided here for years as an inferior sport.

As James Johnson, chief executive of Football Australia, said: “You’ve got a brand and a team that goes beyond metrics. You’ve got a team that’s really bringing Australian communities together.”

And speaking of bringing us together, Barbenheimer showed us there was life in cinema after all, following the fall in cinema admissions from $84.7m in 2019 to $57.9m in 2022.

Like the Matildas, the films Barbie and Oppenheimer went beyond the metrics to deliver one of the biggest popular cultural events of 2023. Event-based entertainment seemed to be a trend when you consider the Women’s World Cup attendance of more than 2 million and record crowds at the AFL and NRL.

And then there was creativity conference SXSW launching its first event outside Austin. Naturally, Sydney rose to the occasion with great brands and speakers hitting our shores. During SXSW, we saw just how prolifically creativity abounds in our economy. At the event, the Advertising Council Australia launched a report by Deloitte Access Economics, which revealed the Australian advertising industry contributes a staggering $53bn to the nation’s economy.

Also rising to the occasion, was the Sydney Opera House which turned 50 and in homage launched a music video championing creativity, the arts and taking risks. The writer of the song, Tim Minchin, said: “A big thing about art and a building like the Opera House is it needs to be brave and push boundaries, which is what I hope I do in this little song.”

In 2024, it looks like we will indeed have to take on risks and push boundaries. With the IMF predicting growth to slow and Australians increasingly faced with a cost of living crisis, companies will have to be creative to find growth. As Taylor Swift and the Matildas proved in 2023 people will find ways to pay for rewarding, creative, and entertaining experiences; we just need to serve it up, and that’s why the creative growth industry is a great place to be.

Bring on 2024 … And Swift’s Eras Tour.

Mark Green is chief executive of The Monkeys, president of Accenture Song ANZ and chairman of Advertising Council Australia.


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