Sabrina Sanchez
Jan 4, 2024

US creatives share their New Year’s resolutions for 2024

Creative leaders are focused on innovative storytelling, diverse creative teams and new technology to enhance their work in the New Year.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Advertising industry leaders acknowledge that 2023 was a challenging but pivotal year for creativity. 

Leaders agree that it probably wasn’t the industry’s strongest year creatively, as many lamented that the quality and standard for creativity fell. 

Many were still finding their footing in what felt like the first normal year since 2019. And despite the drift from pandemic-era concerns, creatives found themselves navigating a world facing geopolitical conflict, economic downturn and a desire for levity after the heaviness of the last several years. 

Humor undoubtedly made a comeback in 2023, if at times coming off as cavalier about the wider social context, and brands began to shy away from topics that felt too controversial. 

Generative AI and its potential to transform the creative space defined the year, as creatives began to experiment with AI’s possibilities. Leadership changes and mergers and acquisitions abounded, leaving creative agencies to enter 2024 facing new operational challenges, team structures and creative processes.

Despite the tumult of the last year, creative leaders told Campaign US that they are optimistic about 2024. Most are ready to shed the uncertainty of 2023 and capitalize on new opportunities through innovative storytelling, increased diversity and collaboration and a further embrace of technology. 

In the new year, these leaders want to continue to push on hiring and retaining strong creative talent and developing impactful work. Most importantly, agency leaders agree that the focus remains on driving business growth for their clients – hopefully, stronger than the year before. 

Resolution 1: Surprise consumers with innovative storytelling 

Agency leaders want, first and foremost, to surprise people with storytelling that deviates from the status quo. 

After earning many accolades in 2023, including Campaign US’ Agency of the Year and Cannes Lions in the Engagement and Entertainment categories, Mischief @ No Fixed Address co-founder and chief creative officer Greg Hahn said the challenge this year is to reach people in ways the agency hasn’t before. 

With an increasingly fragmented media landscape that threatens to distract and divide consumer attention even further, Hahn said his agency “never repeats anything we've done before,” instead “trying to find new ways to engage people.” 

It was that thinking that led the shop to develop notable campaigns in 2023, such as Tinder’s It Starts with a Swipe, which boosted the company’s Q3 results above estimates. Another campaign it created, Tubi’s Interface Interruption Super Bowl spot, was shortlisted at Cannes Lions six times for the Media, Direct, Entertainment, Entertainment Lions For Sport categories for its ability to break the typical TV ad format. 

In 2024, the agency is looking to top itself, kicking off the year with real estate platform Opendoor’s first Super Bowl ad in February. While the agency has not revealed any details about the campaign, it promises to “raise a few eyebrows,” as Opendoor CMO David Corns said.

Surprising people by doing the unexpected indicates that an agency is “doing something right,” according to Gian Carlo Lanfranco, co-founder and chief creative officer at L&C New York, especially when it “needs to prove” that it can “continue to do great creative work.” 

At L&C, 2023 “was even harder” than 2022 creatively, Lanfranco told Campaign US, because the firm “did a lot of great work that won a lot of awards early on [in the agency’s lifespan],” adding pressure to compete with itself. 

That’s why, in 2024, he hopes to create more work that “goes a little bit beyond a traditional campaign” by leveraging innovation to be“nontraditional.” An example of this, he noted, is the Nativa Meter L&C created for Bavaria-AB InBev’s Nativa beer.

Converting a Nativa beer bottle into a rain gauge helped both the brand and its stakeholders by allowing farmers who grow the cassava used to create the beer measure the moisture of their crops and adjust accordingly. The campaign, which won a Campaign US BIG Award in the B2B category, was effective for both the farmers and the brand by using the product as the solution to a problem that impacts its production. 

“Normally we think about innovation as high tech, but this was analog innovation. Innovation doesn't need to be high tech. We achieved that creatively,” he said.

“[We hope to] keep releasing, every year, something new, something different, something fresh. We already have a couple of ideas that are in the works now for [2024],” he said. 

Resolution 2: Incorporate more diversity and collaboration 

Creative work should not just be surprising, but reflective of and resonant with the audience it's trying to reach. 

That’s why agencies continue to work toward diversifying their teams further in the new year. After all, it's clear that DE&I commitments have fallen by the wayside in 2023, and diverse leaders are calling for a refocus on the issue. 

Lack of focus in this area led to high-profile misses by brands in 2023 that pandered to certain groups and leaned into activism only to backpedal and shy away from controversy later on. 

That’s why, Rocky Novak, CEO at Fallon, acknowledges “you can't work on brands as big and as broad as Arby's or Walmart that serve the whole country and every pocket of it without having [diverse] insights all the way up at the top.”  

As a result, the agency is focused on making sure different voices and people are supporting client work all the way through. Beginning with the hiring process, Novak aims to continue to diversify its staff by recruiting candidates from places where people “aren’t just from the world of advertising or portfolio school.” That requires attracting talent on social media platforms like TikTok, or those with non-traditional backgrounds for advertising. 

“Otherwise, you wind up trying to build on insights that are idiosyncratic for different audiences, and it doesn't feel genuine or authentic to the work,” he said. 

Success comes down to more than just having diverse people in the company, however. Agency leaders must ensure that these voices are heard. 

That’s an area Jon Cook, CEO of VML, says his agency is constantly looking to improve. 

“I'm sure we've been guilty of this in the past – it's not only about who is in the company. That's ultimately the bedrock of it. You have to have a diverse population to have diverse thought. But there's a second art, which is creating a forum for those voices to be heard and those voices to make an impact.” 

He cited campaigns such as Coca-Cola’s Coke Studios, which the agency developed in the summer of 2022, as an example of incorporating diverse voices across race, gender and geography into the work from the beginning by curating collaborations with musicians from around the world.

Now an even larger entity since VMLY&R’s merger with Wunderman Thompson, Cook hopes to create more forums for different voices to influence the work. 

By reorganizing its capabilities into three disciplines –  brand experience, customer experience and commerce –  Cook said the agency will assemble teams that can bring different viewpoints to each category. A restructuring plan is already in motion, but there is currently no expectation to break up existing teams. 

Business performance relies on diversity, Evin Shutt, CEO at 72andSunny said. That’s why this year, the agency plans to put more steam behind diverse creative efforts initiated in 2023. 

Last year, 72andSunny was the only agency to use a Black director in the Super Bowl, according to Shutt. She is hoping that will change this year. 

She said she spent last year working in tandem with 72andSunny equity, diversity and inclusion director Brittany Allen to develop a plan to focus “on [diversity in] creative, creative leadership, creative teams and creative output.”

“The lens of how we're going to look at most DE&I in 2024 is through the lens of creative, which is important in strategy and brand production and financing.” 

That means hiring and promoting diverse creatives globally, as well as including them in casting, production and more.

“If you help the most affected, you will help everyone. That is a win for the company,” she said.

Resolution 3: Experiment with emerging technologies

Creative cannot be innovative and cutting-edge if doesn’t also keep pace with technology.

That’s why agencies will continue to experiment with AI, product experience and more in 2024.

Since selling a majority stake to consultancy Globant in November, independent agency Gut plans to integrate Globant’s tech capabilities to scale and elevate its creative work, said global CEO Andrea Diquez. 

More specifically, Gut plans to incorporate data analytics into more campaigns. So far, it has already launched work, such as Stella Artois’ The Artois Probability, which won a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in the Creative Data category, that dabbles in this ambition.

Now, as part of Globant, Gut can do that faster, while also offering more creative solutions to Globant’s clients, bringing more humanity to its technical work, Wanda Weigert, global chief brand officer at Globant said. 

Diquez added that having Globant in its network will attract talent from non-traditional backgrounds to the firm – and vice versa.

“It's hard to find an engineer who wants to come and work for an advertising agency. Now it might be something attractive for somebody that [has a technology background] but also know[s] how to write and how to visually conceptualize an idea,” Diquez said. 

AI is another frontier Gut wants to tackle in 2024, she added, noting that creatives are excited about its prospects and the chance to scale it quickly across the organization as part of Globant.

Accenture Song global chief creative officer Neil Heymann is also optimistic about AI, describing it as “feel[ing] more seismic than some of the technology trends that we've seen in previous years.” 

“It's something that's being explored at every altitude here, whether it's how we scale production, or how we can find efficiencies in the creative process to [how we] open up different ways of getting insights and ideating,” he said. 

While Accenture Song began experimenting with AI in 2023 to visualize ideas, Heymann expects to “start seeing it more” in the next year or two, especially as it relates to “what can be implemented as a recurring process, rather than something to just try and see.”

He added that greater collaboration and diversity among teams can also help them find more joy in the work, even as they figure the technology part out. Part of that journey means redefining the role of technology in creativity. 

“There's so much evolution in the way that we're doing things at the moment, sometimes you can feel that in the work as well,” he said. “[But] people create art or make films or write books or whatever it is to connect with other people. And sometimes incorporating technology seamlessly into that is not as smooth as we would like. My hope is that we start seeing the technology being used in ways that feel almost magical.”

By chipping away at these goals, creatives believe the quality and standard of their work will rise in 2024. 

Source:
Campaign US

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