2022 has been a grim year no matter how you skin it. Politically we’ve seen unrest and corruption abroad and, frankly, absolute chaos at home. Economically we’re ending the year with soaring inflation, a looming recession and a cost-of-living crisis that is pushing hard working folk into poverty. Environmentally we are strolling nonchalantly towards the point of no return, and when it comes to human rights we have been watching helplessly as the FIFA World Cup proceeded without repercussions for the appalling treatment of labourers involved in creating the stadia, nor the unscrupulous way the tournament was awarded to Qatar in the first place.
So yes, 2022 was not our finest hour, globally or domestically. But the optimist in me believes that out of great adversity comes creativity and positive change.
The endless displays of bad judgement, poor decision making, jarring cultural clashes and the direct or indirect impact of those has fuelled the rising fire in the bellies of young people who not only dislike what they see, but have the energy, inclination and optimism to attempt to tackle it head on.
It is an accepted norm for people past a certain age to write off youngsters, for their alien habits, attitudes and dress sense, but GenZ may yet provide the salvation society needs.
This age group are poised to sprinkle some of their unique and original values on the workforce as they throw off the last sad remains of a secondary education and social scene blighted by lockdowns. This is a generation that promises to disrupt the way things are being done and, much as this terrifies many people, personally I welcome the fresh perspective.
They are a group not bound by institutional norms. They are social justice warriors who look at the world differently, with expectations of behaviour and attitudes that put to shame anything that has gone before.
Thanks in large part to today’s young people, brands and organisations are being held to account across a plethora of major issues, from human rights to sustainability via equality of race, gender and more – virtue-signalling is no longer going undetected and inauthentic behaviour is called out instantly.
I flatter myself that the advertising industry is made up of a great number of dynamic, passionate, forward-thinking people, who not only want to change the accepted norms – the ‘that’s how it’s always beens’ – within our own metaphorical four walls, but see the power of advertising to affect real change.
Through advertising brands have such incredible power to be a force for good, to influence the public in a positive way, and it should fall to their agency partners to encourage them in that direction. Yes, we will always be up against megalomaniacs and people with more money than common sense or good intentions, but they are mercifully few and far between.
I fervently hope the new year will bring those fundamental changes that we’re all desperately seeking, as people with a fresh perspective on the world bring a renewed momentum to tackling institutional issues. Together, striving towards the same goals, a new generation of creative thinkers can do their bit to bang the drum for change, drowning out the old fashioned and outdated ideals and ideas.
In 2023 we will see women’s sport begin to take centre stage following the groundswell of support for the Women’s World Cup.
As green-washing is scrutinised more intensely by the public and industry bodies, purpose-led marketing will have to get serious and brands will either have to bow out of the virtue race or put their money where their mouth is, hopefully beginning to drive real change instead of hollow promises.
And as we shed 2022 and the memory of the pandemic, we can put renewed focus on tackling inequality in the advertising industry, driving the D&I agenda forward as agencies recover from the great resignation.
I admit the bar has been set low this year, but perhaps that will work to our advantage. Such is the apathy about the state of the world that January 1st may signal a determined resolve in enough people to ‘do their bit’ that we see some significant steps forward in the next 12 months. But let’s not get too carried away: moving in the right direction on all fronts – however small the progress – will still be a vast improvement on 2022.
However, even baby steps cannot be achieved by relying on other people to take charge.
Instead let’s all be inspired by fresh young thinkers, by those who do not subscribe to the status quo and by the leaders among us who are really committed to a different future. Only then do we stand a chance of sitting here in December 2023 with a warm feeling of satisfaction – and relief – that we managed to begin to turn the juggernaut in a different direction.
Andrew is a brand experience specialist and the founder and CEO of Hyperactive. Having spent his formative years as a brand and partnership marketer at iconic cultural institutions such as MTV, Ministry of Sound and Universal Music, Andrew – and Hyperactive – now credibly connect brands and consumers via culturally impactful brand experiences, working with the likes of Adidas, Reebok, Kylie Jenner Cosmetics, Boots, Carlsberg, Tag Heuer, Eurostar, and Beats by Dre. Hyperactive’s pandemic pivot, the interactive rave experience ’BBL CLB’, was a game changer in the immersive digital space, and picked up three Campaign Experience Awards for Digital Experience, Virtual Experience and Debut Event.