What Change Would Agency Leaders Most Like To See in 2024?

We ask agency leaders what they want to see played out in the new year

By Avnie Bansal

2023 was a tough year in more ways than one. While war and cost-of-living crises were looming over our heads the industry was also tackling issues around purpose polarisation, greenwashing, agency integration, rise of virtual influencers, fake ads and the threat of automation.

Is there anything the industry can do to be better prepared for 2024? What changes would agency CEOs like to see play out to make the lives of their talent and their clients better?

Creative Salon finds out.

Creativity Boost

Bill Scott, CEO, Droga5 says for Adland to thrive, our best weapon is creativity. “Change shouldn't scare us. Instead, it should excite us. Whether it's the AI revolution or the ever-shifting consumer landscape, or pressure on client budgets - instead of being perceived obstacles, we should embrace these as an invitation for us to flex our creative muscle even more and redefine the art of the possible. In times like these, the world craves more creative thinkers, not fewer. So, let's embrace the opportunities and show the world just how powerful creativity for tomorrow we can really be.” Miranda Hipwell, CEO at adam&eveDDB agrees and says when lots of change is afoot there should be a, “Sharp focus on the enduring value of creativity and its impact.”

Polly McMorrow, CEO at McCann London sums it up and says there should be, “A more fearless approach to creativity. A bit more unbridled passion and excitement about the work we make." She says she wants to be, "really, deeply unattractively jealous of people's work in 2024."

Swagger & Confidence

The industry needs, "to feel confident, to have swagger, to not forget that we are in a creative business at a time of great creative potential." says Conrad Persons, the newly appointed president at Grey London.

"I would like the industry to be cognisant of the wider struggles in society, but not let that dampen its enthusiasm or hunger for change. I’d like the industry to be alert to its possibilities. In short, if I had one wish, I want the industry to recapture its optimism." he adds.

“I can’t think of another industry that talks itself down more than Adland and that just feels like the opposite of what we’re supposed to be experts at doing!,” says Jon Golding, CEO, Atomic London. He says a change he would like to see this year is, “Far fewer hours and column inches talking about how Adland needs to find its voice and influence again and more time dedicated to showcasing those who are already doing it.”

Larissa Vince, CEO, TBWA\London agrees, “Same as last year – I’m desperate for our whole industry to feel more confident. I do think that confidence is growing, and there’s been some really good work this year particularly using humour to stand out. I know we are all highly competitive with each other, but the truth is that the more of us that are successful, the more the whole industry rises up.”

Regain Influence

Also, hoping for a shift towards a more confident and assured industry, Guy Sellers, CEO, Total Media says, “This(the shift) may involve fostering a culture of continuous learning within the industry to help maintain and reclaim influential positions with clients, as well as investing in new talent to meet these objectives.”

James Denton-Clark, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi couldn’t agree more and ads, “I’d like to see our industry regain our influence. Not only in the boardrooms and breakfast tables. But in Whitehall and within culture.”

Let's Bring Back Joy

Fiona Gordon, CEO at Ogilvy UK, shares what she thinks can help combat another tough economic year, It's been so good to see humour back in the work this Christmas and as the public have said, let's keep the quality of work that high all year….I hope we can all bring positivity and laughter into everyone's lives. And as we do it, help our clients to grow. It’s time to get the UK economy back to real growth. Creativity has never been needed more, so as an industry let's bring it together to make 2024 shine.”

Speaking of focus back on ideas and creativity, Gareth Mercer, Founder, Pablo adds, “There seems to be real momentum when it comes to surprising work at the moment. A focus back on ideas and creativity. Feeling giddy about what's possible. Things like AI have helped not hindered that. I’ll be greedy here and say we’d like that focus to grow more and I’d like to see new faces leading the charge, surprising our respective audiences with what they can do.”

Focusing on a welcome trend, Power of personality in ads, Neil Henderson, CEO of St Luke's says, “At St Luke’s we have seen the impact Tyrrell’s quirky, British personality has had on the posh crisp market this year. Yorkshire Tea has done the same brilliantly in the tea market. McDonalds, EE and Just Eat are all doubling down on bringing personality to their categories. It’s a welcome trend and it would be great to see it becoming a more central part of how brands compete in 2024.”

Using AI in our favour

Peter Reid, CEO, MSQ says that agencies should start to reap at least part of the potential dividend from AI, rather than seeing it all passed on to clients in lower fees. “AI is coming, and it offers a wealth of opportunities across all aspects of the business – from our point of view alone it’s affecting our tech development work, our creative development, media planning and targeting, and our production capabilities just to name a few. When done well – and when it’s combined with the best-in-class conceptual creative and strategic human thinking we have at our disposal, it can help us work faster and to a more effective standard. But there will ultimately then be pressure from clients for agencies to pass on this benefit. And whilst there may be efficiencies that can be shared, agencies must stand their ground in ensuring it’s done equitably and that they’re being recognised for the increased value they’re delivering. We all know that’s not necessarily been the approach taken in the past!”

Claire Hollands, CEO of Mullen Lowe agrees, “I am positively dissatisfied AI is talked about all the time but not rooted in enough tangible change.”

Changing Working cultures

“I’d like to see less talk about working from home / working from the office / how many days we’re all doing in or out, and more just getting on with what we all do best - making great creative work that works for our clients,” says Karen Martin, CEO, BBH. “I love our industry so much and think we should take real pride in what we do - and accountability in the impact we can have. Bring on 2024. I for one, can’t wait to see what we all come up with.” 

Speaking of the change she’d like to see, Katy Wright, CEO, FCB London says, “Bringing the fun back to the work, the office, and the industry.” 

Sarah Golding, CEO at The&Partnership, couldn’t agree more and says more people should realise that “We are, and have always been, stronger together than apart.”

Sustainable Practises - Pitching and otherwise

“Let’s face it, our industry needs more than one change,” says Kate Rowlinson, CEO, EssenceMediacom. “But if we start to see better menopause policies across the industry, I’ll be thrilled that WACL’s efforts have borne fruit.”

Katie Elliott, managing director at Mother London says in 2024 she’d like to see, “More great examples of Pitching it Forward and tangible commitments to positive pitch initiatives.” Carmen Vasile, managing director at AMV BBDO and Jason Cobbold, CEO of BMB, both agree and say more sustainable pitching practices will allow for more great work to shine and the industry should continue to stand behind and stay behind the Pitch Pledge.

Alex Lewis, Revolt’s co-founder adds, “We want to see the next evolution of impact measurement around purpose. Reach metrics are all well and good but it’s time our sector got serious about creating meaningful change and that means measuring the direct link between what you're spending and what you’re changing.”

While, Jessica Tamsedge, CEO, Dentsu Creative speaks how pre-competitive collaboration might help the industry move towards sustainable practices together. “When it comes to sustainability and social impact, I’d like to see agencies organising around the biggest issues, defining them together, and then competing like hell to find innovative solutions. Regulation like the EU CSRD will require a huge effort from us all and the more we can share learnings and standardise an approach, the more we will all benefit.”

Widening Talent Pools

Michael Lee, Chief Strategy Officer at VCCP, speaks of their efforts at the APG (Account Planning Group), “Our work to improve the recruitment and retention of employees from under-represented groups has been a triumph of collaboration between many senior people at many agencies who constantly compete directly against each other. I know it’s one giant Hunger Games contest out there, but we all benefit from widening our talent pool, so let’s see some more of that cross-agency collaboration in 2024!”

Carly Avener, CEO of Leo Burnett adds, “I would like to see further progress on Diversity & Inclusion. Although it delights me to see that so many of my peers now are women, I’m aware we are mostly all white, university-educated women and there is still a long way to go before there is full representation across ethnicity, class, sexuality, and disability.”

Concluding the change Will Hodge and Zoe Eagle, co-chiefs at Accenture Song, would like to see, they say, “Bigger ambitions to do the type of work that keeps our talent inspired and engaged, and our clients at the top of their game.”


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