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brands in britain 2024

What is the creative agenda in 2024?

Last year, humour returned to advertising. This year is set to be full of sport, elections and economic uncertainty - so what form will creativity take in 2024?

By conor nichols

2024 has already been branded as the ‘year of change’ and the ‘year of sport’. Political elections will take place in the UK, the US, the EU Parliament and beyond, and the Olympics and Euros will prove to be a valuable playground for brands. Agencies will undoubtedly look to strike the right tone during all of these events and creativity will play a valuable role in this. Will advertising look to entertain and provide a sense of escapism this year, or will brands attempt to chime into cultural discussions? Or will they try and do both?

Last year, purpose-driven marketing also seemed to take a back seat and humour made a re-emergence. Whether it was a step away from the post-pandemic era, the cost-of-living crisis, or just sentimental ads in general, an increasing number of creative agencies used playfulness to gain the attention of a nation that did not have a lot to smile about. Will this year be any different?

So how will agencies and their creative departments look to cut through all the noise in the next 12 months and appeal to a broad span of generations (including Gen Alpha)? What’s the key to powerful and innovative creativity this year? We asked a host of creative leaders to find out.

Rob Doubal and Laurence Thomson, chief creative officers, McCann London

'Gin & Tonic'. Let us explain…

2024 is set to be laden with the same global existential issues that we are currently facing. Climate targets unmet, proliferation of wars and increase tech influence in our lives. Brands will continue to search for the right role and relevance using a combination of influence and inspiration.

And the application of creativity as it always has been, will be the differentiating factor in our success.

So, given what the world needs, and what brands need to do, ‘Gin & Tonic’ should definitely be on the agenda.

The Gin (energy and boost) that brings ideas of genuine application and utility to help brands find a role in the world, and Tonic (calming and exciting) to provide a much needed balm of joy and entertainment.

So both utility and entertainment will be on the agenda.

Utility to provide hope and new ways to move this world forward, in a fashion which sits right with brands and the products and services that they deliver – in a way that people want to engage with. And an opportunity to provide therapeutic entertainment and joy with content and messaging, which sits welcomely in people’s socials and longer-form content channels. A welcome stream of comedy, tragedy and pathos can provide nourishment for souls looking for hope and strong positive action and collaboration can create progress and better lived realities. It’s gonna be quite some year.

Sue Higgs, executive creative director, Dentsu Creative

Should creative even have an agenda? Isn’t the point of creative to do what’s right and connect consumer to culture and brand in an entertaining relevant away? Hopefully with humour and definitely with humanity and originality, this should be timeless not a trend.

Having said that - uncertainty is the only certain thing in 2024. Soaring prices, political instability, extreme temperatures and AI will all unlock a new lever of uncertainty in our lives.

Last year there was a big push from brand to help consumers retract from reality through surrealism (Barbenheimer, The Last of Us, all the CGI content from Jacquemus, Maybelline, North Face) and humour (PEETA, even John Lewis’ Christmas ad).

This year, brands need to move away from toxic positivity and give customers the right to explore the complexities of their emotions. They need to steer away from their sanitised portrayal of reality and adopt a more transparent and honest approach.

Imagine if advertising could provide some truth in a post-truth world? Or at least some refreshing honesty?

Imagine if advertisers took a leaf out of Ikea’s book and told customers not to buy but to mend?

71 per cent of people say that it is more important to trust the brands they buy/use today than in the past (Edelman Trust Barometer).

The truth will set you free - said someone much more religious than me but I agree with them wholeheartedly.

Andre Laurentino, chief creative officer, Ogilvy UK

The best place to hide a tree is in the forest. And a general election may turn the environment into a jungle of opinions, big topics, and social channels awash with self-righteousness. In such charged context, messages that are equally high-minded and potentially controversial tend to blend in.

This scenario is the perfect backdrop for its opposite: fun, light-hearted content. Humour and positivity may be a good way to make a brand stand out. Something worth bearing in mind, especially when we're stuck in stern meeting rooms looking at ambitious targets to hit.

On the other side of the scale, we have a sporting event that unifies us all. The Olympics makes wonderful athletic achievements the centre of attention. Humans come first, nations come second. The Summer Olympics will help clear the emotional air a bit and, on a global scale, offer a much needed spectacle with many beautifully poignant moments. What better time to speak to an audience? Yes, there will be many competing for attention and, if you're in the creative game, that's good news.

Nicky Bullard, chief creative officer, MullenLowe Group UK

I think we need to, of course, be sensitive to the nation’s mood but sometimes when we’re all serious, a bit of laughter can be a gooood thing. And vice versa. I don’t think we as creatives plan that far ahead, it’s what surfaces in the work across the industry at any given time.

We’re pretty good at telling other people to do the right thing. To change their behaviour and make the world a better place. This should be the year of holding the mirror up. Not just as an industry but as creatives. Why do we ‘opt in’ to being accessible for example? What we are effectively saying is we are happy to not be accessible most of the time. That’s not good enough. It should be a given.

Also, Gen Z are so last year aren’t they? All hail Gen Alpha. Actually, all hail all. An understanding of a broad span of Gens means not just welcoming the new but also not forgetting the established – we are STILL misrepresenting the over 50s in most of the work we do and removing them from the departments we work in.

I want us to show how accessible creative can be beautiful and compelling creative. That accessibility isn’t a hindrance. It’s the right thing to do.

Dan Watts, executive creative director, Pablo London

"A change will do you good," as Shania Twain once said. And it’s true.

Change means progress and and we need a lot of it right now.

But when it comes to creativity, we need to move backward to move things forward.

Back to the surprising, the engaging, the funny, and the entertaining over the predictable, the dull, the worthy and the generic.

Back to long-term brand building. To active ideas with substance and engaging insight, over fast turnaround, data driven immediacy.

Back to connecting with people through human truths no matter what 'Gen' they fall into.

Because when you do these things and get back to the creative basics, you stop being part of the never-ending clutter and start to cut through it.

Ian Heartfield, creative founder, New Commercial Arts

The agenda is the same this year as every other year, make work that gets noticed and gets talked about. The mission stays the same, the way to achieve it constantly evolves. I think the shift away from purpose-driven work will continue in 2024, and with the news streams serving up a never-ending series of grim stories, advertising may find its main purpose now is simply to offer up a little light relief.

The use of celebrity will be as important as ever, and having our fingers on the pulse to know who appeals to who will be vital. As will consistency. The brands that deliver consistent messaging, in an entertaining way, across the customer journey, over a period of time (otherwise known as ‘campaigns’) will be the ones that grow and succeed.

But above everything else, simplicity will rule. Every aspect of life is getting more complicated, the role of brands, and the advertising that promotes them, is to cut through with simple messages, served up in original ways, in the relevant media. I say the same thing to myself (and anyone who will listen) at the beginning of every year. Make it simple. Make it different. Make it move me.

Mark Elwood, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett

This invitation to comment comes at a perfect time. Leo Burnett’s proprietary research tool ‘PopPulse’ has been listening to the nation’s listeners and we’ve just had our latest survey results back in.

We’ve learnt that in 2023 the people of the UK were coping. Coping with financial, political, and global uncertainty. Coping as opposed to ‘fucked’, as was widely reported. More that life was in limbo - a transitional period - and no-one knows quite where that transition will take us. Now in 2024, people are beginning to hope.

They aren’t however, looking to the government or the media to give them that hope. Hope is starting at home. Also, when having faced a year of deflating dreams personally, they’re looking outside of themselves to fuel some pride by proxy.

A summer of sport will be a welcome distraction and give us all a shared sense of pride and belonging. Something that creatively we should tap into. People are also looking to brands to help - not by telling them they care, but by actually helping to spread a little sunshine. Little treats, little escapes, mood hacks and shared moments of positivity is what the nation will be after: which is an irresistible opportunity for any creative with clients like we have at Leo Burnett.


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