‘Humour is back and purpose is dead’...Reasons to be optimistic about the ad industry in 2024 

VCCP's chief strategy officer, Clare Hutchinson, takes inspiration from Ian Dury to offer some reasons for adlanders to be cheerful in 2024

Photo by NIKHIL on Unsplash

For Ian Dury, reasons to be cheerful included:

Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly

Good golly, Miss Molly and boats

Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet

Jump back in the alley and nanny goats

Not to mention

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy

Being in my nuddy

All lovely things. But that was 1977.

And it was written in the aftermath of the near death of one of his roadies, who was almost electrocuted by a microphone stand. And (as we all know), no-one ever dies in advertising. But why can’t we be a bit more punk, rock? Why do we all have to be so serious and look so miserable? To live in the shadow and paranoia of AI, whilst furiously trying to convince people that it’s a really good thing. Which it probably is.

It’s time to be glass half-full.

Because when the chips are down, that’s when hope springs eternal, and there are opportunities to be had a-plenty.

Not quite the length of Ian’s list, but I’ll give you three good reasons to be cheerful about advertising in 2024.

Reason 1 

Humour is back. And purpose is dead. We’ve survived Covid, and plenty of purpose campaigns, and at last we’ve remembered the glory and simplicity of a good old fashioned bit of entertainment. More than ever, it’s time to forget the misery of ‘More than ever…’, and the ridiculousness that mayonnaise can save the world from waste and that cat food can rebuild coral reefs. Purpose, begone. Advertising is all about earning people’s attention. So bring on the era of ‘let me entertain you’ and let’s get back to immersing ourselves and others in the pleasure dome. It’s been a while since we properly let our hair down as an industry; just imagine the fun we’ll be able to have with the new fairground of opportunity that social, tech and data has opened up for us?

Reason 2 

We are facing stormy weather. Wars and elections lie in front of us. But dark days and difficult times are actually times of great opportunity. Jeopardy is actually opportunity in disguise. I’m not going to bore you with a treatise on the value of investing in brand equity whilst others reduce spend. (It’s true, but you can read all about it in the sister title WARC, not here in Contagious). But there’s a very helpful phenomenon that accompanies times of great change and disruption. Hard times force people to change, but when people have to change their behaviour, they are also open to adopting new behaviours, products and services. Which is why difficult times also give birth to disruptive innovation, new inventions, new categories, new glorious things that make the world a better place. So whilst dark times can seem dreary, they are actually brilliantly bright if you want to try and get people to try new things or to invent new things. So take advantage of the disruption, and think about how your brand can help. Providing answers, and a light in moments of darkness is one of the most powerful ways we can connect.

Reason 3 

The robots are coming! I accept that this might sound quite scary. But Generative AI is boosting the evolution of smart machines. On a personal level, I can’t wait for my very own robot to take over all the menial things in my life so that I can spend time with the humans that I love. But I think that robots could be a really big game changer for businesses and brands. Imagine the Burger King Robot vs the McDonalds Robot? But more seriously, I believe that robots can and will help to solve lots of societal issues and problems. With huge leaps in robot technology, the robots of 2050 will have advanced capabilities to serve almost every need of humankind and even more. I was reading recently about how robots are being developed to help people with dementia to feel more confident and included. Robot-assisted therapy is a potentially useful treatment for dementia as it has the advantage of improving mood, encouraging social interaction and communication, assisting individuals with their daily living, improving the well-being of the older people, and decreasing the workload of their caregivers.

So if these times of disruption open us up to change, and robots can help come and solve a lot of our difficulties and problems, way better than any purpose campaign can, we’ll be free to get back to what we’re good at. The entertaining stuff.

And on that note, I’ll end with a last lovely bit of crazy, human Ian Dury wisdom, that I think quite nicely sums up the year ahead:

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it

You're welcome we can spare it, yellow socks.

Want more reasons to be cheerful about advertising in 2024? Join us at Contagious Live. 

At Contagious Live in London on 14 March (5:30pm-9:00pm), we’ll break down the most prominent themes from our 2024 Radar Report and offer some advice on how to turn them to your advantage.

Jellyfish’s Tom Roach, Uncommon’s Lucy Jameson and Lego’s Emma Perkins, will also be on stage to share their wisdom and perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing the ad industry in the year ahead.

And you’ll learn about some of the best campaigns from around the world in our rapid-fire Pitch Battle, all while enjoying a delicious spread of pizza and beer, not to mention the company of other people who value great creativity.

Tickets are just £35. Get yours here.

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