Agency heads share their 2023 ad industry highlights

Looking back at 2023

AI might have been the word of the year for Adland, but there were also plenty of other highlights in 2023. From a return to the feel-good factors in creative to the incredible people that make up our industry, agency heads and IPA group members share their industry highlights from the past year.

Karen Martin, Chief Executive Officer, BBH London and Chair of the IPA Effectiveness Leadership Group:

Every year in our wild, unpredictable, mad industry brings new challenges, but for us, 2023 has been great fun, it’s been different and most of all - it’s been creatively inspiring, with so many highlights it's hard to pick just one. We welcomed new clients into our flock; Candy Crush, F+F, Premier League and Paddy Power among a few others. And we grew our specialisms in Brand Transformation, Health, Design and Production.

Our work has come on so much this year. It’s more creative, more different, more progressive, and more entertaining than ever. We won 60+ awards across 12 disciplines, we were the most decorated agency at the Effies, the 2nd most decorated agency at the Creative Circle awards, and the 3rd most awarded agency at the British Arrows, and received accolades from Cannes Lions for our work for Tesco and Prostate Cancer UK.

I could not be prouder of our team here - their passion and dedication to delivering the very best in craft and creativity, it blows me away every single day. Getting to work with the people I get to work with, from our client partners to our teams in the office - that’s a daily highlight for me.

Richard Aldiss, Managing Director, McCann Manchester and IPA Chair for England & Wales:

Seeing how we all responded to the emergence of AI has to be my industry highlight of 2023. The frenzied race to understand what the future could look like, is it friend or foe, do we embrace or proceed with caution and seeing stakeholders from across the industry all sharing their thoughts.

AI certainly got us all playing; it made us challenge the norm and whether you’re a fan or not it gave our industry a shot in the arm and put technology and innovation at the centre of every conversation.

Nicole Lonsdale Chief Client Officer, Kinetic Worldwide and Chair of the IPA Outdoor Group:

This has to be the breadth of creativity in campaigns across OOH, at a time when budgets in this area could have been cut. Advertisers have embraced the latest technology and innovation to create real cut-through campaigns and drive more emotional connection between their brand and consumers. From impactful special builds and hand-painted murals, 3D creative at scale on DOOH, to interactive screen and mobile activations acting as gateways to richer content and commerce. OOH really is the home of creativity and the future continues to look bright.

Jo Arden, Chief Strategy Officer, Ogilvy UK and Convenor of Judges for the IPA Effectiveness Awards 2024:

One of the best things about our industry is that we are at our most useful when times are tough. We are perfectly placed to help people navigate to brands, deals and offers that offer the best value and to help brands make their best case for people’s hard-earned cash. On that basis, 2023 has been a cracking year.

Sue Benson, Managing Director, The Behaviours Agency and IPA City Head for Manchester & North West:

I think 2023 has been the year of B-corp. Maybe it’s because we became a B Corp business in 2023, but I've really noticed the advertising industry taking the lead in promoting a "good for business" agenda. B Corp's focus on people, profit, and the planet has inspired numerous initiatives and decisions regarding the type of work we do and the people we employ. This emphasis and the collective values of our industry have genuinely paved the way for positive changes. 

Alex Uprichard, Managing Director, IMA HOME and IPA City Head for Leeds & Yorkshire:

It has been reassuring to see marketing budgets stay resilient, experiencing modest growth this year. Advertising can be first thing cut in times of difficulty, so the fact that spends are holding should be taken as a major positive of the last 12 months. Another highlight is the blend that can now be achieved with mass-reach media utilising data allowing brands to combine scale, impact and personalisation in high-quality environments such as programmatic out-of-home, CTV etc. Catching consumer attention needs creative impact & relevance so seeing the industry evolve capability to deliver on that is truly exciting.

Kieron Goldsborough, CEO, Different Narrative and outgoing IPA City Head for Newcastle & North East:

2023 was quite the year for clients and agencies alike, an uncertain and everchanging landscape made planning and navigating the year incredibly difficult. The positive side of challenging budgets and an increased focus on results, is the importance of effectiveness. This year I have enjoyed the way effectiveness has become a higher-profile conversation with clients, establishing clear objectives and frameworks from the start is actively encouraged. The IPA have done a good job of highlighting the importance of the issue and the Effectiveness Accreditation were a great way of recognising the brilliant work in this area within the industry.

James Joice, Managing Director, Fold7 and member of the IPA Client Relationship Group:

This year we saw a real difference at Cannes in terms of the type of work that produced results with audiences and as a result, were winning awards. There was a notable move from majority purpose-led work to humour and a focus on business results. Perhaps this is a symptom of us all needing a post-Covid laugh, a backlash against the ‘woke’ marketing tide, or is it simply a return to the feel-good factors that used to dominate communications when we believed in the joy effect? Whatever the reason, it felt like the right time to realise the undercurrent of change.

Tobi Asare, Managing Partner, Head of Growth, OMD UK and member of the IPA New Business and Marketing Group:

Very hard to name just one highlight but it was been wonderful to see the progression of female talent at a senior leadership level. I have had the pleasure to work very closely with Laura Fenton, new CEO of OMG UK and Suzy Ryder who is the newly appointed CEO of OMD UK, more names spring to mind such as Vanessa Kingori and Miranda Hipwell and it’s incredibly inspiring to see more women rise up the ranks in our industry.

Matt Foster, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Ogilvy UK and member of the IPA Talent Leadership Group:

My highlight of the year has been seeing the impact of the Mayor for London’s Have a Word and Say Maaate to a Mate campaigns on raising awareness of how to tackle misogyny and safeguard against violence towards women and girls. In a world where women are often told they need to adjust their own behaviour to protect themselves, it’s high time we see responsibility put squarely onto men to intervene, call out and be true allies. Kudos to my colleagues at Ogilvy UK who worked hard with the Mayor’s office to develop a powerful campaign based on behavioural science to create real change.

Claire Lambell, Managing Director, Southpaw and member of the IPA Client Relationship Group:

As predicted, 2023 has proven to be a tough year with energy costs, tax and interest rates the highest they have been in many years, putting strain and pressure on Brand marketing budgets. But, as is so often the case, in challenging times, creativity prevails!

I have loved seeing greater collaboration between agencies – strategy & creative, media, PR and activation partners all pulling together to help one another succeed, thinking differently and hustling to make budgets work as hard as possible to achieve maximum impact and cut through.

I’ve been buoyed seeing so many more brands connecting better with culture, being more interesting and better connected with the things that their audiences care about. And, inspired by the use of different creative production techniques to ensure maximum disruption. For me, JD Sports did a stellar job of doing just this with their CGI ad, the attention to detail was spot on, from the 3D North Face Jacket to the direction the crowd were looking too. Top job that resulted in a ton of noise and PR.

Louise Hayward, CEO, NOW and member of the IPA Client Relationship Group:

In a year when a lot of the conversation in our industry has been about AI and machine learning, I’ve never been happier to be surrounded by amazing people. People who get more positive, more driven and more focused as the tough times roll on. I was given the advice early in my career that ‘a problem is a gift’. It’s an opportunity to help, to add value, to make things better. And being surrounded by people so positively responding to the ‘gifts’ of 2023 has been a real highlight - and something that we should all be proud of.

Sonya Arthur, Client President, EssenceMediacom UK and member of the IPA Client Relationship Group:

Winning and consolidating a huge piece of new business, successfully building a new team and creating positive relationships with fantastic clients. From a personal perspective, being awarded a 40 over 40 nomination this year.

Thomas Walters, Founder & CEO, Europe, Billion Dollar Boy:

Since we founded the business almost 10 years ago, we’ve seen the creator economy change rapidly and dramatically. That’s been confirmed by new Goldman Sachs research forecasting the sector’s growth to a global valuation of half-a-trillion dollars by 2027. We’ve directly experienced the positive impact of that, featuring for the third consecutive year as the only influencer agency in the FT’s 2023 list of the UK’s 1,000 fastest-growing businesses.

It’s an exciting time to be in the industry as brands invest more into creator content. But at the same time it means an increasingly competitive market for all stakeholders - platforms, creators and agencies. 

2023 has been characterised by an intensifying battle between the platforms for supremacy in the creator economy. That means platforms launching ever more competitive revenue-sharing models to attract the best creators and host the best content. Platforms are betting big on creators in the belief that the better the content, the more consumer activity, the more ad investment.

But, when so many of the platforms are occupying similar spaces - whether it be copying content formats or launching new financial incentives for creators - there is even greater pressure on the platforms to get creative. That means many are diversifying their revenue streams, with varying degrees of success: from social commerce and influencer gifting to paying for ad-free scrolling and exploring new verticals such as gaming.

But with this vast and rapid change in the industry comes new challenges for creators and brands, and it can be tricky for all involved to keep up with emerging trends and new launches. Industry experts have become more valuable than ever this year to advise and navigate others through choppy waters.


What are the industry predictions for 2024? Find out what agency heads and IPA group members see in the future.


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024