CEO Update | 2023 Wrapped

2023 Wrapped: Comms Council Edition

As 2023 comes to a close, I am reflecting on what has been another challenging environment for our industry. Economic conditions, dominated by the Reserve Bank’s efforts to control inflation, coupled with the regular paralysis of an election year, have done little to stimulate activity across the industry. But, as ever, the impact of these conditions has been very idiosyncratic; for every business that has responded to my request for a summary of the year with euphemisms such as ‘oh, you know,’ or more directly, ‘brutal’, there have been others who have been pleasantly surprised, and if not buoyant, certainly pretty sanguine about the year ahead.

What cannot be glossed over is that spend is down, and there remains a collective need for us to continue to make the case for advertising as an investment, not a cost. We all know it works; a full house at Auckland Town Hall for the Effies this year provided plenty of hard evidence to support that belief. But when budgets get cut, advertising remains near the front of the queue at the finance director’s door. Our efforts to remind business of the power of advertising need a concerted team effort from all of us in 2024.

However, despite such headwinds, this is the time of year to reflect on what we have achieved this year. Here at Comms Council, that reflection is focused on the progress we have made on initiatives that support all agencies, big and small, to thrive in the years ahead. I’m glad to say that this year, the list is long:

  • In August we launched Ad Net Zero, working towards the decarbonisation of the production, distribution, and consumption of advertising. With 46 supporter organisations on board, working groups established, and a roadmap in development, we are confident that we have the building blocks in place to enable the industry to maintain historic levels of activity while reducing the impact on climate of that work.

  • We started our own measurement journey; not only of Comms Council operational emissions, but the measurement of all of our awards shows, with reductions in mind for future years.

  • August also saw the launch of the Advertising Careers Engine; a platform designed to demystify our industry and build greater awareness of the breadth of career opportunities available. We’ve begun to support this with greater engagement at schools and tertiary levels.

  • We relaunched Axis Speaks, to a packed audience at Shed10, bringing world-class speakers to inspire and encourage creativity, and we had our first post-Covid Effectiveness Function, filling TVNZ’s auditorium to hear from advertisers and agencies, alongside the inimitable James Hurman.

  • We had a record number of responses to our bi-annual DEI Census. While the results showed some significant improvements in inclusivity, it also confirmed our need to double down on efforts to make our industry more attractive to Māori and Pacific Peoples.

  • We introduced new courses to our training and development offering (Understanding Agency Finance, Managing People for the First Time), with great take up and response.

  • Young Lions came back with a roar. Comms Council became the official Cannes Lions Representative in Aotearoa, and we welcomed more than 100 entrants to the Young Lions competition, sending 4 deserving winners to compete in the global competition at Cannes.

  • We had our first post-Covid year where all our Awards Shows were live, in person, and sold out. Across Axis, Beacon, Effie and Pressie, we hosted more than 2,000 people in celebration of the very best work in our industry.
  • The First Five Rungs again provided invaluable support to young professionals in our industry, and at their request, we introduced the Shadow Judging programme at Effie, which we will now roll out across all our awards programmes.

  • As I write, we have 60 interviews taking place as a result of our annual Recruitment Programme, aimed at delivering great talent to entry level agency roles in the New Year.

  • We welcomed nine new members to Comms Council – thank you to Deloitte Digital, Edition, Undertow Media, Brand Gardener, Good Gravy, Thinkerbell, Remade, Naked Creative and Maia for joining us.

All the above highlights put us in a great position to start 2024 with a bang. We will continue to focus on lifting the stature of the industry, supporting the industry to attract, train and retain the best talent in Aotearoa and to provide support to all our members as together, we continue to deliver outstanding work, creative thinking that adds bottom line value to New Zealand business, and ensure that we all thrive.

Thank you to all our members, sponsors and partners, and everyone who contributes to the broader industry.

Meri Kirihimete