At the end of a tumultuous year, Lena Roland looks back at how WARC Strategy has responded to marketers’ changing needs.
The end of the year is a good time to reflect on all that we’ve achieved this year. As head of content for WARC Strategy it’s crucial to identify, and cover, the most relevant marketing topics, providing the evidence, expertise and examples marketers need to be more effective.
Throughout 2022, sustainability and inflation have consistently been among top search terms on the platform. So typically, WARC has responded with great content to help marketers successfully navigate these challenging areas.
In March 2022 we launched the WARC Sustainability hub in association with LIONS and the Advertising Association in the UK, powered by Ad Net Zero. The hub features best practice, expert guidance and effectiveness case studies that will help marketers understand – and help solve – the challenges of sustainability, including net zero.
To support the launch of our hub, we also launched the WARC Guide to Net Zero Marketing. The Guide features contributions from marketing practitioners from across the globe who are demonstrating climate leadership. Topics covered include how to close consumers’ intention action-gap, how to avoid greenwashing, how to decarbonise media and the consumer opportunity. We’ll continue to shine a light on these important areas throughout 2023 and beyond.
The sustainability landscape is different in different parts of the world which is why we also put this on our regional ‘Spotlight’ series agenda. Asia Editor, Rica Facundo looked at Conscious Consumerism in Southeast Asia while our India Editor Biprorshee Das looked at sustainability and Green Mobility.
Leaning into our multiformat content, US Commissioning Editor, Cathy Taylor hosted a webinar – how the marketing industry can respond to the climate emergency – and most recently a WARC Talks podcast on the topic.
Inflation and pricing
With the economic slowdown impacting consumers in many markets across the world, some months saw “inflation” become the top search term on the platform, with “recession” making a regular appearance, too.
Sharp inflation means consumers in most major markets are feeling the pinch, and inevitably adjusting their spending behaviour and so, in September, we launched the Economic Slowdown hub and the WARC Guide to the consumer crunch to help our clients navigate inflation and the threat of recession.
Once again, marketers are having to respond to a period of intense instability so our report provides advice on important topics like how to communicate price increases, and explains how, on a strategic level, pricing can no longer be the ‘forgotten’ P. It also contains advice on investing through a recession. If you don’t have time to read the report, check out our 3 in 15 podcast, summarising some of the key takeaways.
In this context, it’s unsurprising that our most read ‘What we know about’ paper (WARC clients can access over 150 of them!) was ‘What we know about advertising in a recession’.
The Anatomy of Effectiveness
Further analysis of the most-read content on WARC Strategy shows that the Anatomy of Effectiveness: updated edition leads the way. The report looks at five key pillars of advertising effectiveness: invest for growth; balance your spend; plan for reach; be creative; and plan for recognition. At the same time, we launched the Anatomy of Effectiveness hub – home to some 24 Evidence decks, giving clients the opportunity to take a deeper dive into the evidence pertaining to the five pillars.
Elsewhere, our most-read ‘What’s working in’ report was on brand experience, which looks at global strategies, campaign updates and trends in brand experience.
Aside from responding to the big issues of the day, we also delivered a fantastic business-as-usual agenda. A key moment for WARC Strategy was the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, where we hosted the annual Future of Strategy debate. The topic was strategy in the era of fragmentation, with speakers being long-time WARC contributor Oliver Feldwick, head of innovation at The&Partnership, and Ana Andjelic, global c-suite executive. Fragmentation was one of the topics we explored in this year’s Future of Strategy report, launched in September, and authored by WARC’s Anna Hamill.
Yael Cesarkas, VP, Executive Strategy Director at R/GA San Francisco, spoke to an overflowing room about purpose. Specifically, she presented the progressive case against purpose marketing; Dom Boyd, Managing Director, UK Insights, presented new research from Kantar conducted in partnership with Oxford’s Saïd Business School, looking at the DNA of a breakthrough brand.
Other highlights of the year included a strong WARC Guide agenda, building out our regional Spotlight agenda and a collaboration with Professor Karen Nelson-Field, founder of Amplified Intelligence, who has started a bi-monthly column for WARC, Attention Applied. We first worked with Karen when she guest-edited the WARC Guide to planning for attention, and we are delighted to continue that partnership.
And, of course, we also announced the winners of the second global WARC Awards for Effectiveness, in association with LIONS. We also launched our regional Awards – WARC Awards for Asian Strategy, WARC Awards for MENA strategy and the WARC Awards for Effectiveness, North America edition. Stay tuned for lots more on awards in 2023, including the launch of the third global WARC Awards for Effectiveness in January.
Sensemaking and ethics
Another key theme of 2022 was the ‘M’ word – yes, the so-called metaverse, also became a top search term on the platform. We didn’t go all-in on this, instead, we took a cautious approach, commissioning some strategic pieces to help clients see beyond the hype. Highlights include a piece by aforementioned Oliver Feldwick who explained that the metaverse has been developing and growing as a concept for decades, and the vision of the metaverse being shared right now is just that – a vision. We also ensured we brought consumer safety, in particular child safety, to the forefront of the conversation.
In ‘Why child safety must be at the forefront of brands’ metaverse experiments’ Iris’s Francesco Fiori, outlined some of the dangers to children and teens in the metaverse include physiological and psychological harms as well as privacy violations. As such, brands should be asking hard questions of their agencies and ‘proto-metaverse’ platforms, such as: How do we ensure the safety of young users? How do we safeguard their privacy? How do we engage their parents?
I am pleased to say that marketing ethics has long been on the agenda here at WARC, because effective marketing is about more than comms. It’s also about how brands ‘show up’ in the world in relation to critical areas like sustainability, DEI, conscious media investment and data ethics. Research by the World Federation of Advertisers in September found that Data ethics is a priority for nine out of ten CMOs, and we shall continue to cover this topic in 2023 and beyond.
So it’s been another exhilarating, sometimes exhausting yet ultimately fascinating year. A big thank you to our industry partners, and all of our contributors – planners, strategists, researchers, CMOs, and brilliant thinkers – who have shared their expertise with WARC this year.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays!