• Creativity at a Crossroads” is the topic of discussion in Dentsu Creative‘s 2023 Global CMO Report.
  • The report conducted a survey taking 700 CMOs and senior marketing professionals and reached the conclusion that the industry is driven by creativity and tech.
  • The CMO report also identified 8 key themes that allow CMOs to benchmark their areas of focus against their peers.

Dentsu Creative released its 2023 Global CMO ReportCreativity at a Crossroads’ recently. The report deep dives into the minds of marketers today. It further reveals that today’s marketing decision-makers are optimistic in the face of change and challenges. This report has identified eight key themes using data from a survey of 700 CMOs and senior marketers in the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Italy, and Spain, which show that despite being an industry at a crossroads, it is one empowered by creativity and technology. Since the introduction of AI, it was considered to be the ‘Frenemy at the Gate’, but now it is a force that is transforming every domain in the world.

Julie Scelzo, Global Clients Chief Creative Officer, says “This report shows that CMOs remain both optimistic about the future and committed to the transformative power of creativity, with 85% believing that creativity is a catalyst for economic growth, rising to 94% in the US.” Amidst the modern world volatilities such as climate change, inflation, and geopolitical instability, CMOs are focusing on the things that they can control. Their number one priority for 2023, and looking ahead to 2030, is owning and connecting with their audience in a world where third parties often seem to hold the cards.

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What Does The Audience Want?

The answer to this question is an ever-evolving one. That is because the audiences are changing: they have new expectations, new behaviors, and new values shaped by a deeply connected world. Their expectations have soared while their attention has polarised. Patricia McDonald, Dentsu Creative’s Chief Strategy Officer and lead author on the report observes, “To own the audience, we need to connect in the spaces and places that matter most to them. So, brands must be built in new ways through experiences, through culture, and through action. The choice is simple: engage or be ignored.”  

The report underscores the crucial juncture where creativity, technology, and strategic insights blend – resulting in an exciting future in the world of marketing. Amit Wadhwa, CEO, Dentsu Creative India adds, “Today’s landscape demands that brands navigate a complex web of audience attention, technology advancements, and societal shifts. Now, in a world where AI threatens to steal the spotlight from human creativity, it is reassuring to see that a massive 73% of India’s marketers firmly believe that Generative AI will never outshine the boundless brilliance of the human imagination.

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The Eight Key Themes

Written in collaboration with leaders across the Dentsu Creative global network, the report’s eight themes allow CMOs to benchmark their areas of focus against their peers. Let us take you through them:

Winning The Audience

For 30% of respondents ‘owning the customer relationship’ has been their focus for 2023. Engaging with changing audiences, responding to changing consumer behavior, representing more diversity, and keeping up with new technology was the focal point for 28% of CMOs respectively. Apart from this, understanding Gen Z audiences is still a challenge for nearly a quarter of respondents.

Augmented Humanity 

Today’s CMOs demand experiences that connect technology and humanity, 87% agree that brands today are built through experiences, and 88% feel that it is essential for the customer experience to match up to the brand promise. To achieve this, they are embracing new interfaces from voice to gesture, AR to AI, blurring the boundaries between online and offline, content and commerce, and enabling ideas that are unique, intriguing, and disarmingly human.

Cultural Capital

CMOs agree entertainment will be a key component of brand building and are looking to invest in platforms ranging from podcasts to programming to engage audiences Most CMOs agree with the statement, “In a world where advertising is easier to ignore, technologies such as live streaming are blurring the boundaries between content and commerce as never before.” If today’s advertising isn’t entertaining enough in a crowded sea of bold and bullish promotional messaging, it won’t work.

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Purpose Gets Real

It is felt that “Purpose” must evolve from being a side project to an integral element of business strategy since what is good for society, is good for business. 78% of marketers believe that in a world where economic volatility is accelerated by climate volatility, renewed innovation and infrastructure are badly needed. Only through the power of emotion can we create this lasting behavioural change.  

Funding Fears 

With the industry’s responsibility to balance purpose and profit, CMOs are concerned over the polarised, sometimes toxic, media landscape that the brands could be funding with their investments. 62% of CMOs worry about the potential adverse consequences of their campaigns and investments on the environment and society, while 64% expressed concerns that their media spending may inadvertently contribute to political polarisation, raising questions about advertising’s role in shaping public discourse. In defiance, marketers remain convinced that advertising can be a force for good and 81% agree that brands can use their budgets to amplify independent and diverse voices.

AI: The Future

AI is cause for cautious excitement and 87% agree that it represents the future of advertising and marketing. CMOs welcome the efficiencies AI brings and are keen to experiment, but AI-generated content might not truly move their customers. Despite over half the respondents questioning if ‘Generative AI’ could take their jobs in the future, 75% believe that it will never fully replace the essence of human creativity.  

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CMOs now seek flexibility and diversity in their collaborators. 86% want agencies to provide the right talent at the right time, regardless of location. 83% believe consolidating efforts under one agency holding company is crucial in a data-driven world. However, 85% value diverse perspectives from multiple agencies, appreciating local partners’ agility. In this fast-paced world, CMOs desire the convenience of one agency with the capabilities of many. Success lies in connecting talent effectively and offering unique perspectives for innovative outcomes.

Thriving In Today’s World 

CMOs remain committed to the transformative power of creativity and 85% view it as a catalyst for economic growth. Unlocking the creativity needed to thrive in today’s connected world sits firmly at the intersection of brand, experience, and culture. This results in the emergence of sweet spots for brands and businesses to connect with modern customers in the places that matter most.  

AI has, without a doubt, transcended beyond everyone’s expectations. You won’t even realise but a majority of your daily tasks would be AI-assisted now. While it can never fully replace human ability, at least in terms of creativity, it can definitely aid us, We should look at AI, not as an enemy but as an ally!