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63% of marketers agree to change the way they communicate with young men: Warc

As per WARC, 63% of marketers agree that they need to shift their marketing strategies to reflect emerging models of masculinity that offer positive and helpful messages to young men. While there will be mounting pressure to eliminate stereotypical male depictions in advertising, there will also be those who will attack the brand for being too “woke” if they do so

Socio-political polarisation, the potential of generative AI, masculinity in crisis, "sportswashing", and community-based sustainability are five key trends that have reached an inflection point and will shape global marketing strategies in 2024, as revealed in Warc’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2024 released today.

The trend identification for the report is based on WARC’s new proprietary GEISTE methodology (Government, Economy, Industry, Society, Technology, Environment). It further incorporates a global survey of 1,400+ marketing executives, one-to-one interviews with CMOs, industry commentary, analysis, data and insights from WARC’s global team of experts.

Aditya Kishore, Insight Director, Warc, said, “Marketers globally continue to be concerned about the economic picture with 64% of survey respondents seeing it as the biggest factor in 2024 planning. But a majority (61%) of firms expect improved business performance next year, up 10% from last year. Warc forecasts global ad spend to grow 8.2% in 2024, topping $1 trillion for the first time.

The top five trends outlined in Warc’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2024 are:

Unlocking the potential of Gen AI: Nearly three-quarters (70%) of marketers plan to unlock the potential of AI in their marketing

Generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) has crossed the threshold from promise to practical deployment, overhauling media strategies and audience targeting. 2024 will see brands look to capitalise on the emergence of accessible Gen AI tools to experiment with creative development.

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents to the Marketer’s Toolkit survey plan to unlock the potential of AI in their marketing, 12% of which will look to adopt the technology wherever they can and over half (58%) describe themselves as “cautiously progressive”, actively testing and evaluating Gen AI in marketing.

However, such opportunities come with potential risks including brand safety, copyright, sustainability and agency remuneration.

Jonathan Halvorson, Global SVP, Consumer Experience and Digital Commerce, Mondelēz, commented, “The question is, how do you build [AI] into a scaled organisational competency? That is the obsession of every single day, every single week for the next 18 months. Because it’s a race you have to win.”

Preparing for the age of polarisation: 13% of marketers said the best strategy is to “drop all ‘purpose’ driven strategies and political positions

Political ideologies have become increasingly entrenched in marketing. However, with high-profile brands caught in the polarisation crossfire, there are signs of increased timidity regarding social causes.

While 76% of Marketer’s Toolkit respondents advise standing ground in the face of controversy, 13% pursue the path of least risk saying that the best strategy is to “drop all ‘purpose’ driven strategies and political positions.”

When addressing polarising issues, brands should examine their audience through cultural and demographic lenses, and scenario-plan against any potential fallout.

Speaking at the recent ANA Masters of Marketing conference, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble, said, “We serve diverse consumers. That requires precision to serve in ways that are relevant and better for each person, so we can unlock the potential. Inclusion to serve all people and each person matters for market growth.”

Masculinity in crisis: Almost two out of three marketers (63%) agree that the way they communicate with young men needs to change

Around the world, young men are increasingly being marginalised both socially and economically and struggling with their mental health. In their search for a contemporary identity, some are being drawn to toxic role models online.

Almost two out of three marketers (63%) agree that they need to shift their advertising and influencer selection strategies to reflect emerging models of masculinity that offer positive and helpful messages to young men.

While there will be mounting pressure to eliminate stereotypical male depictions in advertising, there will also be those who will attack the brand for being too “woke” if they do so.

During Advertising Week last month, Stephanie Jacoby, SVP/Brand marketing, Diageo, said, “As an alcohol advertiser, we’ve certainly contributed to this culture, (...but) we are starting to make the change that we need to see. It’s really time now that we open the aperture (...) which broadens how men are depicted beyond, and so replaces a single, undifferentiated idea of masculinity with a multi-faceted view of what this term can encompass.”

“Sportswashing” is a growing concern: 61% of marketers concur that it is “very important” for sports organisers and owners to avoid being politically divisive

In a fragmented media landscape, sports remain a natural passion point for brands to leverage. It delivers mass real-time audiences, yielding a growing competition for media rights, fresh content and sponsorship opportunities.

Critics allege this is resulting in the rise of “sportswashing” whereby entities accused of a poor human rights track record invest in sports to bolster their reputation. 61% of Marketer’s Toolkit respondents concur that it is “very important” for sports organisers and owners to avoid being politically divisive.

Opportunities for marketers include developing new content formats, engaging with growing sports and different communities, and data-driven insights to track performance and fan attitudes.

James Williams, Investor/Advisor, Nobody Studios, said, “There’s a danger with the term “sportswashing” because it becomes one of those words that's now thrown around all over the place for when people don't like something, especially in the world of sport.

Sustainability should be locally relevant: Nearly two-fifths (38%) of marketers are investing in local communities

While sustainability marketing will become more interconnected to other functions, marketers and agency leaders must double down on changing what they solely control. Investing in local communities was cited by nearly two-fifths of survey respondents (38%), followed by advertising production (26%) and media decarbonisation (21%).

Marketers should pivot to smaller, local and community-based sustainability initiatives to power their green agenda and help their brands build credible consumer trust.

Janet Neo, Chief Sustainability Officer, North Asia and China, L’Oréal, commented: “We adopt a personalized approach at L’Oréal, emphasizing a ‘Glocalisation Strategy.’ While the strategy’s framework is global, we consider local specificities when implementing it. We engage with local communities because we believe in respecting local culture and insights. [...] We believe that the local cultural context can help us define the priorities of the key areas we should focus on.”

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