The 'Hamlet recession’ and other things worrying industry leaders about 2023

Yet executives have plenty of optimism going into the new year. They tell PRWeek what they’re executing.

(Photo credit: Getty Images).

With the year drawing to a close, agency and client leaders are looking ahead to 2023. They share what they are optimistic about — a lot, it turns out — what has them worried ("uncertainty" was a popular answer) and the X factors that could enhance or disrupt corporate America.

Teneshia Jackson Warner
CEO, Egami Group

What are you optimistic about heading into 2023?

Our team comprises 80% people of color, 82% women and our executive leadership team is 100% diverse – a mix of people of color with varying ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences. As our team grows, we remain excited to provide people of color opportunities within our industry and continue cultivating cultures of belonging.

What worries you?

Ensuring that we are staying abreast of potential economic downturns and ensuring our firm and clients are prepared for what lies ahead. Although this is a concern, I must admit that the year 2020 taught us all that we are much stronger and more resilient than we know.

What unknowns could disrupt or enhance business?

The redefining of "general market" has the potential to disrupt or enhance our industry. The "general market" is the "multicultural market" in America. Companies and agencies that are adopting new habits to unlock multicultural at scale are poised for growth. For those that are not shifting and adopting new ways of thinking, this can potentially become a business disruptor.

A year from now, what will we be reflecting on?

Post the murder of George Floyd, companies and industries experienced a global awakening. As a result, [diversity, equity and inclusion] efforts were placed front and center. American companies pledged $50 billion toward racial equity initiatives, and as of 2021, only $250 million was actually spent and committed. By the end of 2023, we will be around 3.5 years away from those initial pledges. I hope that the results and actions we see at the end of 2023 are actions that our industry can be proud of.

Michael Gonda
SVP and CCO, McDonald's

What are you optimistic about heading into 2023?

Many disciplines ultimately drive reputation and admiration. Structures, budgets, and the daily hum of keeping a business running can sometimes shroud the singular outcome that an organization, a team or a group of people are working on. Within our company, we saw this as a risk, and identifying that spurred the creation of the Impact department. I think we have tremendous opportunity and value to add to the business as we continue to remove the natural friction that exists when you approach work through functional lenses or initiative-specific outputs, versus enterprise outcomes. And I think we have a lot of momentum underneath us to make 2023 a definitive year in this pursuit.

What worries you?

Everything is harder when there's a forced binary, particularly in a world where there is more nuance and shades of grey than there are absolutes. In our field, we have to avoid the false and forced choice that the whole world can be traced on a Y-axis, and continue to focus on meaningful solutions that solve problems for our stakeholders and animate the values of our company.

What unknowns could disrupt business?

When duplicitous agendas collide with the zeitgeist, it's a noxious blend.

Jonathan Adashek
CCO and SVP, marketing and comms, IBM

What are you optimistic about heading into 2023?

At this point, it is a cliche in our industry to say comms and marketing has a seat at the table. We've secured our spot within the business, now is our opportunity to do something with it. In 2023, we will be market developers, not just marketers or communicators.

What worries you?

Today's challenges — cybersecurity threats, data breaches, supply chain issues, talent shortages, to name a few — are not going away. "Worrying" about these issues is part of our job in service to our clients; we co-create with them using IBM technology and expertise to ensure those worries don't turn into realities. I don't see it as a bad thing to anticipate threats to your business as long as that feeling of worry prompts leaders to seek out the right resources, skills, talent and technology to futureproof their business.

A year from now, what will we be reflecting on?

IBM has been around for 111 years. Rather than look at the next year, I am excited for what's to come in the next decade. Huge technological advancements — for example, quantum — will spark the competitiveness, innovation, acceleration that moves us forward as a society. But one organization alone cannot solve the challenges of today. In 2023, we will continue to enable an open ecosystem where we come together with organizations and governments across the spectrum to build the foundation for the next 111 years.

Julianna Richter
Global CEO, PR, Ogilvy

What are you optimistic about heading into 2023?

One of the things I love most about what we do is the impact we can create with and for clients through creative communications rooted in culture and community. With a growing portfolio of iconic brands that we get to work with, and clients that are looking to push boundaries in innovative ways, the opportunities are endless.

What worries you?

Economic headwinds and geopolitical uncertainty. While we don't know the full scope of what is to come, we can get ahead by anticipating the greatest hurdles and addressing them proactively. And when major ad and media budgets are cut, we have an opening to deliver earned and social-first creative solutions and to create new, more agile ways of working.

What unknowns could disrupt or enhance business?

After what we've all been through over the past two years, I think it's safe to say the list of unknowns is...unknowable. But the brands that will come out on top are the ones that prioritize fostering meaningful connection and creating memorable experiences with consumers.

A year from now, what will we be reflecting on?

We'll look back and see how creative, resilient and opportunistic we were across our industry. And hopefully, how we turned external challenges into unanticipated opportunities. It will be a roller coaster, so buckle up for an exhilarating 12 months.

James Wright
Global CEO, Red Havas

What are you most optimistic about heading into 2023?

If we can get through the past few years, we can get through anything. We have been through economic challenges before, we also know we can very much do business successfully in a pandemic. There are always choppy waters to navigate but believing in our talent and continuing to showcase our critical value to clients will hold us in good stead.

What worries you?

Economic turmoil and decline in global growth creates financial uncertainty; in turn fluctuating budgets and scopes, longer new business lead times and staffing challenges. I hope we don't see too many knee-jerk reactions. We need to be measured in how we respond to market conditions.

What unknowns could disrupt or enhance business?

We will no doubt go through more cycles of Covid and flu seasons, so we need to be ready to pivot. I guess that's more of a known unknown now.

A year from now, what will we be reflecting on?

Another brilliant showcase of the resilience of our craft and the critical role we play in helping businesses communicate, transform and lead.

Aaron Radelet
SVP and global CCO, Walgreens Boots Alliance

What are you most optimistic about heading into 2023?

I am optimistic that we will take many of the lessons with us from these very challenging last few years. First and foremost, the physical and mental health of ourselves, our loved ones and our colleagues should remain a top priority. Everything in life is about balance, including personal and professional time, in-office and at-home presence, and professionalism and authenticity.

What worries you?

As always, uncertainty is my greatest worry. I've been calling these unpredictable economic times "the Hamlet recession" – is it to be or not to be? Additionally, our business like many others faces several more headwinds that we must navigate, in both our operations and communications. Some watchouts are how much more severe COVID-19 could still become, as well as other illnesses such as RSV. Inflation, retail shrink, supply chain disruptions and geopolitics, including the war in Ukraine, are also challenges. Lastly, the labor market continues to be tight, and I want to be sure we're attracting the best and brightest to my team and to our company overall.

What unknowns could disrupt or enhance business?

A major indicator in any retail business is consumer confidence and spending, so we're keeping a close eye on that.

A year from now, what will we be reflecting on?

The Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that trust in many institutions is dwindling, and businesses are expected to take a lead. In 2023 and beyond, we can drive strong results for our stakeholders while also achieving a deeply meaningful effect on some of the most important issues of our day, including mental and physical health, disparities in our healthcare system, environmental sustainability and DEI.

Kim Hunter
CEO, Lagrant Communications

What are you most optimistic about heading into 2023?

Greater focus on multicultural integrated marketing communications.

What worries you?

Uncertainty. The economy, inflation, downsizing, restructuring, COVID, consolidation in agencies, lack of focus on hiring, developing and retaining racially diverse talent. And that DEI will take a further back seat among senior leaders.

A year from now, what will be reflecting on?

Stabilization.


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