Thought Leadership

What’s the big idea? Probably the difference between growing and being forgotten for brands in 2023 

At a time when consumer spending seems uncertain, caution probably feels like a sensible path to take, but slow and steady will not win this race. Do something different, command attention or risk getting lost in the sea of same and at worst, forgotten, says Toby Boon, Powered by Nine’s Director of Strategy & Creative Solutions.  

“I want my MTV”, Mohammed Ali as St Sebastian on the cover of Esquire, Bobby Kennedy’s election campaign – when it comes to Big Ideas, there are few people in advertising who can claim to have had more than George Lois. 

In fact the legendary ad man, who passed away late last year, was often known as the “father of the Big Idea” – defining a concept that doesn’t just connect with consumers, but sears the virtues of the product into the viewer’s brain and heart”.  

For most of us working in media, marketing and advertising it was probably the “big ideas” that first attracted us to our trade, and it is the pursuit of them which keeps many of us in the business.

But for every “I still call Australia home” or “Tonight, I’ll be eating …” there are hundreds of hardworking campaigns that manage to drive sales, raise awareness and nudge their brand in the right direction. And surely that’s enough, right? 

Maybe not. In 2021, Havas’ Meaningful Brands study described an “age of cynicism” with respondents stating that 75 per cent of brands could simply disappear overnight and be easily replaced.  

Cost-of-living pressures are another factor driving changes in Australians’ consumer behaviour as they seek to balance a desire to align with brands that reflect their values and the realities of their budget. According to McKinsey, Australian shoppers are increasingly switching brands and open to experimentation with how and where they shop 

So what will it take for brands to survive and thrive in 2023 – to stand out from the pack and build those meaningful, longer-lasting connections with consumers? Put simply, it will take bigger, better ideas. But big ideas don’t always come easy. George Lois told us that “you can be cautious, or you can be creative (but there is no such thing as a cautious creative)”.  

At a time when consumer spending seems uncertain, caution probably feels like a sensible path to take, but slow and steady will not win this race.  

I believe there is a path for brands to cut through and navigate the choppier waters of 2023’s consumer behaviour. And whilst Lois could define the options in two “C”s – creativity and caution – it will take me three (or maybe four) to make my case.  


Toby Boon
Director of Strategy & Creative Solutions
Powered by Nine

Confident partnerships

There is no doubt that media consumption is changing, but as a recent Kantar study has demonstrated, Total TV remains the dominant player when it comes to raising brand awareness and driving overall impact. 

Yet it’s not only reach that TV sponsorships and alignments deliver on. Integration within these environments has been proven to boost the effectiveness of broader campaigns, in particular driving up the impact of TVCs. 

Mass media-led partnerships which brands can be confident in offer a strong foundation for big ideas. Westpac’s new partnership with the NRL makes sense from an audience and reach perspective, but it is the way in which the bank has leveraged its sponsorship to change the vernacular of the game and deliver additional value to fans via the Westpac Red Zone which will create long-lasting cut-through. 

11218 Westpac NRL - Title Page (1) (1)

Courageous creativity

Former Dove and Burger King marketing chief-turned Activision Blizzard CMO, Fernando Machado, told us: “In the world that we live in people have more important things to do than paying attention to your brand. So you may as well do something different, unique, engaging, that will earn people’s attention.” 

Back in 2020, marketers faced similarly uncertain times – albeit in different circumstances – and many in the industry responded by playing it safe. Wistful piano tracks and supportive “we’ve got this” messages blended into each other. No brand in 2023 wants to be “one of the pack”. It’s in moments like this that brave brands will make big moves with real meaning behind them – such as NRMA’s game-changing 'A Fire Inside' campaign. 



A degree of turbulence in the market also provides an opportunity for all of us to take a step back and think about our ways of working. What got us here might not be the thing that moves us forward. Shaking up our processes and exploring new ways of working with partners could make the difference. Bringing media owners into the creative process early on, through workshops and ideation rather than in the final straight, opens up a world of possibilities for brands – allowing advertisers the opportunity to be part of the content journey, and giving publishers a deeper connection with what the brand wants to achieve. (Here’s how.) 

There is little doubt that a bumpy road lies ahead of us in 2023, but for the confident, creative and collaborative brands that embrace the power of big ideas, the ride might just be a lot smoother.  


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