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2023 Media Trends Revisited


September 20, 2023

Click here to sign up to receive out 2024 Media Trends – released early October 2023. 

Each year we look back at our previous trend report to see how our ideas panned out.  The trends report is never intended to be a concrete prediction of the future, it’s more a look at trending themes that are growing in importance. Now we want  to reflect on what we got right, what we did not, and how we can learn from it.

Our 2023 Media Trends were split into three overarching themes – Content, Commerce, and Community.


Ad-based VOD (AVOD) eats subscription VOD (SVOD)

What we said:  Time spent with ad-funded video streaming platforms will overtake time spent with subscription channels, as both Netflix and Disney+ add ad-funded tiers.

What happened:  AVOD, and especially FAST (Free, Ad-Supported TV) has been the TV story of the year, with more viewing and more channels.  Meanwhile subscription channels faltered, with Disney+ and others losing subscribers, while Netflix seems to have been more successful by cracking down on password sharing and encouraging new subscribers to go for the cheaper, ad supported tier.  Disney now appears to be following the same playbook, with its ad supported tier arriving in more markets later this year. 

Right?  Yes

Games everywhere

What we said:  Gaming is increasingly mainstream, and sites and apps are adding games as a way to attract more users, more often.

What happened:  Gaming is still growing and appearing in more places.  Netflix has doubled down on play, with both stand-alone mobile games and a new test feature which allows people to play games on their TVs using their smartphones as controllers.  Gaming also strengthened its hold on the culture, with The Super Mario Bros Movie generating more than $1.3bn at the box office, second only to Barbie. 

Right?  Yes

Attention brings back the essence of advertising

What we said:  Attention is an ad metric that correlates with effect, and more marketers are turning to this to see value for their money and compare different channels.

What happened:  Attention as a metric gained more headlines and is becoming an important indicator for advertisers.  It is not just about measuring attention to show that the advertising is being noticed, it is fast becoming a way of targeting ad campaigns (increasingly useful in a post-cookie world), but also a way to try to mitigate the carbon impact of ad campaigns.  Dentsu’s own research shows that if planned for attention, campaigns can buy fewer but better ad impressions, and, by buying fewer individual spots, are likely to generate far less carbon by making sure that as many spots are seen as possible.

Right?  Yes


From Going Shopping to Always Shopping

What we said:  Commerce is available on more and more digital channels, making shopping more of an always on state of mind, rather than a conscious activity.

What happened:  2023 has been a big year for online commerce.  While there has been some post-pandemic correction, for example, in the drop in valuations of rapid delivery companies, overall online shopping became much easier in many contexts.  Platforms like Pinterest added new shoppable ad formats, and TV continued to test new ways to let viewers buy through the largest screen in the home, especially around big events like the Super Bowl.  Finally, TikTok Shop finally launched in the US, putting shoppable videos into all its members’ For You feeds. 

Right?  Yes 

Retail media shakes up adland

What we said:  Retail Media - ads on retailer sites - offer advertisers a signed-in audience close to the point of purchase, and is generating billions for sites.

What happened:  Retail Media has continued to grow as a category, with Amazon generating over $40bn in ad revenue in the 4 quarters up to July 2023.  Amazon is also starting to put its ads onto other platforms, including BuzzFeed and Pinterest.  Other winners in the category include Uber, which has a revenue target of $1bn for 2024. The success of retail media also revealed the importance of sites having signed-in users and may have helped promote the trend to other platforms like X (aka Twitter) to encourage its users to be verified.

Right?  Yes

The Rise of the Super Apps

What we said:  In a surge of diversification, apps we may think of as single use are adding extra features and trying to become more essential to their users, like many of the larger apps in Asia, including WeChat and Grab.

What happened:  Even though Elon Musk regularly talks about transforming X into the everything app, this trend did not significantly grow over the course of 2023, and, in fact, may have receded.  Apps are still adding features - all seem to look much alike with lots having scrolling vertical video, self-deleting Stories, messaging and more - but while there have been moves to add payment and commerce to apps like WhatsApp in some markets, we have yet to see super apps in the West.  In fact, two Asian super apps, Grab and GoTo, have started to shed jobs and cut back their business units.

Right?  Not yet – legislation makes it hard for this to be a global trend.

No way back for third-party cookies

What we said:  Marketers and agencies are now much more optimistic about marketing without third-party cookies, thanks to better understanding of data and new technology.

What happened:  Ads are getting more effective again, partly because of finding alternatives for cookies.  The greater use of AI by the ad platforms, for example Meta Advantage+, is helping to optimize performance ads on its apps.  At the same time, Alphabet is pushing ahead with the testing and introduction of its Privacy Sandbox interest-based targeting into Android devices and will be removing third-party cookies from its Chrome browser next year, starting at 1% in the first quarter, ramping up to all users by the end of 2024.  We are also seeing more and more data partnerships around technologies like clean rooms. 

Right?  Yes


Going Live goes a long way

What we said:  Streaming channels, online communities, and this year’s hottest social media app are all learning the value of doing something live.

What happened:  More and more things seem to be live, either on video or in person.  Most streaming channels now release series on a week-by-week basis, for example Succession on HBO, and Hijack on Apple TV+, and this helps them to generate buzz over a longer period.  Netflix held its first live event, a comedy special from Chris Rock, with a live sports event to take place later this year.  While it is rare to find brands offering virtual events, live meetups are still happening, with the All-In podcast the latest to offer a convention-style experience to its fans.  However, BeReal, the app that we also called out as part of this trend, seems to have lost its moment.

Right?  Half right

Responsibility Takes Centre Stage

What we said:  Brands are building communities around their efforts to make the world a better place, aided by new platforms like WeAre8.

What happened:  Despite some pushback around DEI initiatives, responsibility matters more in marketers’ minds than before.  Dentsu’s CMO survey in September 2023 found that 78% of respondents believe there is no longer a disconnect between what is good for society and what is good for business. 

Right?  Yes

Social algorithms give users what they don’t know they want

What we said:  Social media is changing rapidly, focusing more on great content than who follows whom. Could search be next to be forced to change?

What happened:  Almost all platforms now use an algorithmic feed as default, with Twitter re-naming its For You early in the year.  The rise of AI is giving the platforms even more incentive to use personalized feeds and find ways to make the experience even more addictive.  Search is also more prominent in the social media experience, with a TikTok ad specifically showing people using the app as a search engine, and both Instagram and TikTok adding search ad formats to their apps during the year. 

Right?  Yes 

Final Score – 8.5/10

Coming in early October 2023, dentsu’s new trends report: The Pace of Progress -  2024 Media Trends. Click here to sign up for your copy.