Today DENTSU CREATIVE launched its 2023 Trends Report ‘A Tale Of New Cities’, exploring an age of volatility and hope. 

2022 showed us that progress is not as inevitable, and top down authority not as dependable, as we’ve been led to believe. Instead volatility, conflict, recession, climate change and inflation have become our global reality. In response, new patterns of influence are emerging as people look to new sources of leadership and inspiration.  

“A Tale Of New Cities” explores the modern dualities of progress and regression, optimism and anxiety, a shifting balance of old and new, technology and humanity, innovation and tradition.

DENTSU CREATIVE identifies 12 trends that will drive and disrupt the industry in 2023. Packaged in six pairs, with both the challenge and opportunity for society examined for each, DENTSU CREATIVE unpacks what the best of times and the worst of times will mean for brands. Developed by strategists and futurists across the DENTSU CREATIVE network, the report offers a rich diversity of perspective.

Pats McDonald, Chief Strategy Officer, DENTSU CREATIVE says “At the close of 2022, it was hard to escape the feeling that eras and empires were ending-or beginning. Around the world we saw immense volatility, as the cost of living spiralled, conservative policies challenged progressive social agendas and energy instability became all too real.  As 2023 begins, we see both alarming steps backward as a society- with talk of power cuts, rationing and hyper-inflation- and green shoots of hope. Perhaps most exciting is the sense that individuals and communities are writing their own narratives, rejecting a sense of top down, homogenous cultural influence.  Our predictions for 2023 acknowledge the tensions, volatility and struggles facing society today and, on the flip side, the opportunities, tools and platforms that exist to enable communities to build the worlds they want to see”.

Fred Levron, Global Chief Creative Officer, dentsu, says
“The new year is riddled with uncertainties. War, inflation, crisis upon crisis. As a society there are huge challenges coming our way.  But there are also many certainties. Creativity wins. Emotion wins. Innovation and collaboration wins. Challenging times are no time for business as usual.  Our Dentsu Creative trends report explores the challenges coming our way but also the opportunities for brands with the courage and imagination to embrace a new modern creative toolkit and create culture, imagine a better future and make it possible”.



Top down sources of authority and inspiration are less relevant in a world where younger generations can see all too clearly the havoc their elders have created. A generation are looking at the systems and stories they have inherited and daring to imagine something different. 


As Western economies struggle, young consumers seek new sources of inspiration – craving genuine culture shock after “lost” pandemic years. The rise of Korean culture continues, while Asia Pacific embraces the full richness and diversity of the region for inspiration versus looking further afield, a trend we call “East meets East.”


Rising anxiety levels fuelled by a bleak economic outlook are powering a mental health crisis. In China, we see the gamification of mental health and self analysis. Meanwhile Europe is facing a “mental health recession”* as post pandemic anxiety meets a cost-of-living crisis.


Set against a darker macro-economic crisis we see the desire for small moments of joy and play. “Pickleball”, a playful and silly racket game is one of the fastest growing sports in the world while small luxuries such as flowers have become everyday acts of self care.


Consumers are questioning their relationship with technology after years of accelerated growth during the pandemic.  Concerns over privacy, cyber bullying and misinformation have eroded consumer confidence while a challenging economic outlook slowed adoption of NFTs and cryptocurrency. Screen fatigue has set in, while growth in eCommerce sales slipped backwards post pandemic.  


In parallel, independent voices are campaigning for greater inclusion, representation and accountability within the metaverse and the wider online space. Consumers are campaigning for much greater diversity of representation, while engaging in social media through smaller, niche networks. The balance between privacy and anonymity is being debated with more nuance than in previous years.


Building on 2021’s Great Resignation, 2022 gave rise to the “Quiet quitting” phenomenon; a response to hustle culture where employees simply decided enough was enough. Performative play -think competitive sourdough baking-is being replaced with “low stakes” hobbies and a desire to just be, and be together, rather than relentless self-improve.


While opting out of the hustle, we are opting in to nature. Chinese consumers have embraced camping in their millions while parents have embraced a post pandemic desire to give their children the freedom of the great outdoors. Meanwhile new city models are emerging based on clean air and quality of life.


Consumers are drifting away from polished images towards more authentic personas that embrace their inner geek and confound the algorithm. “Goblincore”, “dark academia” and “ugly chic” and the rise of platforms such as Be Real show that surrealism and silliness win versus polished perfection.


Dall E, Stable Diffusion and others are creating new models for how we think about creativity, work and identity.  V Tubers use avatars to maintain privacy but engage their fandoms in authentic dialogue. Some consumers are, ironically, finding it easier to engage with two dimensional idols and personas.


A perfect storm is creating a challenging environment for growth. The rising cost of living meets the rising cost of goods together with ongoing supply chain problems to act as a handbrake on economic growth.  Major economies are predicted to narrowly avoid, or experience, recession.


As a result, businesses are realising that growth and good can no longer be pursued in parallel and that a fundamental reset is required to align commercial success with new business models that rely less on a relentless cycle of consumption.
What these tensions reflect is a shifting balance: the very new and the very old, the embrace of technology to propel us forward and the desire to step back and disconnect. The sense that progress and regression, optimism and anxiety are more finely balanced than ever.  The best of times and  the worst of times. Whether our personal outlook is glass half full or glass half empty, it is clear that for 2023 a tale of new cities, new cultures and communities is there to be written.

Source: Dentsu Creative

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