Campaign Creative Fix
December 06, 2023

Hey everyone, this is Sabrina Sanchez, creative editor at Campaign US, comparing notes with the Campaign US team on our Apple Replay and Spotify Wrapped reports. More on that in a bit. But first…

New in Campaign US this week: 


Editor's pick

Spotify Wrapped 2023 celebrates real moments with real music
Unlimited Spotify Wrapped 2023 celebrates real moments with real music

Sabrina Sanchez

Spotify’s annual year-end recap campaign expands on personalized listening habits and drops easter eggs around the world.


Just briefly: If you took a scroll on social media this morning, you won’t be surprised to hear that Spotify Wrapped is back, with this year’s theme as The Real, The Real and The Realest.

Behind the scenes: The campaign, now in its ninth year, once again recaps Spotify users’ most-played songs, artists and podcasts between January and November 2023. But this year, it comes with new bells and whistles that highlight personalized streaming habits — even the embarrassing ones. 

New features include Me in 2023, which characterizes users’ listening habits with characteristics that best describe them. For instance, Alchemists are those who make a lot of playlists, while Vampires are those who listen to dark and moody music. 

Other fun features include Sound Town, which matches listeners to a city based on their streaming habits and artist affinity, messages from artists based on their top lists, and tie-ins with Spotify’s AI-powered DJ and Blend features to provide personalized listening experiences. 

The message: The campaign successfully freshens up the concept that music connects us all, and that our listening habits do reveal a lot about who we are. It also cleverly ties in new Spotify features and generative AI to optimize personalization, making Spotify that much more of an attractive product. After nine years, Wrapped is still on point! 


Hot topic

VML’s chiefs on new super-agency, redefining creativity and making cost savings
Insights VML’s chiefs on new super-agency, redefining creativity and making cost savings

Robert Sawatzky & Gideon Spanier

Jon Cook and Mel Edwards say criticism over the loss of legacy agency brand names like J Walter Thompson and Young & Rubicam disrespects the work put into evolving them.


When WPP announced that VMLY&R would merge with Wunderman Thompson in October, the news shook the ad industry to its core. Concerns emerged that a 30,000 person agency would have trouble clarifying not just its operations, but its offerings. Leadership received criticism that uniting the two firms under the umbrella brand of VML also does a disservice to the legacies created by the four agencies involved: VML, J. Walter Thompson, Wunderman and Young & Rubicam. 

Unsurprisingly, VML leadership argues the new agency is stronger together. According to VML global CEO Jon Cook, it will be easier for clients looking for a joined-up approach from their agency partner to navigate. Seventeen of the combined agency’s top 20 clients, including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Dell and Microsoft, already worked with both VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson. 

He also argues that the two agencies have geographic compatibility, as VML is stronger in the U.S., its home market, whereas Wunderman Thompson is more established in Europe and Asia-Pacific. 

Regardless of how the merger goes, change is certain. With a goal to complete the merger in January, Cook now grapples with the task of making leadership appointments, restructuring teams — and finding millions of dollars in cost savings while simplifying operations. Executive leadership will need to determine where to place strong leaders from both agencies. 

As for those cost savings, Cook noted no job cuts are planned in his initial comments to analysts when news of the merger broke. This week, he told Campaign that headcount should remain “similar” to the current combined agency size of 30,000 people globally, though there will be areas where it will make sense to create efficiencies. Cook and global president Mel Edwards are also planning for significant consolidation of office space. Currently, there are no plans to exit any of the 64 markets the agencies operate in.

The merger comes at a challenging time for creative networks, as the business faces structural pressures that have compounded since the pandemic. In the last several years, clients have moved away from retainers and toward more project work while bringing more creative work in-house. Meanwhile, the rise of generative AI poses a new threat to the status quo.

VML’s new strategy raises the question: what defines a creative agency today? Does the concept need to be broadened or changed in 2024?

And will consolidation help or harm the industry in the long term? Let us know what you think. Email us and we may include your response in the next newsletter. 


Holiday ad of the week

Holiday Ad of the Week: Microsoft recreates holiday traditions with AI image generator
Unlimited Holiday Ad of the Week: Microsoft recreates holiday traditions with AI image generator

Brandon Doerrer

A series of spots depict holiday traditions from around the world using Image Creator by Microsoft Designer.


This week’s holiday ad was chosen by Campaign US reporter, Brandon Doerrer. 

Just briefly: As the holiday season rolls around once again, Microsoft Designer has developed an AI Image Creator to visualize traditions from all over the world. 

Behind the scenes: In a hero spot that highlights several holiday traditions, artist Ellie Pritts sits down with people from different countries and backgrounds to hear about how they celebrate. Some folks share tales of preparing dumplings and fish, while others speak of making origami and wearing clothes belonging to loved ones who have passed away.

Pritts then uses Microsoft’s AI Image Creator to generate an image of each interviewee celebrating the holidays with their unique cultural customs. The images depicted in the ad are colorful and pretty, and each incorporates an element of what makes that act special to the people who practice it. 

Campaign US attempted to make its own artwork with Microsoft’s Image Creator and bring recent industry news to life with a holiday twist. However, we had less luck producing beautiful art.

(AI-generated photo)

The message: The experiment revealed that, while a great concept in theory, in practice, properly prompting Microsoft’s Image Creator to produce something stunning is harder than its holiday ad suggests. Still, the campaign creates the desire to mess around with the tool. Plus, the spot manages to teach viewers a little something about how different cultures celebrate the holidays.


What we're reading

  • Las Vegas spurs excessive celebration at Super Bowl with new campaign (Marketing Dive)
  • MullenLowe names new U.S. CEO (Ad Age
  • Advertising is dead. Long live advertising. (WSJ)


Campaigns we love

  • Cards Against Humanity is bringing comedic relief to the source of a growing problem: social media. While Threads, Bluesky and others battle to become the “next Twitter,” Cards Against Humanity launched YOWZA, a social media platform it claims is “100% guaranteed to be free of misinformation, hate speech or bad vibes of any kind.” But that’s only because users can only post one word: “Yowza.” At a time when social platforms are suffering identity crises across the board, Yowza keeps things simple. Check out the site here.


Campaign’s latest in Creativity

M&C Saatchi launches creator marketing agency M&C Saatchi Fabric
Unlimited M&C Saatchi launches creator marketing agency M&C Saatchi Fabric

Brandon Doerrer

M&C Saatchi Fabric is spun off from the agency’s influencer practice that sat within Sport & Entertainment.

DDB Worldwide hires Chaka Sobhani as international CCO
DDB Worldwide hires Chaka Sobhani as international CCO

Gurjit Degun

She will continue to be based in London.

Pinterest and Aldi collaborate on secret Christmas inspiration board
Unlimited Pinterest and Aldi collaborate on secret Christmas inspiration board

Beau Jackson

The partnership takes advantage of a rise in searches for Christmas inspiration ideas.

The Amish burn Solo Stove over Snoop Dogg stunt
Unlimited The Amish burn Solo Stove over Snoop Dogg stunt

Diana Bradley

Amish-made smokeless fire-pit company Breeo wants people to know its product is the O.G.

Five ways to make brand execution more sustainable
Five ways to make brand execution more sustainable

Tom Hunter, Adm Group

Marketers must genuinely communicate their brand’s commitments and progress to avoid falling behind competitors.

How generative AI is empowering marketers
How generative AI is empowering marketers

Melissa Fleming

Reshaping the future of the industry and boosting human potential.

Mitigating bias in AI
Mitigating bias in AI

The Brandtech Group

Strategies for using automation equitably.


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