Year in Review 2023: Isobel Kerr-Newell

Each year, StopPress asks a group of talented professionals in the local industry for their reflections on the year that was. This year, we speak to individuals who made their mark on 2023 and brought us truly impactful work.

Isobel Kerr-Newell is CEO of VideoTaxi and Artemis Communications and has extensive experience in the communications industry in New Zealand and overseas. She shared her thoughts on 2023, and what she hopes to see in 2024.

If 2023 were a brand, what would its slogan be?

But wait, there’s more!

How would you sum up your professional year in three words?

Rain. Lightning. Sunshine. 

A personal achievement I’m most proud of in 2023 is…

Stepping into the spotlight to share my experience of being a mother in leadership in the NZ Herald. I’m an introvert at my core and have spent a career helping to craft and promote the opinions of others, so this was a big, uncomfortable step for me. Once I’d ripped the Band-Aid off though, I was so inspired and empowered by the people who connected with me off the back of it. More to come this year! On the family front, it was also seeing my daughter start school. After five years as a working mum through Covid, it was a major milestone for us both. 

What was the best innovation/launch/invention of 2023?

From creating images, video, websites, apps and Kendall Jenner clones, the rise of generative AI has changed how we work, live, and forever altered our perspective on what is real and fake. While AI is no longer a new thing, 2023 really felt like it was the year it went mainstream. It was also the year it delivered us Kanye West singing a Taylor Swift song (like that would happen in the real world!). Beautiful, brilliant, albeit slightly terrifying. Definitely to be handled with care and much still to be worked out, but seemingly limitless in its potential. 

From a media perspective, what were the biggest lessons brands learnt this year?
The power of authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability.

Authenticity is more important than ever. We have all seen too much and been through too much over the last few years for the same content or the same stories to hit as they previously did. Bullshit detectors are at an all-time high and consumers aren’t afraid to call a brand out. Deeds not just words.  

It’s important to remember, that when authentically walking the talk, you don’t necessarily have to have it all figured out, but transparency and being honest about where you are on the journey with your stakeholders can ultimately be much more powerful.

I think this connects into a broader desire from audiences internal and external to see more vulnerability. Whether that be from an organisation publishing their gender pay-gap, sharing where they’re at on their sustainability goals, or a leader talking about their own mental health struggles. The veneer of infallibility is no longer appealing in the way it once was. I think it’s something for us all to bear in mind in our communications – that being vulnerable, being human is not only ok, but also increasingly expected and it can be a powerful force when harnessed.

I will remember 2023 as the year…

The world went crazy yet again and we all got acquainted with the term “crisis fatigue”. Multiple extreme weather events, war, economic downturn, and election uncertainty. On a more positive note, for me though, it was also the year that we launched Artemis Communications, took VT to the next level, launched our Wellington office, started our Content on Caffeine podcast, and did some awesome work for our clients. It was not an easy year by any means though, and I’m looking forward to some calmer waters ahead in 2024. 

What technology made the most impact on your day-to-day work this year?

Podcasts. I live in the ‘burbs and there is an amazing world of content now on offer to me on my weekday commute. The community of business owners, entrepreneurs, and interesting people I can listen in on and have a laugh with on the long drive home has been a game changer for me. 

Who inspired you in 2023 and why?

Our Global Women clients Agnes Naera and Theresa Gattung. Tirelessly advocating for women in Aotearoa every day. I was coming through high school and University when Theresa was at Telecom, looking up at her forging the path for women in New Zealand business. Theresa made a huge impression on me at the time and so it is a real privilege to be able to work with her and Agnes today and support the positive impact they are making for women in Aotearoa and beyond. 

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

Continuing to grow and evolve Artemis and VT alongside our incredible team. 
That, and less rain! 

Quick fire 10:

Most impactful local campaign of 2023

Mercury’s – Second Sun. Created by our friends at FCB Aotearoa – it really captured the national mindset at the time and provided a much-needed injection of light amidst the grey. (We also did the PR on this so maybe a little biased, but so proud of this beautiful, joyful experience.)

Most underrated international campaign of the year: 

I guess not technically underrated as it won a Titanium Grand Prix, but The Monkey’s First Digital Nation campaign for the Government of Tuvalu was one that really stood out for me last year. 

A little closer to home and a much less serious, Tom Felton for Uber Eats made this OG Harry Potter fan giggle. 

A campaign I wish I worked on:

Barbie. Don’t get me started on the Oscar snubs. Did they miss the point of the whole movie?!

A news event that didn’t get the attention it deserved: 

Every time the climate crisis struck – whether it was a small rural town in India or here on our doorstep with the floods in Aotearoa we experienced last year. The full story of the climate emergency is only going to be told if all these events are being reported on, consistently, deeply and the threads being properly connected.  

Most listened to artist of 2023:

I would like to say something socially credible here. But it was actually Cocomelon. Specifically, the Christmas album. God help me. 

A 2023 trend you’re ready to bid farewell to: 

Although I mentioned AI as an exciting innovation, I do feel like the giant inflatable products floating on the shores of the Mediterranean or wheeling their way through the streets of a major metropolis have had their moment. The first wave was fantastic and really sparked our imagination – asking ‘is that real or fake?’. Well, now we all know, is it even interesting anymore? Or are we all now so accustomed to seeing the ‘unreal’ that it doesn’t matter? In the words of DJ Khaled – do we all now collectively just think ‘another one’…

Most innovative use of social media in a campaign this year:

The Olaplex OlaDupe campaign was incredibly smart. In the world of ‘dupes’ and the likes of McoBeauty being so brash in their disruptive dupe behaviour, this tongue-in-cheek campaign was incredibly smart in reinforcing its core message that Olaplex formula can’t be copied as it’s a patented formula.  

Most bingeable TV series of 2023:

In our house it was Black Mirror. And Bluey #parentinggoals

Biggest flop of 2023

It has to be Threads, doesn’t it? And Twitter’s rebrand to X. 

Best piece of advice you’ve been given

The power of quiet. You don’t always have to be the loudest to lead.

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