psLondon | What we’ve learned from 15 years in marketing

15 years in marketing

16 January 2023

Ellie AtkinsonStrategist

A lot has changed in the past 15 years. We’ve seen seven prime ministers, one global pandemic, and twenty (yes, twenty) series of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

And alongside all these major cultural moments, this year psLondon celebrates 15 years of solving brand problems... acting as the Kris Jenner of the marketing and creative world, even?

But what has changed in the marketing world since 2007? Fads and gimmicks have certainly come and gone (anyone remember Clubhouse?), but we’ve seen some significant shifts that have paved the foundations for the marketing landscape today.

So, we invited 100 marketing professionals in the UK to enter our time machine and reflect on what the industry has learned in the last decade and a half.[i] And with a whopping 75% feeling that marketing has become more complex over the past 15 years – and 71% stating it has irreversibly changed – it’s time we take a look at what’s been going on… 

A tough financial backdrop

With 2007 seeing the beginnings of the Global Financial Crisis, we’re not necessarily starting our trip down memory lane with the rosiest of beginnings – but it’s certainly taught us a lot.

As our co-founder and Strategy Partner Robert Pepper puts it, “Starting an Agency in the midst of a financial crisis may not have seemed that wise at the time, but we thought it could only improve – and it did.”

The collapse of the stock market saw a reduction of ad spend by over 27% across all channels,[ii] whilst consumer confidence dropped to an all-time low.[iii] But as tight as budgets became, a clear learning emerged: advertising during a recession is essential.

Counterintuitive though it may seem, a key study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute found that stopping advertising results in a steady and significant decline in sales over time. [iv] Conversely, 60% of brands that increased media investment during the last recession saw ROI improvements.[v] This is a phenomenon that our Creative Strategist Oli Bate explores just that in her article ‘How to steal your competitors’ market share when the economy hits turbulence’ – an essential read in the current cost of living landscape. [vi]

Innovation vs tradition

On the tail-end of the recession in 2009, the UK broke new ground by being the first major economy to spend more on internet advertising than on TV advertising.[vii] 

This shift is perhaps best summed up by one of our marketers as “the online digital marketing revolution”, with 81% stating that the development of digital marketing has been “very influential” or “industry-changing” over the past 15 years.

The digital transformation of marketing came as no surprise – consumers were spending greater time online, whilst the internet’s greater variety of placements, increased ability to track performance, and more nuanced targeting abilities (Facebook introduced language and location-based targeting this year),[viii] gave advertisers more to play with. 

But the industry excitement around these new opportunities demanded an examination of exactly what we know about marketing altogether.

A seminal approach to marketing

This need was perhaps most notably identified by Professor Byron Sharp. 2010 saw the publication of his seminal work ‘How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know’. In short, Sharp’s work sparked a pivot from a hyper-targeted approach which focused on driving brand loyalty, to an approach that saw growth as a result of winning new customers and being as mentally and physically available as possible.

An evidence-based approach that quickly gained excitement from those in TV and traditional media due to its mass-marketing approach, ‘How Brands Grow’ went on to make an enormous impact on the marketing industry - in the words of marketing professor Mark Ritson, this book “changed the face of modern marketing forever”. [ix] 

Of course, How Brands Grow wasn’t the only influential marketing book of the past 15 years. The Long and the Short of It by Les Binet and Peter Field (2013) introduced foundational concepts for marketing effectiveness. One of their most impactful was their assertion long-term sales growth cannot be achieved via sales activation alone – instead, 60% brand and 40% activation is the overall the optimum ratio for effectiveness.  

Rise of social media

A key breakaway from the rise of broadly labelled “internet marketing” was, of course, social media.

95% of our marketing professionals stated that social media has influenced marketing over the past 15 years, with half labelling it as “industry-changing”.

Whilst the first social media ads emerged in the mid-2000s, it wasn’t really until 2011 that investment in social media marketing ramped up.[x] Facebook and LinkedIn were already established players in B2C and B2B marketing respectively, but from the launch of Instagram in 2010 right up to the meteoric rise of TikTok in 2019, the landscape continues to see dramatic changes.[xi]

To explore these shifts would take us to the end of this article and beyond, which in itself sums up what we have come to learn about social media – it is vast, complex, and needs to be treated as such. When people take only 400 milliseconds to make a judgement on mobile advertising,[xiii] it is essential to ensure we fully understand the context of our consumers, the channel, and how each relates to the other in order to capture attention and communicate effectively.

It was exactly this understanding that guided our award-winning campaign for Bottomline technologies to advertise their fraud-prevention solutions. We discovered our audiences’ roles in managing security for financial institutions meant they were extremely screen-tired and had an above-average aversion to online ads. Knowing we needed to do something truly stand-out to capture their attention, we created a series of “frame-busting” ads to draw attention to the risks of fraud. 

Challenging the largely functional and traditional landscape of LinkedIn, this campaign gained over 400 qualified sales enquiries, and was named Finance Content Campaign of the Year at the UK Content Awards 2022, as well as Best Use of Social Media for Finance and Best Use of LinkedIn (Silver) at the UK Social Media Awards 2022.

From AI to AR

For two acronyms born out of advancing technological developments, AI and AR have very different functionalities and opportunities. But one thing is certain – the impact they’ve had on the industry is impossible to ignore.

90% of our marketers stated that technological developments including AI and AR have influenced marketing over the past 15 years, and nearly 40% named them as the most important developments to shape the next 15 years to come.

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence – as the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute describe it, the “science of making machines smart”. [xiv] From AI personalised ads and chatbots to ad testing and spend optimisation, over the past decade, AI has become increasingly integrated into the foundations of advertising as we know it today.

Where is it headed? Well, some have already started pushing the limits of AI, such as Lexus in 2019 when they produced a 60-second advert scripted by AI – a world first. [xv] When used in conjunction with human creativity and emotion, AI can be an extremely powerful tool.

AR, on the other hand, stands for Augmented Reality. Not to be confused with the VR of the space-age style headsets (we’ll get onto that later), AR has for some time offered a far less conspicuous place in consumers’ lives.

One of the most widely-used forms of AR was – and still is – filters. Whilst some are trivial (remember the puppy filter on Snapchat?), others like the TikTok auto-generated beauty filter have more sinister implications on self-image, especially for individuals growing up with this technology.

But brands such as Pinterest and Chanel have identified a clear opportunity to harness AR for a virtual “try before you buy” functionality. A simple yet effective way of combining the physical and digital for new opportunities, it’s no wonder the AR market will be $597.54 Billion By 2030.xvi

Web3, the metaverse and all that comes with it

What is Web3? The metaverse? What about cryptocurrencies and NFTs? Why does any of it even matter to me anyway?

Quite understandably, Web3 is still a hugely misunderstood space. But it is undeniably paving the way for the future of the internet. In essence, Web3 is the next generation of the world wide web – a more transparent, open, decentralised network that is not owned by big corporations, but places the power in the hands of its users. This new generation of internet will be fairer, more secure, and give people much greater control over their data and who they give it to.

The metaverse is a set of digital spaces that exists within it. And the metaverse will largely use VR – virtual reality – whereby users can virtually enter and experience these spaces through the form of things like digital avatars.

The impact of these developments cannot be ignored. When asked to identify the most influential marketing developments of the next 15 years, one-quarter of our marketers named the metaverse unprompted. And when we dug further, we discovered that only 7% see the metaverse as “just a fad” or “never hav[ing] a place in marketing”. Instead, the top responses were that the metaverse is “powerful”, “exciting”, and is “an inevitable future for marketing”.

We must remember, however, that Web3 won’t create overnight change. Existing technologies and systems will gradually evolve and develop – as did the milestones explored within this article. If you’re interested in how valuable the metaverse is for organisations today, watch this space for our guide to the value of marketing in the metaverse coming soon.

Where next?

To explore where we’re headed in the future would need a whole article in itself. But if there’s one thing to take away from today’s read, it’s this. Marketing never has, and never will, stand still. Seizing opportunities, taking advantage of emerging technologies and embracing change will see you sitting at the front of the next moment in marketing history. 

And what’s next for psLondon? Well, if you ask our Creative Director and co-founder Tony Speight, he’ll say: “we’re looking very closely at how we can continue to bring truly engaging creativity to the right people, whilst harnessing the power of the innovations that seem to appear on an almost daily basis.”

Don’t forget – if you’re interested in discovering how emerging marketing developments could drive effectiveness for your business, get in touch with us today.



[i] psLondon bespoke survey of 100 marketing and advertising professionals in the UK with 6+ years of industry experience. (November 2022)

[ii] MIQ, Advertising during a recession (2022)

[iii] The Guardian, Consumer confidence hits a record low (2008)

[iv] Byron Sharp et al., When Brands Go Dark (2021)

[v] Analytic Partners, The rules of recession-proofing (2022)

[vi] Oli Bate, How to steal your competitors’ market share when the economy hits turbulence (2022)

[vii] The Guardian, Internet overtakes television to become biggest advertising sector in the UK


[viii] Adpushup, The history of online advertising(2013) 

[ix] The Marketing Student, How Brands Grow (2020)

[x] Mark Ritson cited on How Brands Grow (2019)

[xi] Visual Capitalist, The visualisation of global ad spend (2020)

[xii] Statista, Share of smartphone users on TikTok in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2017 to 2019 (2022)

[xiii] MMA, Brands need a “first second strategy” (2019)

[xiv] psLondon, Bottomline Technologies: Can you spot the fraud? 

[xv] Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, AI in advertising (2022)

[xvi] Marketing Week, How Lexus programmed a machine to write the world’s first AI-scripted ad(2018)

[xvii] Grand View Research, Augmented reality market size worth $597.54 billion by 2030 (2022) 

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