X (Twitter) logo and poster of "Barbenheimer"

Ho! Ho! Holy moly it’s been a big year in marketing. With global ad spend approaching one trillion (with a T) dollars for the first time, we thought it’d be a perfect time to look back at 2023 and ask ourselves, “When Ad Santa is circling the globe this year, who’s getting coal?”


Elon Musk
In 2022, Elon Musk purchased Twitter for somewhere around $44 billion. And through a series of ingenious strategies, the company is now worth $19 billion. Thus proving that just because you’re the richest man in the world doesn’t mean you’re the smartest.

But Musk’s cardinal marketing sin this year was the half-assed rebrand from Twitter to X. While there’s something to be said for embracing big changes in your marketing strategy, throwing away a brand that is so ingrained in the cultural vernacular seems like a rare kind of mistake.

Twitter / X

But not that rare. HBO had spent decades building a brand known for premier entertainment. And while its on-demand services have gone through plenty of iterations (HBO Now, HBO Go, HBO Max), the HBO brand remained strong and relevant. Until this year when they decided to throw it away.

And while the strength of their programming might be enough to get them past this blunder, the cracks are beginning to show. In a competitive and growing streaming landscape, Max reportedly lost 700,000 users towards the end of 2023.

The New York Yankees
Now, like most good people, I am no fan of the Yankees. But it’s neither my personal opinion nor my baseball allegiances that land the Yankees on this side of the list.

Earlier this year the storied franchise chose to add a patch to its famous jerseys advertising Starr Insurance. And it’s not even the ad itself that I have a problem with (though it seems like the Yanks could’ve found a more exciting partner). It’s the fact that they still don’t let their players grow facial hair other than mustaches.

How can a team ask their players to walk around with a billboard on their sleeve while simultaneously enforcing draconian facial hair policies that were already outdated when implemented in the 1970s? Either lose the insurance patch or free the soul patch.


No matter the amount of data. No matter the dashboards. No matter the strategy. There are things beyond the control of us mortal marketers. And sometimes, just sometimes, the fickle gods of advertising will send a lightning bolt down to Earth. Such was the case last summer when an internet meme became a phenomenon. The Barbenheimer phenomenon.

Sure, we can guess why these two films became cosmically intertwined to the tune of over $2 billion worldwide. All-star casts. Released on the same day. Diametrically opposed in tone. But in all honesty, we don’t really know. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that some studio will try to recreate it next year. And that studio will probably not end up on the Nice List.

Half the image is from the move Oppenheimer, the other half from the Barbie movie

Sports Betting
Gambling had a big year. Now remember kids, this is a marketing Naughty and Nice List. So if you stow your morals for just a moment, let’s look at the numbers. Today, 38 states and Washington D.C. allow some form of legalized sports betting. Sportsbook revenue is up 75% since 2021. And ad spend has nearly doubled in that time.

But you don’t need the numbers to tell this story when every NFL game has segments sponsored by FanDuel or DraftKings. It’s icky. It’s lucrative. It’s probably not going away anytime soon.

Let me just start by stating that I love artificial intelligence! (Please don’t take my job, robots.) In all seriousness, artificial intelligence isn’t new to our industry. We’ve been relying on it for years, bolstering solutions for social, search, and all other manners of marketing. So why did the artificial intelligence buzz seem so inescapable this year?

Well, one reason is the accessibility of generative technology to the public. Tools like Adobe’s generative fill function and ChatGPT allowed people to utilize artificial intelligence in a way that doesn’t just help out behind the scenes, but seemingly “creates.” As the technology advances, we will surely see more marketers relying on AI as much more than a buzzword.

Looking to get on the Nice List next year? We’re the agency to help.