Brands as agents of meaningful social change

Few would refute the notion that chaos reigned in 2023. So much so, in fact, that it was our agency’s “Word of the Year.”

Particularly in the Middle East, we in the communications industry have had to learn new ways to navigate a collective sense of instability that has taken over in the midst of devastating times.  

So what do we make of the frenetic ‘dynamism’ that we’ve come to expect as the norm?

And how do we prepare ourselves for the reality of the times, aware of all the blindspots and ahead of the curve?

As communicators, leadership counts on us to offer sound counsel when an organisation’s reputation is threatened – but is it enough to be able to react fast?

Historically, brands have functioned as a mirror reflecting the society around them. But the past year has marked a distinct paradigm shift, turning brands into agents of meaningful social change. 

In 2024, we foresee that brands will be further tested when it comes to impact in three key areas: meaningful connections with consumers, advocacy for greater societal purposes, and personalisation as an ongoing journey.

The annual Red Sky Predictions by HAVAS Red consider some of 2023’s most valuable lessons and pre-empt the changes that we expect to see across the world in the year ahead, putting into perspective the changing role of communications leaders. 

Here are my top picks:

Truth-telling is greater than story-telling

We live in an era characterised by dissent, social unrest, political uncertainties, and the spread of disinformation, underscoring the heightened value of truth now more than ever.

The weaponisation of social media is evident, with algorithms shaping narratives and diverse voices facing shadow banning. Public sentiment reflects angry, frustrated and scepticism towards traditional news outlets. 

Brands have a role to play in highlighting authentic stories. PR can be used as a tool by brands to participate in conversations that matter to the audience, with humility, objectivity and transparency.

Brands who take into consideration cultural nuances and are able to acknowledge where the audience is at have sparked curiosity, empathy and ultimately a competitive edge.

This was evident in adidas’ Liquid Billboard, which celebrated women with its inclusive swimwear range, through acknowledging that nearly 80 per cent of women in the region don’t feel comfortable swimming in public. 


Communications professionals, like everyone else in the world, have jumped on the AI learning bandwagon – causing a 550 per cent surge in all learning across this topic in 2023 alone. Sure, the growth from a nearly non-existent base is always impressive – but the real revolution is coming.

While we’ve tested content and been amazed at what AI tools can do to make life simpler, we’re certain that it will start showing up more frequently in our creative output.

We saw several brands integrating AI into their IRL (in real life) campaigns, through impressive CGI videos that went viral.

Within the fashion industry, Jacquemus has become an excellent case study to show how brands can leverage the power of hyperrealistic visual exaggeration, blended with culturally relevant symbols and settings, to engage a global audience.

Championing Women’s Well-Being in the Workplace

With women driving the majority of consumer spending, there’s a compelling business case for companies to prioritize women’s well-being in the workplace. Companies that treat their female workforce well are not just fostering a fair and inclusive environment; they are also more likely to attract women as consumers.

At HAVAS, we recognize this connection and aim to practice what we preach to our brand partners. By supporting and empowering our female employees, we’re not only advocating for equality but also enhancing our appeal to a broader market segment.

This approach is both a moral imperative and a strategic advantage, essential for the growth and sustainability of our organization and the wider business community.

In 2024, brands in the Middle East stand at a crossroads, faced with the opportunity to redefine their role in society. Beyond mere reflections of cultural narratives, they have the potential to be catalysts for change and champions for women’s empowerment.

As brands and organizations navigate this transformative landscape, they must ask themselves: Are they ready to lead with purpose and integrity, forging a future that values transparency, inclusivity, and equity? This is the challenge and promise of the new era in communications. 

So where do we head with these predictions? What next? 

The role of communicators across the world has changed. I’m genuinely hopeful that we – communicators – become more mindful about our role in shaping culture and impacting societal change. Even if we don’t always see a direct connection, our actions have power. 

Being in an ‘always on, ready for crisis’ headspace, we have become vanguards for the reputation of our organisations. If examples from Q4 2023 taught us one thing, Regional communications leaders have an increasingly important role to play, in offering global counterparts a glimpse at the region’s perspective. 

The writing on the wall may be clearer than ever before for brands. But this also places a greater responsibility on us as communicators. So, do you have the stomach for it?

By Dana Tahir, Managing Director, HAVAS Red Middle East