Three Trends I See in 2023: Kien Eng Tan – Group CEO Dentsu Malaysia

We ask industry leaders to give us their take on what’s to come in the year ahead and reflect on the year passed.

2022 has started slipping away in the rearview mirror as another trip around the sun wraps up and we head into the orbit of a New Year.

As part of a year-end series we’ve asked industry leaders to offer up their take on the year passed, and what’s to come in the year ahead.

First up is Kien Eng Tan, Group CEO of Dentsu Malaysia.


Looking Ahead – Three Trends I See in 2023:

1. “No way, why would people watch their mobile phones? The screen is just too small and YouTube is full of amateurs creating poor quality mindless rubbish videos…”

Overheard back in 2001.

But instead, today, look at the sea of diverse content readily available across channels that are within our touch not to mention the unaccounted hours we unknowingly spend glued to the screen.

We also witnessed the turnaround of radio as video almost killed the radio star but thanks to music platforms and podcasts, radio lives on. These platforms unshackled artists from music labels and change how music is promoted. Streaming has become the fastest-growing revenue source changing the way we consume music. From ownership of music CDs to non-ownership virtual access to titles.


“There’s a growing awareness to rehabilitate the planet from the impact of industrialization and consumerism. People in mature markets are not just moving away from conspicuous consumption but are also questioning brands and their ethics.”

Looking ahead in the world of entertainment, the emergence of independent tech companies will democratize access to infrastructure for serious creators and the wannabe to create and produce high-quality content independently.

Take the gaming sector, I foresee NFT web3 gaming companies will rise to provide easy access into their infrastructure for game creators to produce indie games supported by an ecosystem completing the loop to distribute and monetise the effort ensuring a sustainable co-existence and no starving artists.

2. Less is more. On one hand, people in mature markets are reviewing the way they consume largely driven by social consciousness and the adoption of trends such as minimalism. On the other hand, the general population will re-evaluate consumption habits and tightening of their belt due to economic pressure.

There’s a growing awareness to rehabilitate the planet from the impact of industrialization and consumerism. People in mature markets are not just moving away from conspicuous consumption but are also questioning brands and their ethics. They are scrutinizing what brands claim in the marketplace versus how their products are being produced, packaged, and handled and where the remnant product will end up after use.

“In South East Asia, we will see dormant countries sharpening their focus and finding their voice and taking action for them to emerge again.”

Emerging from less is more will be an emerging trend where consumers will seek products that will allow them the freedom to personalize and re-create. For example, in the world of fashion, people will look for brands that allow them to mix and match items to create customized looks to make a unique statement.

Value vs Volume. In response, corporations will start redefining the meaning of growth, re-evaluating value above volume whilst incorporating ESG measures. There will be external scrutiny on unethical practices, not just what is visible – emission, pollution, unfair labour, but what is invisible – invisible water, inefficient use of materials, waste, energy used, and type of energy used.

The conversation around ethically sourced, up-cycled, healthier ingredients, etc will force more industries to adopt conscientious business practices and production methods. In the longer term, with broader adoption of good practices, will result in cost reduction for sustainable practices. In tourism, for example, countries will prioritise value over volume to conserve the environment.

3. Action will speak louder than words. In times of crisis, extremism, and oppression, we will see opportunities, liberalism, and empathy as a counterbalance to bring out the best in humanity.

In South East Asia, we will see dormant countries sharpening their focus and finding their voice, and taking action for them to emerge again. Over the years economists have positioned the economy as a living entity. We blame the economy as if the economy is a person when it is merely a concept.

The people will soon realise this and take action to put the responsibility back onto the people and the people in power.

Looking Back on 2022

Your favorite trends:

Trends and fashion are cyclic. Some examples of trends that made a return in 2022 are:

  • Colours from the 60s.
  • Brutalist architecture popularised in the 50s.
  • Postmodernism art and storytelling from the 60s.
  • Spray on fashion founded in 2003.
  • Return of the electric vehicles first rolled out in the 19th century.
  • Flip phones from the 90s.
  • Simple digital puzzle games from the 80s.

The pandemic forced a global adoption of digital in the era of isolation. My favorite trend for 2022 post-pandemic is the rediscovery of local amenities and community and the return of authentic human interaction.

Your favorite campaign of 2022?

The Unfiltered History Tour

Clever use of technology and user engagement by dentsu Creative India for Vice media. The campaign changed the perception of people through AR and storytelling and hopefully instil a behavioural change across people in power for greater good.

This project is also a great story about collaboration and the spirit of never giving up. How the dentsu creative India team persevered and overcame multiple obstacles to make the idea a reality.

What was your 2022 New Year’s Resolution and did you keep it?

Life is short. Why wait till New Year to do something:? I tend to reflect on my day, the choices I’ve made, and the action I took.

If there are any shortcomings, I tend to beat myself up for it but I tell myself tomorrow is a new day, a new start, and keep the shortcoming in mind as to not repeat it. At times I may forget and err again or take a step too late to catch it. Then again I am only human.

Therefore, I don’t wait until year-end to make a new year resolution. Besides, most new year’s resolutions don’t make it through the third month.

MORE: Q&A: Kien Eng Tan – ‘The Future is Here – and It Has Rewritten Our Customer Experiences’ (2021).


Picture of Kien Eng Tan

Kien Eng Tan

Kien Eng Tan is the Group CEO of Dentsu Malaysia

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