CLOSE-UP: Live Issue - It's time to look back, take stock and think ahead

Top advertisers nominate the most significant development for their business of the past year and offer their predictions for the year ahead.

ANDY NEAL - Consumer marketing director, Scottish Courage

2003: The most significant development in 2003 for me - and the highly competitive industry we operate in - has to be the roll-out of the Head Injection Tap (HIT) beer dispense system on our leading lager brands Foster's and Kronenbourg 1664. By the second half of the year, we had installed 27,000 HIT dispense systems and our task took on a consumer focus as we set out to build awareness and communicate the product-quality benefits of HIT to drinkers. In September, through M&C Saatchi, Scottish Courage launched the Foster's "don't lose your head" TV campaign.

2004: The most significant development for alcohol marketers in 2004 and beyond stems from the weight of political and public opinion in favour of increasing controls of marketing to combat alcohol misuse.

A government consultation paper is due by the end of 2003 and we expect to see a fully formed government strategy on alcohol in society in 2004.

It is imperative that the drinks industry acts swiftly to demonstrate both an understanding of the key issues and a commitment to play a proactive part in identifying and implementing solutions.

We have to apply a zero-tolerance stance towards responsible marketing practice, observing the spirit as well as the letter of the codes that govern alcohol marketing.

The challenge in 2004 for Scottish Courage and its agencies will be to continue to make award-winning advertisements that sell beer and cider while supporting responsible drinking. It is a creative challenge we have to win.

RYAN MUGFORD - Head of brand strategy and communications, Xbox EMEA

2003: It has to be the launch of Xbox Live. We brought Live to eight countries in March and just launched in six more countries at the end of October.

2004: Two significant things. One is the ongoing evolution of Xbox Live. It's been fantastic seeing how gamers have responded - we are in the unique position of having a product that allows us to speak directly to our consumers and get their feedback, resulting in ongoing improvements to the service. We'll be adding even more functionality to the service in 2004. Second thing is games for Xbox. With every new title, developers are learning new ways to realise the full potential of Xbox, and the resulting games are going to be incredible. Games such as RalliSport Challenge 2 (the first online rally game), Sudeki, Fable and, of course, Halo 2 will redefine what gamers think about video games.

SIMON SHEARD - Group marketing director, Bupa

2003: Our most significant development was a shift in brand communications. We have introduced a cartoon style in our campaign, which is not what people expect of Bupa. This campaign has been a lot warmer and we think it has been very effective in getting people to re-evaluate Bupa.

2004: We are looking at introducing a TV element to the current campaign, which would be a very different tone of voice from Bupa, and much more inclusive. A big challenge for us will be what happens with the NHS and the Government's plans for the next elections. The money going into the NHS is at record levels. We need to make sure our communications are reminding people about the benefits of private healthcare.

CHRIS MOSS - Chief executive, The Number 118 118

2003: My most significant development must be the deregulation and break-up of good old 192. What started off as a planned 30-horse race quickly turned into a three-horse race, and with competition stretching many of the new entrants, the year has ended in a two-horse race, with the favourite BT being beaten by the young outsider 118 118.

2004: Next year, I think will be the year of change. I hope it's a year of revolution. I'd like to use our famous runners to get more people getting fit and jogging or running across Britain than ever before. My dream would be to get a 118 run day and see a million people all doing their bit.

I have a feeling that the real change may be in music on the move. I predict that the Apple iPod (music player) will outsell many of the traditional minidisc players and bring a change to the people on the move in the UK. Being able to take 10,000 songs with you should drive a huge growth in record sales as well.

The revolution will get off to a good start early in the new year when I believe more and more clients will choose to change agencies and look for new agency and business partners.

Personally, I'm hoping to drive round China with a visit to Mount Everest base camp - but that's another story.

SIMON THOMPSON - Marketing director, Honda

2003: The 606th take of the Honda Accord "cog" ad: it actually worked. The result made the global advertising world have a rethink.

2004: Honda making the world's first car ad that does not show a car.

BERNARD BALDERSTON - Associate director of media, Procter & Gamble

2003: It's difficult looking at 2003 to look beyond the Competition Commission decision on the merger of ITV. It was a big media event and clearly one that advertisers felt considerable uncertainty about until the decision.

2004: The growth of Freeview will have a small impact on TV planning through 2004. Another development that will have an impact is the growth of interactive TV applications following Sky's decision to reduce its prices by 30 per cent and people getting a better idea of what it can do for them. On a broader level, we will be watching the outcome of the ITV merger. There is some uncertainty but there is nothing that should present too much difficulty for us. The BBC charter review will engage advertiser interest in terms of its strategic thrust and it may be an opportunity for closer co-operation between advertisers and ITV.

CARL LYONS - Marketing director, FM network, Capital Radio

2003: The most significant development in my year was my iPod - I'm now never more than a thumb-wobble away from Elvis.

2004: Launching the Johnny Vaughan breakfast show - a great challenge and opportunity to follow the legendary Chris Tarrant.

NICK CRAGGS - Director of marketing communications, Adidas Area North

2003: My highlight has to be sitting in row 20 watching a swinging right boot in the 99th minute of the Rugby World Cup final.

2004: I hope to see the England football team in the Euro Champs final: 89th minute, free kick, Beckham.

JAMES KYDD - Brand director, Virgin Mobile

2003: The most important thing for us was handing our media planning to Ben Hayes and Andrew Stephens' media strategy start-up. With the likes of Sky Plus and the rise of advertiser-funded TV, we think the media landscape is actually starting to change after people have been saying it for years.

We're trying to get closer to broadcasters through dedicated planning, rather than that red herring, media-neutral planning. It was a conscious decision to try to stop some of the frustration with some media owners. We can't believe how old-fashioned even the Channel 4s of this world are.

2004: We'll be trying to see if that was a good decision.

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