So much for easing into the new year. 

After celebrating the ball drop and Noelle’s birthday on Sunday, a quick day of getting my life in order, and boarding a precariously delayed flight on Tuesday, I’ve been here at the Consumer Electronics Show for what feels like an eternity (the human body is not built for four nights in Vegas).

My speech went well, thankfully, given that preparing it chewed up much more of my holiday break than I planned. I was deliberately provocative, basically positing that the entire ad tech industry needs to be blown up. It’s a soapbox rant you’ve read here before, but the first time I lobbed the grenade into a roomful of ad tech sympathizers.

Otherwise, the trip has been incredibly worthwhile, even though Tara is (rightfully) making me quarantine at home for a couple days when I get back.

Meanwhile, the news cycle didn’t waste any time going haywire. The incident at that football game Monday night was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen. Prayers for Damar.

Congress, likewise, reminded me of football – and monkeys – to invoke one of my dad’s favorite metaphors. Watching the evils of tribalism play out in a microcosm of parliamentary procedure has been, oddly, both satisfying and embarrassing.

2023 has a remarkable sense of uncertainty about it. You can feel it in the forced and filtered air of the Vegas conference spaces I’m traversing. Will there be a recession – and how bad? Will the ad market tank? How will the global economy react when (or if) China reopens? Will anyone ever be able to explain the metaverse to me? Will Season 3 of Ted Lasso ever drop?  

So many important questions. 

Unlike perhaps every January since I began writing this weekly missive, I’m resisting the temptation to predict anything about the year ahead, at least for now. And you should too. There’s no sense in it.

Who the hell knows what wrenches will be thrown in the works next week, let alone six months from now? I watched blackjack dealers beat my hard 20s with backdoor 21s far too many times this week to feel like anything is predictable. 

So instead, let’s all set a New Year’s resolution to be obsessively agile in 2023. Throw out the ego and dogma with your dead Christmas tree. Build an array of scenario plans, study everything constantly, and pivot with conviction – as fast as possible.

We can handle anything. Because despite all the craziness and uncertainty, it’s a great time to be alive.

Happy New Year!              

Here’s what we’re seeing:         

Even consumer confidence is in a holding pattern as the year begins. Our Economic Sentiment Index was unremarkably flat over the past two weeks, based on a mixed bag of indicators. Continued positive vibes about the job market and slightly improved hope for the housing market was neutralized by another drop in outlook for the overall economy. The drop in personal financial health is the most concerning number, IMO, but also shouldn’t shock anyone, considering all the holiday spending we saw on credit cards the past few months. Again, I’ll reserve judgment until we see how the next few readings unfold. 

Friendship skyrocketed as a primary driver of personal happiness and success in 2022. This whole (brief) study is worth reading over your coffee this morning. In our ongoing tracking of how Americans define happiness and success in their lives, we saw some significant year-over-year shifts. While still the top answers, the importance of family and home life declined by big margins, as the importance of friendship and romance jumped. It makes sense – after being locked at home with our families for the better part of two years, people are recommitting to out-of-home relationships again. As you might suspect, there are big differences by gender and age.          

Sports fans aren’t big fans of corporate logos on player uniforms, but it varies by league. This isn’t hugely shocking because people tend to not like ads anywhere. But, as the MLB plans to unveil sponsor logos on player unis this season, we looked at how U.S. adults feel generally about the trend. As expected, a clear minority approve, though the numbers look noticeably better for the NBA and worse for the NHL. In the same report, we also looked at how people feel about the integration of sports betting and broadcasting. Spoiler: It’s not very popular, especially among NHL fans. 

Flyers may not forgive Southwest Airlines for their holiday travel disaster. I’m wary of even talking about this, since I should be on a Southwest flight home to Pittsburgh by the time you’re reading this. At the risk of jinxing myself, I’ll tell you that American air travelers seem to be pretty pissed about Southwest’s recent debacle. On one hand, the people who were most impacted by the flight disruptions are still the most likely to fly on Southwest again in the future (seasoned travelers have seen it all). The glass-half-empty take, however, is that nearly a third of those affected flyers say they have no intention of flying Southwest again. Maybe they’ll get over it.    

A whopping two-thirds of U.S. adults now say they’re usually looking at another device while watching TV. By year-end, a record number of Americans reported having a second screen in their hand while tuning into shows and movies on their (home) big screen. The largest group, 40%, are primarily looking at other apps (see: TikTok), while others are checking email or posting on social media. This has to have massive implications for TV advertising. I can personally attest to veering my attention to my phone anytime commercials start rolling. 

In related (if counter-intuitive) news, Gen Z is reporting lower levels of social media usage, compared to Millennials at the same age. I’m pushing the limits of my word count here, so just check out the study yourself. What it tells me is this – Gen Z doesn’t consider TikTok to be “social” media. Because it isn’t. 


More New Year Awesomeness from the CivicScientists:

  • Dry January is good for non-alcoholic beer brands;
  • People really don’t trust the NFL to protect player safety;
  • Gen Z is psyched about the renewed Avatar franchise;
  • Fitness is up, quitting smoking and drinking are down, on the list of 2023 resolutions;
  • Here’s how to predict if someone is good at keeping secrets;
  • Sparkling wine drinkers follow trends in home design and other things.

The most popular questions to wrap up 2022:

Answer Key: I’m not touching that with a ten-foot pole; Hell no; Hell no; Comedy for sure; I have zero tattoos but you might find the results interesting if you do; Always optimistic!

Hoping you’re well.


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