As 2020 Limps to an End, Ad Executives Look Warily to 2021

Among the trends: the pivot to digital continues to favor big platforms; companies will have to meet diversity goals; people are burned-out, but could it turn into the Roaring 2020s?

A shopper in Los Angeles. This year saw a big shift to e-commerce by distancing consumers.

Photo: mario anzuoni/Reuters

When the pandemic struck early this year, many advertisers paused their campaigns, clawed back scheduled media buys and rethought their entire approach to selling products and marketing to homebound consumers. Meanwhile, agencies faced layoffs and furloughs as well as changing client needs, many with a bent toward e-commerce.

香蕉视频苹果下载Even with the hope of widespread vaccination, some of the difficulties of the past year will linger, while others may begin to dissipate. CMO Today asked industry veterans about their plans and what they see coming in 2021.

Mark Read, chief executive officer of WPP

We expect the advertising and marketing industry to have a sharp rebound in 2021 with advertising expenditure up 12.3% in 2021 driven by marketers’ desire to benefit from growing consumer confidence as vaccines are deployed.

Of course, with the rapid shift to digital media and e-commerce, the main beneficiaries will be the big digital platforms, but we do expect to see growth in linear television and traditional media even as they continue to lose share. One question is the extent to which advertising-funded streaming services can gain traction against the subscription services.

My biggest worry is for our people, and how they will cope as pandemic restrictions tighten over the festive period and continue into 2021. It’s been a tough year for them, working from home in often difficult circumstances and keeping up spirits against a constantly changing backdrop of lockdowns. Before 2020, for some people “well-being” was just a trendy corporate buzzword. Today it’s a business imperative for everyone.

Aditi Javeri Gokhale

Photo: Northwestern Mutual
Aditi Javeri Gokhale, chief commercial officer and president of investment products and services at Northwestern Mutual

In a world filled with continued uncertainty, and as consumers wrestle with what 2021 will look like, there is a growing need for consumers to deeply know, trust and believe in the brands they choose. If companies have neglected their mission, purpose or value proposition, that will become a barrier for growth in the year ahead.

It’s not about marketing, messaging or creating an image—it’s truly about being authentic and living your purpose in a way that consumers see you as genuinely different.

Our challenge is to find ways to stand out in a very crowded industry and continue to deepen relevance with consumers following a global pandemic that has disrupted financial lives. We see a focus on our mission and purpose as the best way to demonstrate differentiation and value.

Rishad Tobaccowala, consultant, author and former Publicis Groupe executive

In 2021 the ad business will face a number of challenges which if addressed correctly will reinvigorate growth and relevance, but if not, could accelerate decay.

As spending accelerates to digital and concentrates in a half a dozen players, agencies can see their role reduced or resurrect themselves by making clients understand that they and their business models are under the biggest threats by the platforms—see what Google did to the travel industry where 40% of all search results lead to Google properties.

Agencies can help clients thrive in the age of platforms by getting them to partner with each other, combine the impact of their spending and influence and help drive dollars to newer players such as TikTok, Pinterest,香蕉视频苹果下载 Snap, etc. To do this, agencies will need to continue to broaden the definition of “advertising” and upgrade skills and find ways to regain trust.

Jaime Robinson, chief creative officer and co-founder of creative agency Joan

The Roaring 2020s are about to be upon us, and with it, explosive business growth. With the vaccine here, we’re looking at a global tidal wave of pent-up demand, especially in the areas of travel and hospitality, entertainment, experiences and fashion.

香蕉视频苹果下载But there will be no shortage of companies trying to take advantage of this demand. Also, consumers have had a long hard year to think about the world around them; many will opt for new, more sustainable and equitable choices, at least in the short term. These things combined mean that businesses are going to need their people thinking with maximum creativity in order to take advantage of all that opportunity. This is especially tricky when you consider how burned out people are after 12 months of playing by pandemic rules, dealing with mental-health challenges, and in many cases, having to do what it takes to keep the lights on.

Monique Nelson

Photo: UWG
Monique Nelson, chair and CEO of multicultural agency UWG

香蕉视频苹果下载What 2020 revealed is that diversity, equity and inclusion is a way of life, not a moment.

香蕉视频苹果下载What we learned is that we can overcome unforeseen challenges. For those who discovered what inclusivity means to their business, they must now reimagine their systems through the lens of being persistent, believing in people and performing to the best of their abilities. Being prepared to continually evolve is the only way to succeed in a world changed by 2020.

香蕉视频苹果下载As an industry our collective goal should be to open the door of possibilities through stronger impact, increased engagement and more purposeful work. These will be the keys to our success in 2021 and beyond.

Greg Paull, co-founder and principal of agency search consultant R3

The world has woken up to the needs and realities of e-commerce—and now the advertising community needs to ...

The customer journey has changed forever. Brands will need a totally new way of communication and data to reflect it.

Write to Alexandra Bruell at alexandra.bruell@wsj.com

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香蕉视频苹果下载 Appeared in the December 31, 2020, print edition as 'Advertising Executives Look Warily Toward 2021.'