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Media and advertising in 2021: strategies for success // Part 1

Media and advertising in 2021: strategies for success // Part 1

In the first of two end-of-year specials, experts from across the media and advertising sectors reveal their hopes and plans for a prosperous 2021. Read part 2 here.

Find and focus on the silver linings

Lindsey Clay, CEO, Thinkbox

Is it too much to hope that next year is the year people stop saying pivot all the time? Probably. Otherwise…

The social and economic weather in 2021 will likely be cloudy with a good chance of pain, but I advise looking for and focusing on the silver linings. They have already begun to glimmer.

The encouraging forecasts that predict TV advertising bouncing back as this annus excrementus ends are one – TV is often a bellwether of the wider economy.

And what we’ve been hearing from advertisers and agency leaders offers other reasons to be positive.

Influential trends have been forced to the surface by the pressure of this, well, pivotal year. At the top of the list are a re-appraisal of the importance of brand and, alongside it, an increasing culture of effectiveness. Outcomes are in.

This is causing a re-appraisal of TV advertising and its digital transformation, as well as an improved understanding of its close relationship with marketing effectiveness. Long may this continue.

And the rapid acceleration of ecommerce during the past year is potentially a bright silver lining for the media that drive it. I hope they get the acknowledgement and investment they deserve.

Embrace your curiosity

Tom Laranjo, MD, behavioural planning agency Total Media

In 2020, there was surprise at the EU's lack of engagement with last-ditch intensive Brexit talks, Donald Trump's electoral gains, and the rapid rate of coronavirus cases leading to a second lockdown. There was surprise at continued racism in football and the racist reaction to a supermarket advert. The list of surprises this year was seemingly endless.

However, being surprised in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, evolutionarily speaking it’s great. Surprise creates focus and attention and can even elicit a neurochemical boost as a reward from our body for showing that we are paying attention!

When surprise does become a problem is when it demonstrates an individual or collective failure to listen and learn. For example, being surprised by the racist reaction to an advert from Sainsbury’s shows a failure to listen to the host of voices saying how far we have yet to go to establish a truly diverse and inclusive society.

This failure can then manifest in damaging ways, such as a lack of action in the way we manage our businesses, a lack of thought in the way we target our advertising, a lack of urgency to make meaningful changes.

To avoid being surprised in an age where it is all too easy to see the world as you want it to be is hard, but there is one trait that can help. Curiosity.

My advice for supporting successful strategies in 2021 is simply to be more curious. To look for more alternative views, to start with a question, to observe what is really happening and not what's reported. Being curious is the foundation of insight and with great insight can come great strategy.

Every business is a work in progress

Danny Donovan, UK CEO, Mediahub

Sorry to start on a gloomy note, but despite everyone’s determination to have fun in the holiday season and the understandable euphoria of the first vaccines being administered, great swathes of the UK remain under extremely stringent restrictions which will probably last well into 2021, and the economic impact for far longer.

Every business is different, and each is a work in progress. If you think you’ve cracked it, well done, but you’ll need to keep at it, and if you’re struggling then you must refocus.

Mediahub have been fortunate. We weren’t exposed to the worst impacted categories and we’ve attracted several fantastic new clients. We’ve enhanced our teams and grown our revenues. Our effectiveness has been recognised in awards across disciplines including integrated strategy, data, econometrics, digital and paid-search.

But we remain a work in progress. Hence we will maintain the strategy we adopted this year. Stay positive and be thankful; be completely obsessed with our people, our clients and our partners; take a human approach to every question; focus on the things we can affect; and work as hard as possible whilst ensuring we look after each other.

Here’s hoping it’s successful, and good luck to everyone in 2021.

Supporting our young diverse talent

Ally Owen, founder, Brixton Finishing School

There’s no two ways about it - 2020 and C19’s impact have been monumentally crap for all of us. Young people from underrepresented backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with opportunities to upskill and gain experience evaporating. Young people in the UK are also more than twice as likely to lose their jobs compared with older staff.

Add this to the existing structures that favour a certain type of profile and it’s clear that the system is in dire need of disruption to bring balance.

The good news is that all of us, irrespective of seniority, can contribute to and drive this rebalancing, which fills me with hope, as do the alliances we’ve developed with our partners. Despite C19, we are at around 80% employment for our 2020 Brixton Finishing School cohort. This is testament to their talent, the training delivered by our network of industry experts and mentors and the quality of our outreach.

We are taking the lessons learned from this success and going ‘LARGE’ in 2021 with The AD-Cademy, a new eight-week, free virtual course that will rewrite the talent blueprint and pipeline blend for the industry across the UK. Launching in February, we will have a nationwide reach in helping people from under-represented backgrounds into the industry.

Whether you’re in Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds or Liverpool, people will be able to learn the ropes of the industry - and I for one look forward to hearing more diverse accents and, crucially, ideas in the coming years.

Building upon the learnings of 2020

Dominic Carter, group chief commercial officer, News UK

It’s been an interesting year, but I believe that the pandemic has strengthened our business because it has created a shared sense of urgency to accelerate our transformation. The need to adapt to the changing environment has meant innovation and commitment has been at the forefront of our strategy throughout the year, and this will be continued as we ensure that we successfully advance our business into the future.

2020 has highlighted that our pre-pandemic plans were all pointing in the right direction and I feel we are in a strong place. As we continue to build on the learnings, launches and investments from this year, I’m feeling confident that we have the right strategies in place for success next year.

But nothing happens without hard work and having a great team in the business, so part of what we will be doing next year is building on our D&I strategy that we launched this year.

Our diversity and inclusion strategy will be a key focus across our business portfolio. It’s something we’ve already begun driving forward and we’re making positive steps in the right direction. This year we’ve been doing a lot behind the scenes internally as we focus on recruitment and retention, and developing our future leaders.

We also successfully launched Studio Pi, our independent photography and illustration agency designed to champion underrepresented talent from diverse backgrounds and ensure that we get them a seat at the table within the media and creative industries.

So in short, I'm feeling positive about the year ahead.

Simplification, distribution and effectiveness

Sarah Jones, director of planning, Sky Media

It’s been fantastic to see the strength of TV shine through this year as the nation has turned to TV to be entertained, informed and stay connected. With growth in audiences, evolving platform consumption and even better tech capability, our strategy for next year is to focus on the following 3 areas…

Number 1 is simplification. TV has exploded across platforms and devices, but fragmented metrics and currencies have made planning, buying and measurement too complex. We know advertisers want to reach and connect with the right audience – wherever and whenever they watch. For this we need to transform the way TV advertising works. That’s why we’re launching ONE campaign – allowing brands to reach and connect with the right audience all in one place.

Secondly, we will be increasing our distribution to engage global audiences, giving brands easier access to single point multi-territory partnerships. Harnessing the wider Comcast family, we want to help more brands tap in to the $24bn of content and 625m monthly reach. At the other end of the scale on a local level we will enable SMEs self-serve access to our addressable platforms, and continue to demonstrate the power of TV in reaching new audiences for 1000s of businesses that we have worked with.

Also, with the demand we’ve seen for our sporting content on YouTube this year, we’ll be building out our digital distribution too, offering people and advertisers more access to Sky content beyond our subscriber base.

Lastly, effectiveness remains an imperative. With CFlight, we can offer advertisers a holistic view of their linear and VoD reach for the first time. And our direct Web Attribution capability can now connect TV and digital in a deterministic way for advertisers to understand the real impact of their TV advertising on web traffic and sales.

2021: The year for breaking legacy operating models

Patrick Affleck, CEO, Havas Media Group

2020 has exposed multiple fragilities in our industry, and now it’s time to focus on what really matters to deliver more meaningful outcomes for our clients, particularly as purse strings are tightened but expectations for growth aren’t.

The rising need for digital transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic and the resultant and rapid sea-change in consumer and business behaviour, particularly in relation to ecommerce. In the face of these constantly shifting market and behavioural conditions, agencies will need to get better at mobilising new strategic task forces that unite media, creative, data science and engineering skillsets to solve client challenges. Teams that are smaller, faster and more diverse in nature, who are able to circumvent any obstacle that might impede delivery.

Most importantly, they will need to be 100% aligned around the right KPIs to deliver against a client’s business goals and will be funded by value-based compensation, enabling the agency to switch in and out different expertise along the way.

Increasingly, these agile taskforces should be enabled by cloud-based infrastructure which accelerates the pace of everything from insights and modelling through to reporting and NPD for brands. In turn, we will be able to realise outcomes in a fraction of the time, which will give rise to new products that improve both efficiency and effectiveness.

Take Creative-X as an example, which was born out of some afternoon spitballing between some of our media practitioners, data scientists and cloud engineers. It uses machine learning to identify, against millions of campaign events and thousands of creative components, what the most effective creative will be for delivering a desired outcome for a given audience.

So 2021 should be the year for breaking our industry's legacy operating models, and refocusing on how we deliver the best outcomes for our clients.

No time to die

Kathryn Jacob OBE, CEO, Pearl & Dean

It has been a difficult year for cinema and even as we near the end of 2020, we are wrestling with tier restrictions that will impact us in the short term. However, we look to 2021 with positivity, as there is so much for the cinema industry and its advertisers to look forward to in the new year.

Early revenue indications from agency groups forecast that cinema will experience a strong year. This will of course be helped by a plethora of delayed titles that we are so excited to share – including the highly anticipated new Bond film, No Time to Die.

Cinema will be different in 2021. Many distributors have successfully experimented with combining cinema releases with streaming services. This shows that the future of cinema is not an either/or situation – there are benefits to both. With more people working from home, we could also see a shift in admissions as people find more time to visit during the week rather than as a weekend treat, opening new opportunities for advertisers.

We are currently in the green room ahead of a content-filled future, and both Pearl & Dean and DCM can’t wait to return to full strength in the new year.

Rebuilding trust in advertising

Keith Weed, president, Advertising Association

Looking ahead to 2021, we need to work harder than ever to recover from the huge impact and challenges of the past year and continue to rebuild our relationship of trust with the consumer.

The past year has shown ever more clearly just how much trust is the thread that binds together our work. Covid-19 demonstrated how vital our work is in sharing messages with the public and our colleagues went above and beyond to help address the impact of the pandemic when needed.

But rebuilding public trust in advertising goes far beyond the pandemic, it is also a feature of issues such as inclusion and climate action that will be central to our industry’s strategy for success in 2021. A key part of building trust among people is for them to see themselves reflected in the advertising we create, ensuring they feel included in all the work we do and in the make-up of our workforce.

Similarly, the public also needs to know that we fully understand our role in safeguarding the environment and being a positive and responsible force in tackling the climate emergency.

It’s clear we are strongest when we work together as an industry and we have the biggest impact when we have a clear focus on the most important issues facing us all. Rebuilding the trust of the public for our industry and the work we do remains a must for us all – everything we do impacts on how the public trusts us and our advertising.

The icebergs are melting

Jonathan Lewis-Jones, managing director, Publicis Commerce

There’s been a lot of discussion in the industry this year about the changing face of retailer media. We’ve seen retail giants in the US like Walmart and Kroger develop very sophisticated media propositions and we’re slowly seeing UK retailers following suit.

This affords brands significant opportunity to buy more effective and transparent digital media with retailers. Indeed, Dunnhumby value this opportunity at £1.7B for the UK grocery market. However for both brands and retailers to capitalise on this opportunity it will require working in a fundamentally different way.

Retail media ‘budgets’ have for years been lost within opaque supplier funding deals and considered a simple tax of doing business. It is these budgets which now need to be annexed, managed by marketing departments and ultimately planned by agencies.

This is undoubtedly going to cause a lot of disruption in retailer organisations - a retail client of ours talks about supplier funding deals as icebergs which many of the commercial teams do not want to break up, but that could ultimately sink their business if ignored!

Irrespective of this, the direction of travel is clear as we go into 2021. Retailers will start to open up their media propositions more and more and brands should expect to enjoy the same level of structure, rigour and transparency in their trade media deals that they currently enjoy in their consumer media deals.

The longer term opportunity for agencies is then to plan this media together. Very interesting times… Watch this space.

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