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Media and advertising in 2021: strategies for success // Part 2

Media and advertising in 2021: strategies for success // Part 2

In the second 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 1 here.

Responsible advertising and climate action

Stephen Woodford, chief executive, Advertising Association

In 2020 the AA launched its new mission that put responsible advertising at the heart of our work on behalf of the industry. We saw responsible advertising in action across the responses to the Covid pandemic, with the amplification of public health messages by brands and media owners and through umbrella campaigns like ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’. In 2021, we’ll continue this mission through the AA’s work.

We will build on the launch of Ad Net Zero, with the roll-out of the 5-step action plan to reduce advertising’s carbon footprint towards net zero in 2030. One of the most important steps is the AdGreen programme, where the tools to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of advertising production will become widely available and adopted.

There will also be more industry progress on diversity and inclusion, with an unprecedented initiative from the IPA, ISBA and the AA. Addressing the challenges of climate change and the need for a step change in the diversity and inclusiveness of our industry are two big opportunities we know people in advertising want to see to build a better industry.

Through 2020 we had a close and constructive working relationship with Government, both on addressing the challenges of the pandemic and on recovery. Where the relationship is less positive is on the proposals for further restrictions on HFSS advertising. These are very poorly evidenced and the potential costs far outweigh the negligible estimated impact on child obesity.

That significant dark cloud aside, and assuming that sanity prevails and a Brexit deal is done, there is much to be positive about as the economy recovers. We can hopefully then enjoy summer 2021 with business back to near normal, and with Covid safely behind us.

Sexual harassment cannot return to the office

Helen Calcraft, founder of Lucky Generals and timeTo Steering Group member

Looking to 2021, and as we slowly make a return to work as we come through the pandemic, I believe it is more important than ever that we consciously and proactively seek to change the industry culture and eradicate sexual harassment. The world is going to be so different and there is no place for a return to the "old normal" where predators can lurk in the shadows, and people have to endure abuses of power and sexually motivated bullying.

In addition, we have to recognise that harassment can happen over Zoom and on Teams and we need to encourage people to speak up or call NABS if they are made to feel uncomfortable when working from home, as well as in an office.

Recent research by timeTo showed nearly half of survey respondents believe sexual harassment will be even more of a problem as businesses return to offices, with ‘pent up’ emotions possibly leading to an increase in inappropriate behaviour. Our timeTo training and Code of Conduct have been updated to reflect new ways of working, incorporate research learnings, and help educate on how sexual harassment can manifest when working virtually or in a hybrid environment.

I would advise everyone across the industry to remain vigilant to sexual harassment in the workplace. Just because the people who perpetrate sexual harassment have been away for a while doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. There are people in our industry scared to come back to the office and this is wrong.

As we move into 2021, and as the pandemic and lockdowns hopefully ease, I would strongly encourage colleagues to join the timeTo movement and help us bring about the change that is needed in our new working environments.

Get up close and personal

Craig Tuck, chief revenue officer, The Ozone Project

Given the year we’ve just had, to "get up close and personal" might seem like a somewhat strange and risky strategy, but in essence it captures two areas that we deem critical to 2021 success.

Firstly, we will continue to forge deeper relationships with advertiser and agency partners, integrating our businesses - through Ozone Marketplace for example - in a way that delivers better outcomes for all. In 2020 the ISBA & PwC study into transparency in the programmatic supply chain shone a light on the distance between brands and premium publishers in digital advertising.

2021 therefore presents the perfect time to put the report’s recommendations into practice and ensure quality, trusted, brand-safe and known environments are central to creating a better way of doing digital.

Secondly, the accelerated decline of the third-party cookie means the huge depth of first-party audience data held by premium publishers and content providers will become ever-more valuable to advertisers; providing extremely insightful, contextually-relevant and fully compliant ways of understanding the customer.

Through closer alignment and integration with even more brands than we do today, we will ensure the advertiser and the publisher - as the sole controllers of the relationships with consumers - remain the primary parties in the digital advertising exchange.

Champion creativity, effectiveness and diversity

Philippa Brown, worldwide CEO, PHD and chair, AA

The global pandemic has resulted in tremendous changes to advertising, forcing advertisers to rethink their entire approach to creating campaigns. While brands seek to strike the right tone during a global health emergency, it has never been more important for businesses to reimagine what it means to be champions for creativity, effectiveness and value. We must continue to build on this and keep momentum going and thereby demonstrate the crucial social contribution that advertising makes.

Advertisers also need to put greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and the welfare of their teams. In times of isolation, the diversification and wellbeing of our teams must be at the forefront of our priorities. A commitment is needed from advertisers to listen, support and evolve to meet the needs of a modern workforce. During heightened moments of uncertainty like we see at present, advertisers must show empathy and reflect the diverse realities of the world.

As we brace ourselves for another year that is likely to bring profound change for our industry, we must be bold in our thinking, make the leap in creativity and unite in our determination to see a strong, sustainable future for advertising.

Brave hearts, open minds and a touch of Homer

Emil Bielski, UK managing director, Croud

Thanks to a lockdown-inspired purchase of a Disney+ subscription, I rewatched some of my favourite ‘The Simpson’s’ episodes – which not only made me laugh, but also provided me with some surprising business insight.

In the episode "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, Homer’s millionaire half-brother comes to town and tasks Homer with creating the perfect car. Homer attacks the project with gusto, adding every feature he could possibly dream of. Whilst none of them are bad individually, when all added together the result is not only a hideous creation, but it is crazily expensive - and his half-brother promptly goes out of business.

Many of us in the industry are probably guilty of something similar: to please everyone, strategy becomes a tick-box exercise – a bit of column A, a bit of column B, and some of C. Yet, the best strategies, those that transform our client's businesses, invariably have a singular purpose of vision. Not to write Homer off completely, we can draw inspiration from his creative thinking and courage, but sometimes you need to say no to a good idea.

Next year agencies will need to be brave, but can only achieve this if the individuals who make up agencies are brave themselves. As leaders we need to encourage courage, listen to feedback and build a culture of openness, don’t just talk about it.

Staying social

Tamara Littleton, CEO, The Social Element

Phew. Putting together ideas for success in 2021 must mean that 2020 is finally coming to an end. But whilst we may be glad to see the back of this rollercoaster of a year, it’s important to remember we’ve learned some lessons along the way.

We’ve always said social media was the most key listening and engagement tool with customers - in 2020 its importance took on a life of its own. From noticing and responding to fast-changing audience moods, providing a front-line customer service replacement for in-person help, for building trust and even for directly selling - social has been the first and last port of call for customers in a year of lockdown.

In 2021, brands need to leverage social further to develop a truly authentic brand voice that can be deployed across comms: one with empathy at its heart that is responsive to changing concerns and fundamentally agile.

Marketing calendars must also be less about planning, and more about preparing. The pandemic and social issues won’t be going anywhere fast so businesses must ensure they can speak authentically on the issues that make sense for them - and on the ones that make sense for all of us.

Smart brands will work to ensure that by listening to their customers on social and responding fast to new developments, they can keep close to their customers moving forwards and stay relevant and connected.

Inspiring growth

Richard Dunn, EMEA chief strategy officer, Wunderman Thompson

We’ll continue to focus on working as a growth partner to our clients. Our strategy for doing this is to help them inspire their audiences everywhere along the customer journey. We’ve built our capabilities to help make this happen, pulling in creativity, technology, data and operational skills to ensure a brand’s end-to-end experience is inspiring and superior to their competition.

We’ve also recently launched our Inspiring Growth study. This shows that brands that are able to inspire their customers are much more likely to succeed when it comes to driving brand growth. This will help clients make the case for investing in extraordinary content and experiences. It also uncovered an ‘inspiration gap’ - a gap between customers wanting brands to be inspirational and those experiencing it. In other words, it means that people appreciate the role brands can play in their life in inspiring them and helping them achieve goals.

With this in mind, we want to assist brands to grasp the opportunity. Our research allows us to diagnose how individual brands can be more inspirational and helps us advise them on experiences and content that will deliver this.

With anxieties continuing to run high after a year like no other, as we move into 2021 I expect more brands will be keen to radically rethink their approach. We hope they’ll take the opportunity to be bold, and to find new ways to meet customer needs and help customers raise their ambitions and expectations.

Context is king

Peter Wallace, EMEA managing director, GumGum

Contextual intelligence should be a key focus for advertisers, agencies and publishers next year, as demand surges for privacy-friendly ad targeting in the face of anti-cookie legislation. With the work-from-home migration prompting a 31% rise in screen time, online video is becoming more lucrative than ever.

Next-gen contextual targeting, with powerful image recognition and natural language processing, is bringing human-like perception to the analysis and targeting of millions of videos across OTT and CTV. Advertisers must take advantage to build a cohesive cross-platform presence.

Contextual technologies should also play a central role in brand safety strategies. In a febrile news year that’s seen millions of dollars of lost revenue for publishers around coronavirus and Black Lives Matter content, 2020 has laid bare the limitations of blunt keyword blocking. Advertisers and agencies must increasingly look to contextual for a more sophisticated solution, promising a watertight approach to brand suitability/safety that doesn’t compromise reach while also supporting quality journalism.

Attention metrics need to be a key priority too, identifying the value of media which wasn’t interacted with (i.e. clicked) but was viewed. Research shows that greater alignment of context and messaging delivers significantly increased attention. In 2021, brands should work to deliver this through dynamic messaging to appeal to user mindset at that very moment.

Agility, effective sales and the power of digital

Duncan Chater, head of sales, Europe, Bloomberg Media

As we move into 2021, agility will continue to be crucial. Over the last year, we found this to be a key ingredient to a successful strategy that ensures we’re a strong and helpful partner for clients. In order to maintain this next year, we will continue to anticipate market shifts and focus on our core strengths: a consultative approach, unrivalled access to data and insights, a full range of customisable solutions and trusted platforms.

Effective sales is evolving more and more towards a consultative approach; we need to understand our customers and offer real value to them. There is a growing desire from clients to understand how audiences behave, and more importantly when these behaviours change, so that we can develop plans around real time trends. We recently expanded our Bloomberg Brand Health System to Europe to give brands fresh data on their strengths and weaknesses. As we look towards 2021, we will continue to put audience insight at the forefront of all of our campaigns.

Perhaps more than any other, this year has shown us the true power of digital. In fact, our third quarter digital revenues have increased by 87% year on year. As new platforms emerge, we expect to see digital spend continue to grow within the industry. This will provide new opportunities for Bloomberg Media, brands, and advertisers.

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