The top talking points of 2020 at The Year Ahead
Left to right: Twitter's Dara Nasr, MediaCom's Kate Rowlinson, PAMCo's Jan Gooding, Direct Line's Sam Taylor
What did our Year Ahead panellists select as their highlights (good and bad) from the past 12 months?
Last week saw Mediatel’s annual, invite-only The Year Ahead event take place over a truly innovative digital networking platform, which delegates described as a cross between Club Penguin (for those of you who remember) and a virtual happy-hour.
When attendees weren’t pinging from table to table catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, they were posing questions to a video keynote from Matthew Bloxham, senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, and reacting live to the thoughts of on-stage panellists who took part in two insightful virtual discussions.
In particular, the second of these panel discussions sent the audience chat functionality into meltdown as four media leaders were asked to share their media personality of 2020, media company of 2020, media disaster of 2020 and the biggest media surprise of the past year.
Agree? Disagree? Leave your thoughts below or on Twitter.
Media personality of 2020
Jan Gooding: Marcus Rashford
"He teamed up with FareShare to get meals to schools and children. He managed to get school meals extended into the summer holidays. Even when you might have thought, ‘he’s done his bit’, when the Government faltered, he managed to galvanise businesses everywhere to provide meals locally. Eventually, the Government stumped up an additional £400 million towards the cost of food and bills for poor families."
Kate Rowlinson: Michaela Coel
"Michaela is the creator of the BBC drama, I May Destroy You. It made me realise that you don’t hear from many diverse voices, certainly not from many black female storytellers. She’s achieved what she’s achieved against the odds. She famously walked away from a one million-dollar deal with Netflix in order to retain autonomy as a writer. It’s hugely exciting, not just to think about what she might do next, but also who she will inspire."
Sam Taylor: Chris Witty, the Government’s chief medical adviser.
"Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! He’s shot to fame. But what really got my interest was that over the Christmas period, he spent time working on the COVID ICU wards looking after patients, risking his own health. For me, that means he’s a good leader too."
Dara Nasr: Joe Wicks
"With the first lockdown, we were not used to working from home on a consistent basis and home schooling. [Joe] set up his live PE for kids. It is one of most kids’ favourite classes in school, and we also know that exercise is great for mental health. Having that burden removed from parents was superb, and he did it so quickly and professionally. On top of that, he also generated a huge amount of money from his YouTube channel, which he gave to the NHS."
Media company of 2020
Kate Rowlinson: Microsoft Teams
"It might sound a little obvious. But whichever video conferencing platform technology we're using, the fact that it didn't fall over in March was incredible. One day, 1,200 people across Mediacom UK were all in the office, and the next day, we were at home. The technology facilitated a seamless transition. It allowed us to stay connected with each other and stay connected with our clients."
Jan Gooding: CNN
"For its coverage of the American elections. Impartiality has never been more important, and the events in Washington DC recently just reminded us again that the way things get reported is so critical. If CNN hadn’t reported it in the way that it did, the protests could have escalated and could have perhaps been even more frightening."
Dara Nasr: The BBC
"For how it covered Covid in the news, but also how it pulled off [other shows]. Strictly is probably its biggest show, but proximity is very important for it. It brought a lot of joy to 14-15 million people a week, in a time where joy and LOLs were top of the agenda."
Sam Taylor: Channel 4
"I am sticking with the public service broadcasting theme. Channel 4 introduced anti-racism pledges and worked hard towards diversity. The one million pound diversity and advertising award stood out, as well as the retailer collaborative ad on racism. Its campaign ‘Be more rainbow’ was inspired. Plus, it still gave us Gogglebox and Bake Off in a year when it really mattered."
Media disaster of 2020
Kate Rowlinson: Crocodile tears & production breaks
"I’m not sure if it can be classed as a disaster or not, but Matt Hancock ‘crying’ on breakfast television was certainly one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. Otherwise, my personal disaster would be all those wonderful television shows that had to halt production on new series such as season three of Succession and season four of Stranger Things."
Sam Taylor: Sensodyne fails the sensitivity test
"Last year was a time for brands to talk less and do more, and some got it horribly wrong. One example that stood out for me was the GSK brand, Sensodyne. It made an ad showing a dentist talking on Zoom about how to keep your teeth clean during Covid, with the closing message of ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon - why is brushing our teeth during Covid any different to any other day?"
Dara Nasr: Killer advice
"In April, Donald Trump suggested on live television that by injecting bleach, we may be able to fend off Covid. Although many of us found it laughable, what was scary was that bleach sales in the U.S skyrocketed, making it a morally reprehensible and incredible dangerous thing for a President to say."
Jan Gooding: 30 Miles to 20/20 vision
"The funniest disaster was Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye dribbling down his face. The symbolism was so extraordinary. Everything was falling apart, including his hair. But the most disastrous, especially for the UK Government, and a real turning point in terms of keeping the country onside during the coronavirus crisis, was Dominic Cummings’ press briefing in the garden of Number 10, Downing Street.
"Barnard Castle was put on the map, Cummings came across as a self-appointed quasi-Prime Minister, and testing your eyesight by going on a 30 mile drive made him not only a laughing stock, but also incurred the wrath of a nation for his sheer audacity in trying to defend the indefensible."
'30 Miles to Barnard Castle' video game
Biggest Media Surprise of 2020
Dara Nasr: Cummings ousted
"My biggest surprise was Cummings going. The meme prior to the Barnard Castle debacle was that Cummings was running the country and Boris was just going on air and saying the lines he was given. He came across as bullet-proof so when he was finally ousted with very little warning, I personally found that a huge surprise."
Kate Rowlinson: Staged
"I was surprised to find myself doing Zoom quizzes every Thursday and Friday night with around 20 mates. But my biggest media surprise was Staged, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen (or should that be Michael Sheen and David Tennant). It’s a brilliant piece of television, all filmed on Zoom and it’s symbolic of TV production agility and all the weird and wonderful things that happened in lockdown such as Zoom quizzes that no-one really wants to participate in. The cameo from Judi Dench was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.
Jan Gooding: Black Lives Matter
"For me, it was the impact of the killing of George Floyd and subsequent growth in the Black Lives Matter movement. For black people, this incident didn’t come as a surprise but the surprising element was how it suddenly cut-through, right across the world and it demanded a response. It went beyond the police or government response. It reached different people in a different way. For example, in the UK it resulted in the toppling of Colston, the Bristol slave trader statue."
Sam Taylor: The rise of TikTok
"Mine was the number of TikTok downloads. There were 115 million global downloads of TikTok in the space of March alone, giving it the record for the highest number of app downloads in a single quarter. It was just insane, especially when the content isn’t that great. When you have a 30-second video of someone lip-syncing receiving 529 million views, that’s just insane."