Tag Archive: post-pandemic world

  1. Advertising and media: key developments in 2021

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    2021 is finally here, its arrival gratefully welcomed by many across the world glad to turn their backs on a 2020 full of hardship and challenges.

    But we are still living with the coronavirus pandemic, and its impact has permanently transformed how brands and consumers interact. Stay-at-home orders for billions accelerated the digitization of our everyday lives, and brands have responded by ramping up the digital share of their marketing strategies.

    So, what developments will dominate in the year to come and what do they mean for advertisers?

    Point of sale will shift with consumption patterns

    2020 accelerated the digital revolution and forced brands to reconsider their priority advertising channels. Streaming and social advertising were obvious winners, while OOH and cinema have inevitably suffered because of their ‘out of home’ nature. But another less obvious victim is point of sale (POS). POS has always been an important channel for brands, convincing consumers as it does to make an impulse purchase or to make a last-minute decision in favour of one brand over another. The move online means that the power of this valuable opportunity to reach consumers at a critical time in the purchasing funnel has been diminished, and this is likely to have exacerbated the impact that the pandemic has had on sales. Many brands will be looking to shift their POS investment into alternative channels – and vendors such as Amazon will benefit, with their ability to reach consumers while they are in the ‘buying mood’, echoing the power of POS. In fact, all retailers with strong online sales capabilities will benefit, as retail – and therefore POS – increasingly moves online.

    Big Tech will face its big reckoning

    With so many people forced to stay at home, the services offered by the tech titans dominated another year: keeping in touch with Facebook, shopping with Amazon, collaborating with colleagues using Microsoft’s tools, and seeking entertainment via YouTube and streaming services. This inevitably sent their revenues soaring, with the big four each posting remarkable results whilst other companies floundered in the midst of a global recession. This dichotomy did not go unnoticed: it did nothing to quell suspicions that Big Tech is too powerful and that its monopoly on the marketplace is too large. They stand accused by lawmakers across the world that they have engaged in anti-competitive behaviour, using their power and scale to choke the ability of their smaller rivals to compete with them.

    2021 could be the year that Big Tech finally feels the ramifications of these accusations; regulatory authorities in the US, the EU, India and the UK are all clamping down on Big Tech in different ways. The EU has revealed the drafts of two digital services laws that would create a powerful apparatus to temper the power of Silicon Valley, complete with threats to break up companies that repeatedly engage in anti-competitive behaviour. Meanwhile, the federal government in the US has launched antitrust cases against Google and Facebook, accusing them of pursuing strategies to throttle competition.

    But it might not be these regulatory moves that pose the greatest threat to Big Tech. It could actually be its employees. The current employees of the Big Tech firms are becoming increasingly comfortable with expressing their concerns about their employers: in an internal poll, only 51% of Facebook employees said they believed the social network was having a positive impact on the world. The ‘badge post’ – a traditional farewell note for any departing Facebook employee – has been weaponised against the social network on a number of occasions in recent months, with one data scientist saying it was ‘embarrassing to work here’ thanks to the amount of hate speech on the platform. Meanwhile, more than 200 US Google employees have formed a union, the first group at a big tech company to do so as the industry faces a ‘reckoning over years of unchecked power’, and Google employees also recently protested over the departure of ethics researcher Timnit Gebru.

    For advertisers, this reckoning will likely lead to a wider dispersing of their digital ad dollars. Many are already asking their agencies to pull investment out of Facebook and direct it to other platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat and Pinterest, or even ad-supported streaming platforms, because they no longer trust Facebook enough to place 100% of their investment there. There is also a risk that consumers will react negatively to brands associating themselves too closely with the big tech companies – as we saw during the Facebook boycott in the summer of 2020. With trust in all the tech giants dissipating, it seems inevitable that this diversification trend will affect them as well – and that will be a good thing for the industry.

    TV will tip from linear to streaming

    Services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and their newer competitors like Disney+ and Peacock have attracted new viewers in their millions in the past year – and ad dollars are following those eyeballs.

    At the US Upfronts, advertisers were increasingly demanding more streaming options as part of the packages they were purchasing, and vendors were obliging in an effort to offset losses incurred by the lack of live sport and investment from sectors hit hardest by the pandemic. Combined linear and streaming packages were common, and this focus on streaming by both vendors and buyers will likely tip the balance in streaming’s favour this year, particularly as restrictions seem set to be with us for the foreseeable future.

    US marketing executives say CTV already represents 18% of their advertising spend, with almost 39% of sports viewers watching live sports content through their CTV devices. This is significant because, up until recently, one of the key reasons to not cut the cord was due to live sports. As advertisers are increasingly including CTV into their mix, and cord-cutting is increasing, the need for measurement is amplified.

    Most people have probably heard about, or experienced, being inundated with the same ad over and over while watching a show on CTV. Not only is this frustrating, but it can also have the opposite to the desired effect: overserving ads can turn a potential customer off buying a product.

    For linear TV, it has been standard practice to measure certain quality KPIs to determine advertising effectiveness. We can tell where and when an ad runs – measuring the efficiency of daypart mix, competitive separation, double-spotting, to name a few – to ensure that the quality of the buy is delivering to set communication goals. Even with these measures in place, we too often see inefficient impression delivery, leaving valuable reach untapped.

    Within the CTV world, issues of measurement, management, and transparency are working to catch up. Even with frequency capping in place, it can be hard to implement, so a lot of waste is created. Some also speculate that, as usage of streaming increases, frequency will lessen due to more advertisers being present on the platform. While this may occur, it will still be important to have a bearing on where and when your ads run, and that frequency is being managed.

    With CTV’s share of media plans set to grow at an exponential rate in the coming years, more focus must be on measurement and reporting, to ensure that impressions are effectively building towards communication goals.

    Flexibility will be key

    2020 has shown that even the best-laid plans are not infallible. Which airline marketer, for example, put provisions in place for a pandemic that essentially shut down the travel industry?

    One of the many consequences was that the favoured model of large, long-term advertising commitments took a fatal blow, with a multitude of advertisers worst hit by the pandemic desperately trying to disentangle themselves from their advertising commitments. At the TV Upfronts in the US, flexibility was every advertiser’s number one priority, with cancellation options non-negotiable; as TV networks were desperate to bolster their bottom lines, buyers could negotiate options that suited them more, such as committing dollars by quarter, and the ability to cancel a certain percentage in a longer time frame. These must-haves are likely to remain in 2021 and beyond.

    The drive for flexibility to be able to better weather storms is likely to manifest in a gravitation towards media placements at the lower end of the sales funnel. These channels offer the flexibility to halt spending quickly, so advertisers are likely to choose programmatic spend rather than committing a fixed amount to a publisher, or social media channels as opposed to large, inflexible TV investments.

    Successful advertisers will be prepared, but agile

    The pandemic has accelerated change across the world, at a societal, economic and individual level, and we will be feeling its ramifications for many years to come. The most successful advertisers will be those who are prepared, but also agile: able to bend, rather than snap, in the face of inevitable change. In order to be prepared and flexible, a deep understanding of your media activity and how it can be optimized is essential.

    If you would like to discuss how to optimize your media performance in 2021 and beyond, please feel free to contact us:

    Header image: atk work / Shutterstock

  2. Human-centricity: the key to marketing in a post-pandemic world

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    A few weeks ago, we posted an article containing insights from this year’s ANA Masters of Marketing. One of the key themes from this conference was human-centricity – many speakers at the conference told how their brands are focusing on people as humans, with all the associated desires, values and flaws, rather than as consumers or vehicles for wallets. This is nothing new – after all, corporate social responsibility has existed for many years – but in the last few years the idea of purpose has really gathered speed, and has become the phrase on everyone’s lips in 2020.

    So what does human-centric marketing mean? And what does it look like?

    From consumer to human

    For a long time, brands have talked about the people who buy their products or services as consumers. This implies a one-dimensional, money-focused view: but consumers are, of course, human beings who are complex and driven by values, desires and whims. In order to appeal better to people buying their products, brands need to appeal to those values, desires and whims – the ‘human-ness’ – and not just target their wallets. At the ANAs, Marcos Spanos, the Senior VP of Brand Marketing for yogurt at Danone North America, set out a new ‘four Ps’; long used to refer to product, price, place and promotion, Spanos claimed it now means people, purpose, passion and positivity.

    ‘Human-centric’ can mean different things for different brands

    Human-centric behavior can mean many things for brands, and will depend on a brand’s identity and mission. It could mean supporting causes that your customers cherish, responsive customer services or treating and paying employees fairly. What it always means is acting with authenticity, because consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about spotting when a brand is authentic and when it is simply talking the talk.

    Having a positive impact

    One of the best ways to forge a connection with a human is to support a cause that is important to them. A study of 8000 people and 75 companies across eight countries showed that people are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust and champion companies with a strong purpose. 83% said companies should only earn a profit if they also deliver a positive impact. At the Masters of Marketing, Intel’s CMO Karen Walker told delegates ‘The brands that are taking action and have a more human-centric approach are the ones driving meaningful change.’

    What does all this mean for marketers in 2020?

    Just like every other sector of business and society, the coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the advertising industry, driving fundamental change. Marketing campaigns have a very different feel, with brands changing their messaging to be more sensitive to the plight of many staying at home, missing loved ones and facing unemployment or illness. They have also sought to put their weight behind the causes that have become so important to society: supporting healthcare and key workers, ensuring children have enough to eat and combatting loneliness, to name just a few. Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has forced brands to have more diverse representation in ads, as well as in boardrooms and among employees.

    Black Friday 2020: from consumerism to altruism

    Black Friday has traditionally been a major income-generator for brands, positioned as it is at the start of the Christmas shopping season. Indeed, it has been transported from the US, where it originated, across the Atlantic to Europe and beyond. But this year has been anything but traditional. The pandemic seems to have unleashed kindness and greater environmental consciousness, with many people waking up to the fact that hyper-consumerism doesn’t do the planet or society any favors. Many brands declared themselves out of the Black Friday discounting race this year, instead choosing to promote more altruistic initiatives, such as Ikea’s ‘Buy Back Friday’ and Deciem’s ‘Knowvember’, which saw it shut down its physical and online stores on Black Friday and christen November ‘Knowvember’ to raise awareness of the climate crisis.

    The behind-the-scenes work is just as important

    The final piece of the human-centric jigsaw is the work that isn’t immediately visible to the customer, but that certainly affects wider society and will reflect the customer’s values. That work includes ensuring that the makeup of boards and teams reflects that of wider society, and makes space for diverse voices; looking at where investments are made; and making sure that supply chains are ethical and sustainable. Diageo’s ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ approach is very much part of its company strategy, rather than just a marketing strategy – it has, in its own words, ‘infused brands with purpose’. The impact of this strategy will no doubt be used to create compelling and engaging communications campaigns that will resonate with the people that buy Diageo’s products.

    Context is key

    When communicating around brand purpose, the context in which an ad is placed is even more critical than usual. It is more than just avoiding toxic content like that of the brand safety scandals of recent years; it is about choosing spots or placements sensitively so that the brand’s messaging is not negated by an awkward juxtaposition. What’s more, carefully selected placements can enhance a campaign, with the ad acting as a response or solution to the content in which it is placed, for example. We live in an age where marketers will have to wean themselves off targeted marketing thanks to the demise of the cookie; this will likely make way for a return to contextual marketing, which allows advertisers to deliver marketing messages to consumers when they are consuming relevant content. This can only be a good thing for purpose-led marketing, where context is key.

    2020: a sea-change for brand purpose

    ‘Purpose’ has been an advertising buzz word for many years, but 2020 may just be the year that made it the default, not a nice-to-have. Many people are talking about a ‘new normal’ for a post-pandemic world; maybe the new normal for advertising will be to have the human – and not the consumer – at the heart of a brand’s communications and behavior. But it only works if it comes from a place of real care about humanity and causes: people can sense the difference between an authentic desire to have a positive impact, and simply wanting to look and sound good – and if they sense the latter, it can have a very damaging effect on a brand.

    We would be interested to hear what human-centric marketing means for your brand, and how you will be bringing that to life in 2021. Please do let us know on LinkedIn or at – we look forward to hearing from you.

    Header image: Body Stock / Shutterstock