How to be an optimist ahead of the New Year
We asked senior agency leaders for their feelings about 2021 – here are some of their reasons to be cheerful
December 7, 2020
How optimistic should marketers be as they build their return to growth strategies for 2021? What qualities should they put their faith in – and what predictions can they make with confidence? At a time when hope is growing of an end to the pandemic but significant uncertainty remains, LinkedIn has been sounding out the views of a group who spend much of their time monitoring business confidence and marketing spend: senior media agency leaders.
With recent research from LinkedIn showing more than half of B2B marketers feeling optimistic about the future, we asked a group of our media agency partners about what makes them feel positive going forward and how they’re thinking about growth plans for next year. Here are the things they’ve found to celebrate in colleagues’ responses to the challenges of 2020, the strategies that their clients are following – and how they approach the challenge of forecasting the future.
Teams that have proved their agility
The resilience and adaptability of agency colleagues is a consistent thread that runs throughout our senior leaders’ responses. Sadly, the upheaval and budget cuts brought about by the pandemic have led to restructures and redundancies. However, they have also been a trigger to innovation – and demonstrated just what agency teams are capable of.
The agency has adapted amazingly well to the situation. The transition to lockdown was relatively seamless because we had started forward planning when the main advice was still to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice over. My team has been fantastic. We all had the same realisation that this was big – and everybody has been scouring for research, reports and examples of brand reactions.”
Strategy Director, Havas Media Group
My team have been my greatest source of inspiration over this period. They surprise me on a daily basis and 60-odd people providing new ways of thinking changes your perspective.”
Global Paid Social Lead and Product Partner, iProspect
For all the challenges of 2020 I feel we are entering 2021 as a stronger organisation. The pandemic accelerated multiple aspects of agency life that were slowly evolving - from the way we work to our offering to clients. We've pitched for and won new business as entirely remote teams and set up an ecommerce team from scratch - none of which was on our roadmap for the year but we're so proud to have done it."
EVP Head of Media EMEA, Essence
Clients that remain calm – and focused on fundamentals
For several leaders, one of the most positive (and unexpected) features of the pandemic has been the response of their clients. Although budgets have been cut for some, others report that marketers are continuing to invest. There’s more awareness than in previous recessions that maintaining or growing share of voice can position brands strongly for the recovery.
Binet and Field have been an important source of inspiration. I think the way to deal with a crisis is to learn from principles that have stood the test of time.”
Head of Performance Media, Zenith
I don't believe that clients’ core objectives have shifted that much. Whilst their growth plans might be slightly reduced from initial forecasts, overall they still want sustainable growth. If anything I think the current situation has just opened brands up to thinking how they can address those objectives with a bit more lateral-thinking or from a slightly new direction. For many, it has made them realise they need to be more agile, get closer to cultural trends to stay relevant, and pay back in some way to be more meaningful. We’ve been advocating those behaviours long before 2020!”
Clients’ core objectives haven't shifted significantly. Their businesses are operating in the same way with the same goals but they are perhaps looking at a different route to achieve those goals, taking advantage of demand that didn't exist previously or looking for new challenges that their products can solve.”
Strategy Director, Havas Media Group
The opportunities in behavioural shifts
One of the key roles for agency partners involves helping marketers to decipher the long-term significance of behaviour changes driven by the pandemic. Are these temporary shifts – or long-term trends that strategies should be built around?
There has been a lot of client interest in how the disruption has changed consumer behaviours. We've been researching since the week before the first national lockdown and have continued to keep a close eye, wave on wave. There has been an interest in which trends have accelerated, and which are the behaviours currently on pause that are set to recover. The long-term impact on clients’ own sectors and customer base is yet to be determined – but identifying those pockets of opportunity has been a really interesting task.”
Clients are most interested in how customer and media behaviours are shifting, and how that’s impacting the market. Lockdowns have had a significant impact on media consumption and normal routes to purchase have been disrupted with the high street playing second fiddle to the internet. The behavioural changes that we’re seeing are potential indicators of future trends, and so being able to provide up-to-date information is really vital in helping them direct their businesses.”
A new sense of perspective
It’s not just business strategies and budgets that have changed in response to 2020. Several of our agency leaders report a new sense of perspective among themselves, their clients and colleagues, which could lead to deeper and mor productive relationships going forward.
I read a book called Wilding at the beginning of lockdown that covers two farmers that re-wild their land. In the process, they come to realise that the way that we as a society have developed is incredibly inefficient, tend to replicate processes that are already available and more optimal. Focusing on a narrow set of KPIs can make us feel like we're making huge progress, but hides the reality that we're falling behind in other areas. Taking that as an inspiration, I'm trying to look at the ways I approached work before lockdown and determine which bits are effective and sensible and which bits are just me fighting against myself.”
I think that, in some ways, collaboration has really grown over this period and there has been a lot more sharing around the industry. All of the voices in the landscape advocating the fact that certain truths remain consistent has been very beneficial for calming client nerves. Some of the classic marketing sources have been fundamental.”
New experiences have taught me a lot and I've learned much about what my colleagues, friends and family are capable of too. I have seen what drives, scares and comforts us. In fact, I think 2020 has brought many of us closer together.”