It’s a new year and hopefully one that brings more promise than the last. 2020 was unprecedented in many ways, not just for marketers but for all industries. We created new trends, widely adopted behaviors accelerated by pandemic-induced restrictions, and are perhaps more socially and culturally aware as a nation than we have ever been. This isn’t a political piece though. No, after a most-challenging year for so many, our objective is to share our thoughts and opinions – backed by some research – on what we can look forward to in media in the year ahead. Take a deep breath, enjoy your sip of coffee, tea, or glass of pinot (no one’s judging and there’s no telling what hour you chose to read this) and let’s dive in.


The Workplace is anywhere there is an internet connection. I have read in other places, as I’m sure you have to, that “work-from-anywhere” is a more accurate term than “work-from-home.” For those of us fortunate enough to be able to conduct our work from outside of a set location, the remote work environment has provided its benefits – trading early morning traffic jams for family breakfasts, and slacks for sweatpants – as well as its own unique set of challenges – barking dogs during meetings and team collaboration. Productivity, however, is suggested to have improved. With less time spent during a commute, workers are able to put that time back into their day, which has led to more positive sentiment overall. According to PwC’s latest US Remote Work Survey, allowing the flexibility needed to manage family matters is rated highest: 79% of employees say it’s been a success.


“The biggest gaps in perception between employers and employees on the success of a company's efforts to support remote work relate to childcare and manager training.” A recent Upwork survey estimates that 1 in 4 Americans will be working remotely in 2021, so it is important that these hurdles be solved in the new year. Most likely, we can expect a hybrid workplace model that encourages employees to be in the office just a few days per week. The purpose of the “office” will serve as a space to meet with clients and partners, enable colleagues to collaborate effectively in the same room, and be a place that fosters company culture.


Social Commerce is booming. Right now, in the U.S. it is a $26.9 billion market and projected to grow to $604.5 billion globally in the next seven years. Understandably, retailers have had to recently pivot how they operate their brick-and-mortar locations due to pandemic restrictions, but social media’s e-commerce capabilities will only continue to gain more traction with brands as tools like Shops on Facebook and Instagram make it easier for the consumer to go from discovery to purchase without ever having to leave the app. Pinterest’s Buyable Pins, Snapchat’s brand profiles with a native store option powered by Shopify, and TikTok’s shoppable live-stream test with Walmart all further point to the focus of these platforms and where the industry is heading. According to eMarketer, advertising on ecommerce platforms jumped 39% in 2020 and will grow another 30% in 2021, capturing 13% of total U.S. digital ad spend. As the year unfolds, one thing is certain: ad spend will follow the consumer.


Influencers and influencer marketing specialists will be popular. Seemingly hand-in-hand with social commerce, social media influencers have been on the rise in recent years, and as social media becomes more rooted in our everyday lives (ahem, like shopping), the role of influencers is set to grow. According to Business Insider Intelligence, influencer marketing is expected to be a $15 billion industry by 2022. However, the market isn’t just the Kardashian or Jenner stereotype – influencers are filling every conceivable niche and sub-niche interest resulting in categories of influencers of all sizes and followings. “Brands are increasingly tapping other key influencer types, including micro- and nano-influencers, kid-fluencers, gaming influencers, and virtual (computer-generated) influencers.” In fact, based on a 2019 report by Later and Fohr, engagement rates are highest amongst micro-influencers (those with less than 100k followers) thanks to their loyalist following.


Additionally, the social activism we witnessed in 2020 has led many brands to rethink how their marketing reflects their values, true or perceived. Authenticity will be a major factor in creative messaging in the years ahead, and the representation of that messaging is likely to include influencers who look and sound like the consumer. Expect more influencers and more agencies to offer their services to navigate the increasingly wide landscape.


Identity Solutions is what every brand will be asking about (if they aren’t already). Kudos to you if you have a data strategy and are actively putting your first-party data to use. And if you’re not, well… train’s leaving. Okay, okay, the train’s not leaving. Your first-party data isn’t going anywhere, actually; third-party cookies are. First-party data – that is, the data collected from your own audience – is comprised from the behaviors or actions taken on your website or app, CRM data, social media profile(s), subscription data, and customer surveys. First-Party data usage will take center stage in 2021 with Google’s shift away from third-party cookies looming and the impact of Apple’s iOS update on IDFA. Brands, and their agency partners, will need to work together on a strategy to collect data and identify personalized preferences consumers want while honoring these privacy changes. Craig Dempster, CEO of Merkle, explains “Hyper-personalization and targeted offers are going to become increasingly difficult for brands to enable once third-party cookies and other tracking mechanisms are disabled. Equally important to note are customer preferences for brand communication.” One proposed solution is The Trade Desk’s industry-wide initiative to develop and deploy Unified ID 2.0 . With the support of Nielsen, “Unified ID 2.0 is a new industry-wide approach to internet identity that preserves the value of relevant advertising, while putting user control and privacy at the forefront.”

Like any New Year’s resolution, 2021 is an opportunity to reflect on your values, renew goals, rethink strategies, and rebuild yourself and your business. Call it a comeback year.

Come back to the office, please. I’m lonely.