Predictions2020: The Year Ahead for Media Agencies

By Lee Boden, regional managing director of Initiative

While there are many key elections and events taking place next year, the American election in November is the one that will set the tone for global security, global trade and global cooperation for  the decade ahead. With this election taking place so late in the year, 2020 for many global businesses will be spent treading water waiting to see in which direction the world’s largest economy is moving.

• With a lot at stake and tensions on the rise in many economies, 2020 will be a year of unprecedented political and economic uncertainty that will leave many CEOs and CFOs around the globe indecisive on investment. In uncertain times businesses, more often than not, adopt defensive strategies in anticipation of tough times ahead. Expect a strong focus on cost saving, expect budget cuts and redundancies to continue, and expect to be asked to do more with less.

• As consumers, uncertainty is an important attribute in our decision making. When uncertainty is high, we are more cautious, we deliberate longer and we go without more regularly. For advertisers and agencies, the effect of uncertainty on consumer behaviour means that our campaigns and communication need to focus more acutely on the unique benefits of the product or service that we  are promoting and the value that is on offer. 2020 will continue to see advertisers divert budgets from brand marketing to direct response (performance) as this style of campaign is more effective at communicating both benefits and value.

• Consumers are not only being targeted by advertisers. Armed with the internet, many activists and celebrities are becoming increasingly vocal about issues affecting global and local communities. As a result, 2020 will be a year where you see a noticeable increase in socially conscious consumerism. For advertisers the message here is clear: if you are thinking about campaigning around social or environmental issues, ensure that your own house is in order. Expect to be mercilessly called out if you try to sell a false narrative.

• Which brings us to social media. Once the great connector of people and populations, social media is fast becoming a divisive and polarising influence on societies around the globe. With disinformation and disinformation set to be key words in 2020’s lexicon, lawmakers the world over are taking a serious look at how social media is influencing their ability to govern. Expect to see further regulations implemented by the EU and US on the collection, storage and use of personally identifiable information (PII) data, which will have a direct impact on how data is used for marketing. From a media consumption perspective, 2020 will be a continuation of the key trends that were present in 2019.

Lee Boden, Regional Managing Director, MENA at Initiative talks on Media Planning at Campaign’s Marcomms360 conference on Predictions2020.

• Programmatic media buying will continue on its path to becoming the default operating system for reaching and engaging targeted audiences. While some marketers across the region are fully on board with programmatic and its potential, senior management, procurement and IT still have a lot of catching up to do. One very important point to note is that the true power of programmatic technologies is that they can be used to connect your business to consumers, not just to connect consumers to advertising. It’s a subtle shift in thinking but a critical one nonetheless.

• Video, be it broadcast, streamed or live, will continue to capture an increased share of audience attention in 2020. Interestingly, although viewers are tuning out of traditional linear channels, the TV is being used more frequently to view online content – be it from an OTT provider such as Netflix or video platforms such as Shahid and YouTube via smart or connected TVs. For advertisers, creating video content that is customised to each viewing experience will remain a major challenge from a creativity and cost perspective.

• Social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat will continue to win in 2020. As influencers and content producers up their game on the quality of content they are publishing, many brands will continue to struggle to capture the attention of users within these environments. Originality and cultural relevance are the two core ingredients of great content – difficult to capture or established brands but much easier for young and dynamic brands that are not weighed down by internal processes or politics. Your feeds will continue to reflect this in 2020.

• E-commerce vendors are set to have another record-breaking year. With the payment, fulfilment, and last-mile delivery ecosystems now operating at scale and with dependable consistency, consumers are embracing all forms of online shopping. While this change in consumer purchasing habits is being driven by convenience and instant gratification, the role that deep discounting plays will be in the crosshairs of retail lobby groups and regulators in 2020. The erosion of long-term value for short-terms gains is not a sustainable strategy – expect to see heated debate from all stakeholders in the retail sector regarding this point. From a media agency perspective, 2020 will be a year of structural evolution designed to meet the demands of clients heavily focused on cost and performance.

• Digital transformation, and the more focused digital media transformation, will be key themes for many clients across the region in 2020. At its heart, digital transformation is about the smart application of technologies and new ways of working to create a frictionless, rewarding and profitable relationship with customers. Successful transformation requires an all-or-nothing approach from businesses and agencies: new talent, new team structures, new methods for performance measurement and new remuneration models. 2020 will not be the end of agencies as some will  predict, but it will be the start of a new chapter in the way agencies work with clients to deliver  business results.

• With advertisers firmly focused on transformation, cost savings and performance in 2020, media  agencies will be further pushed to deliver more services with fewer resources. For agency leaders, the  key to a successful year will be crafting a culture that nurtures home-grown talent capable of  delivering an integrated offering and attracting new skillsets from markets that are at a more advanced stage in their transformation journey.