Advertising: The trends to watch out for in 2021
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How are creative agencies changing their process as we move forward this year
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Advertising: The trends to watch out for in 2021

How are creative agencies changing their process as we move forward this year
  • 2020 brought a lot of hurdles in our way but the creative industry proved, time and again, that united we stand stronger and nothing can ever put a lock on creativity.
  • The creative industry continued social distancing in a diligent manner, thinking out of the box and launching campaigns that reminded us of things that we should be thankful for.
  • Keeping these nuances in mind, creative folks tell us some of the trends that they expect to see in 2021.
When the entire country is locked down and all you can do is move from your couch to your work desk for Zoom calls or catch some fresh air on your balcony, only to exchange awkward smiles with your neighbour, does that dampen your creativity? In 2020, our Indian advertising industry proved that nothing can stop them from coming up with out of the box (or with COVID, from inside the box) ideas.

They were producing ads with minimum money, trying to operate within the government guidelines of production and selling it for expensive slots on television in the second half of the lockdown period. They were also expected to create ads that stood out in a sea full of cliches. They dealt with uncertainty, brainstormed ideas over a Zoom call, pressure to overperform in a dismal atmosphere, operate with salary cuts, take care of their kids and meet deadlines. Our creative folks were there to steer through these mood swings in the market and help their clients tide over treacherous waves smoothly.

The worst is behind us and now that production is back and the industry is working at its normal pace, the creative folks have a lot to talk about. They have only come out stronger and with a new perspective to offer. Experts said that the future is empathy-driven and kind.

We reached out to a few creative agencies to understand how they are planning to change their process as we move forward in 2021, some of the learnings that 2020 left them with and a few trends that are going to dominate the creative output this year.

Here is what they said:

Tarun Rai, Chairman and Group CEO, Wunderman Thompson, South Asia:

Consolidation of client marketing spends: I have said that the pandemic has been more like an accelerant rather than a matchstick. I have said this since it has not necessarily lit any new fires (trends) but acted more as an accelerant, that when poured over the small fires already lit, transforms them into big raging fires. If we really look at it, this holds true for trends that were already shaping up in world economy, in politics, in global trade, reverse globalisation… Closer to us, even the use of technology, increasingly playing a role in how we work, was ‘accelerated’ by the pandemic. A case in point is Zoom that had 10 million participants a day in December 2019 and an astonishing 300 million in April 2020! One such trend, that was amply clear even before the pandemic, was the move of clients’ spends from traditional to digital media. And in this journey, clients were already finding that working with multiple partners was leading to diffused messaging because people were working in silos, and complicated coordination. The pandemic has accelerated clients’ digital transformation journey. More attention is now focussed on technology, on e-commerce, on data, on digital spends… And the pandemic has added another reason for clients to look to reduce the number of partners they work with – the need for efficiency; the need to stretch the marketing rupee. Clients will be, increasingly, looking for consolidation of their marketing spends with fewer partners – for cohesive messaging and for better efficiency. For companies like Wunderman Thompson, that have capabilities from long term brand-building and traditional advertising, to e-commerce and marketing automation, the next year will be full of opportunity. We are focussed, therefore, to work closely with our clients, partner them in their digital transformation journey and, in the process, open up many new revenue streams for ourselves.

Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder and Chairman of Creativeland Asia:

Even as business picks up and normalcy slowly returns to the new normal, the lessons of frugality and efficiency we have learned through this time beckon a refresh in thinking. From brands changing the way they communicate with their consumers to agencies who have manoeuvred to a different, tech-enabled way of working which is more contactless, yet connected, it has been a year of challenges and learning.

Keeping these nuances in mind, one of the prominent trends I foresee in the industry is the advent of short-form videos and mobile advertising. With the constant evolution of technology and smartphones, easy-to-make, easy-to-watch, short-format video ads will definitely rule the roster in 2021. The ‘story’ format which is quite popular across all social media platforms, allows brands and users to ideate and do so much more than just rolling out a few second stories. Brands now have the opportunity to build meaningful and engaging content for their customers on these platforms. In addition, a stark rise in in-app advertising is expected. Since real-time streaming of videos are becoming popular by the day this will be yet another popular ad tendency businesses will explore.

Raj Kamble, Founder and CCO, Famous Innovations:

I can summarise 2021 in one word: Accountability.

Our business has changed dramatically in 2020 and clients will want partners who are accountable for their business. This means being personally invested in the client’s success – an art that advertising professionals have forgotten about. Asking the tangible question - will this sell my client's product - and not just the vague one - will this build my client's brand. That’s the way things used to be when agencies were owned by the same people that actually did the work. That’s why independent agencies are designed for accountability. Because our success depends on the client's success.

Furthermore, this means the end of segregation of agencies and the start of the hybrid era. Lately, a chasm is forming in the A&M industry where on the one side, there are the large traditional agencies that can only play the large campaign and long-term game but don't understand new media and the new consumer as well. While on the other side, there is a sprouting of digital agencies that play the digital medium well but don't have strong strategic and creative pillars in place. In 2021, clients will increasingly seek integrated solutions and a hybrid agency like ours that combines the best of both worlds is well poised to address this gap.

Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous Brands:

Optimism is the one trend that I believe will be one of the most important in the industry in the coming days. With the way the world is slowly but surely coming around and the way the businesses are turning a corner, a certain bullishness is to be expected both from the makers and the buying publics. Brands should look at tapping into the emerging positivity and the new togetherness, generosity, kindness in these times. Brands looking at connecting with their audiences on an optimistic emotional level will do well in creating salience for the brand.

The changes coronavirus has made across our society have been unpredictable, but for marketing and advertising, it is an opportunity now to change the course of the conversation from extreme caution of the year gone by to a gradual but imminent change.

Debashish Ghosh, National Creative Director, 22feet Tribal Worldwide:

I feel it will be an empathy-driven flywheel. We talk about share economy a lot. One thing that’s shared the most is perhaps knowledge, opinions and views. People trust each other’s view and not a brand’s view. And that’s how they make decisions about who to engage with. The hyper-connected world is increasingly providing more avenues to amplify this behaviour. In this world, the consumer is not just the output but also the input. Delighting one person leads to attracting & engaging another. That’s the flywheel. It’s not a finite CX journey but an on-going one. The idea is to open relationships and not close deals. Creativity will need to vitalize all the forces of this flywheel. Ideas with high dose of empathy and elasticity will easily wrap around it to attain sustainable growth. Being creative with content and stand-alone experiences will not be enough. As a norm, performance, automation, lead generation, on-boarding, CRM stack & other consumer touchpoints will need to be creatively humanised. And existing tools will be creatively redeployed like podcasts being used as testimonials or self-service audio clips. All of it won’t happen in a year but it will be around the corner.”