January 20, 2021

Well, here we are again. It's a new year, full of hope, aspirations and ambitions -- even if a quick look outside as we emerge from our duvets seems to confirm that things are still horrible, a pandemic is still raging, democracy is still under threat, and the old issues of 2020 have not mysteriously disappeared.

Still, you've got to smile, have hope and carry on. It can't be as bad a year, can it?

In our own little world, there are interesting changes afoot. Commentators have often criticized advertising (and related) businesses for being slow to change. We are great at advising our clients that their models need to adapt and evolve, but we are not so good at it ourselves.

Until change is forced upon us.

Jon Mandel's 2015 ANA speech accusing agency buyers of keeping rebates exposed a practice well-hidden within the agency world. It took one speech for the trading model to change.

Has it changed completely? No, but the direction of travel has been reset. Innovative revenue models (and a new breed of independent auditor / evaluator) will continue to emerge throughout 2021.

Agency managements have for a while known in their hearts that staffing levels are unnecessarily high (but margins were good, so ...) It has taken a pandemic and a catastrophic drop in revenues to force the issue, but agencies will eventually emerge as leaner and more efficient businesses.

The large research companies have been criticized for ages for being too wedded to heritage techniques and too slow to adapt to the changing needs of advertisers.

One of the largest, Kantar, enters 2021 under new management. What Bain Capital does to streamline the business and to set it up to succeed in a cookie-less world of data and automation will be fascinating to watch and will no doubt prompt others to react.

Audience measurement will look different in a year's time. One of the stand-out sessions at November's asi event was the one focused on measuring attention. Expect to hear more from Karen Nelson-Field, Mike Follett, Yan Liu and friends in 2021.

If advertiser trade bodies continue to agitate for change then progress will be made towards a true cross-media measurement system.

But if lack of funds means they have to rely on the platforms for the heavy technical lifting then their ambition risks being narrowed to cross-platform measurement, and we will be even more in hock to the Facebooks and the Googles of this world.

Talking of which, whatever one's politics the banning of President Trump and many of his followers from social media platforms raises an interesting issue. Do their actions mean that Twitter et al accept that they are indeed publishers? (We all know they are; it's just that they historically haven't wanted to admit it!)

As publishers, they need to be regulated and subject to an appropriate set of rules.

Expect online media regulation to rise up someone's agenda, somewhere.

About Author

Brian Jacobs spent more than 35 years in advertising, media, and research agencies, including spells at Leo Burnett (UK, EMEA, International media director), Carat International (managing director), Universal McCann (EMEA director) and Millward Brown.

Appeared first in MediaVillage

Leave a reply

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.