Six key trends to be ready for in 2021


From JOMO to social activism, read the key trends that emerged from our webinar ‘Cutting Through 2021 Trends with Agencies’

What does 2021 have in store for our industry? Given the level of uncertainty we saw last year, it’s pretty tough to know what the next 12 months will bring. Life has never changed so quickly - a phenomenon Carat’s Dan Calladine said is leading to ‘future shock’ - and, as Total Media’s Liz Duff pointed out, understanding consumers’ swiftly changing behaviour in real-time is imperative for brands.  

Undoubtedly, change drives opportunity and the predictions from our six agency speakers included plenty of new and growing opportunities for digital advertisers. With five minutes each and PowerPoint slides out of bounds, Carat’s Dan Calladine, PHD’s Lauren Ogúndèkó, Mindshare’s Sophie Harding, Havas Media’s Steve Coteman, Total Media’s Liz Duff and Zenith’s Sannah Rogers shared their key trends for 2021. Here are six of our key takeouts.  

  1. Ecommerce is going nowhere: The pandemic has seen ecommerce skyrocket as people have migrated shopping habits even further online. This is a trend that’s going nowhere, according to our agency gurus, catalysing further changes in tech and media. As Rogers explained, retail media is predicted to grow by 46% in the year ahead - giving advertisers the ability to deliver insight-driven sales. Meanwhile, AR is helping to bring the online shopping experience to life - Coteman pointed out that 55% of consumers think that AR makes a shopping experience more exciting - and chatbots could make a comeback as retailers look to connect with digital consumers.  
  2. Know your brand values: 2020 was defined by more than the COVID-19 pandemic. As Ogúndèkó said, it was also the year that social activism gathered momentum. From the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement to anti-lockdown protests, people “organised themselves to denounce or activate a message or cause”. With much more social activism now happening, brands will need to continue to take a stand on where they lie, be aware of performative activism and know their brand values, Ogúndèkó explained - pointing to Ben & Jerry’s as a brand that is getting this very right.  
  3. Forget FOMO - it’s all about JOMO or FOGO: We’re all well acquainted with FOMO, but the pandemic and series of lockdowns could have put paid to this - permanently. According to Rogers, JOMO (joy of missing out) is here to stay, as people take their lockdown habits long-term. She pointed to findings from a recent survey that show 54% of people admitted to feeling happy that lockdown has got them off the hook for social events. On the other hand, Calladine predicts the rise of FOGO (fear of going out) as people internalise fear of the pandemic and turn to at-home services instead.  
  4. First-party data is fundamental: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of our speakers pinpointed the growing value of first-party data as a key trend for 2021. With the end of third-party cookies only a year off and Apple’s iOS 14 introducing new privacy features, first-party data is an increasingly powerful tool for brands. The overriding message: be prepared for the shift. The demise of third-party cookies could create a “blind spot” for advertisers that aren’t taking action, said Coteman, with contextual advertising becoming increasingly valuable. Meanwhile, Duff predicted a rise of companies aimed at helping brands activate first-party data as quickly as possible.   
  5. Regulatory issues remain: In 2021, “we’re going to see a significant change in how the Government is getting involved in the digital industry” according to Ogúndèkó. Specifically, she pointed to the proposed online ban for HFSS products (find out more on how we’re reacting here), the Online Harms Bill, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. Understanding the impact of any regulatory changes for brands and agencies will be key as the digital ad industry navigates increasing regulation.  
  6. The war for quality content is on: Just as how we live, work and shop have seen massive change in the past year, media habits are evolving at pace but quality content remains king. For Coteman, the exponential growth of podcasts is a key indicator of how we’re seeking out quality entertainment away from screens. On the whole, 2020 has made us more digital savvy, and 2021 will see media owners seek to keep us hooked on the services bought into during lockdown, explained Harding. As she put it “the war for quality content is on”.  

For more key trends (including whether 2021 could finally see the comeback of flares) watch the webinar back here.

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