Perspectives - Young guns on 2021

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 14 December 2020

This first appeared in the AdNews Annual 2020. Subscribe here to make sure you get your copy.

AdNews asked young guns their perspective on the year that was and the prospects for the road ahead:

Jack Burton and Lucas Fowler, Ogilvy Creative team, say the big change has been the Browning Effect. “Oh, you haven’t heard? That’s fair, Jack just made it up. Not to discount any of the daily atrocities that continue to out-2020 the long list of other atrocities that have made 2020 so unique, but the Browning Effect has made its impact felt on many of us, and caused all the vibrant colour to turn brown. The symptoms? Fatigue, the inability to switch off and Microsoft Teams taking up more screen time on your phone than Reddit. How do we deal with it? The taller one of us does yoga in the mornings and tries not to touch any work before 9am, the better-looking one of us ensures he tends to his garden daily — if his snowpeas are happy, so is he.“

Ruby Boynton-Boardman, art director, The Royals: “We’ve had to overcome the complexities of balancing home and work life, and it feels like they’ve been thrown into a blender, served up chunky. The constant juggle of how far to actually put your desk (aka laptop) from your bed, becomes increasingly shorter. The fancy office clothes you once wore, sit pretty on their hangers, as you reach for your comfy pants. Yet you miss the daily activity of picking out something nice, hoping one day soon you’ll wear them again.

“Now lockdown feels weirdly familiar. We fight for that motivation to pick ourselves up when sometimes it feels like it will never end. Here’s hoping 2021 might have that breath of fresh air we’re all after. With some normality to life, like pints at the pub and a decent non-glitchy conversation.”

Jessica Bray, strategy architect, Audience Precision: We have seen COVID-19 change the marketing and media landscape extensively. With clients holding onto their media spend for dear life and agencies and media owners taking serious hits to their revenue and consequent headcounts… it’s safe to say that this virus has turned our industry, like many others, upside down.

Now more than ever, the need for precise targeting and effective wastage minimisation within a media buy is controlling client conversations. The industry appears to be waking up to the realities of dissolution of marketing strategy when only harnessing broad demographics and the resulting need for maximisation of consumer research to understand the motivations, wants and needs of consumers to be able to communicate with them in a meaningful and contextual way. In this way, COVID has provided opportunity for growth of our industry as a whole, to think and trade differently.

Further, these unprecedented times have been particularly interesting for brands, as outside of the natural intensified caution that permeated the industry, there also arose opportunity for leadership. Throughout the year we have seen brands maximise the climate of uncertainty and fear to build brand image and consumer relationships, guiding the way for more brands to follow suit. As these COVID times linger and become our new normal, our industry must continue to adapt to allow for navigation and survival in this extraordinary period.

Jason Leigh, copywriter, M&C Saatchi: “I think 2021 will be much like 2020, but we’ll be better at it. I think the world will mostly go back to the old ways, except it will be normal to just dial into things if you’ve got a hot notepad at home. They’re redoing our office to accommodate flexible working, which is great, and we’re getting an electronic drum kit. That’s not related to COVID-19, I’m just really excited about that.

“I loved working from home during lockdown, and I still find it more productive for thinking, but am now happy to be back in the office (in Sydney where we’re lucky enough to leave our houses again — sorry). I’m really enjoying the hallway conversations and happy accidents that come with sharing half-finished ideas.

“God, I miss the advertising parties.”

Dhivia Pillai, planner whiteGREY Melbourne, has watched people become more considerate, for the most part. “Some incredible stories have emerged from this. And it’s been rewarding to help clients navigate the stickier parts of the year by revisiting their purpose and fleshing it out in ways that resonate with how people are feeling.”

Hayley Westoby, WPP AUNZ: “There’s nothing like a dose of perspective to boost your daily gratitude, and 2020 has served it up on a silver platter. Going into 2021 we won’t take the ‘little things’ for granted — eating at restaurants, going to the gym, hugging a loved one or simply going for a walk. We are now acutely aware of how hard it can be without those ‘little things’ in our life — and without doubt, that’s been the best thing about this year. We’ve lost a lot, but gained sense of perspective.”

Jack Gilbert, strategist at Saatchi & Saatchi Melbourne, can’t wait to hear the drinks trolley roll down the office corridor. “I’m lucky to work somewhere that values the importance of foundational support for wellbeing. Personal coaching, free access to counselling services, programs to help upskill, and most importantly, managers with empathy who reach out when they sense something isn’t right. As the year wraps up, I hope everyone finds an opportunity to pause and reflect on the effort their employers have made to preserve their wellbeing and happiness — at a time when we’ve all needed some extra support.”

Brooke Aniseko, commercial director performance, Publicis Media Exchange (PMX): “One of the most obvious changes we’ve seen due to COVID-19 is driving more value from less, from both our agency teams and clients. And as you would expect, there is also a focus on sales, which I believe will see clients leaning further into performance channels to maximise ROI. While there’s still a lot of uncertainty moving into 2021, there’s also a lot of opportunity to be more strategic and effective; and to maximise results for our clients and further demonstrate the value of media agencies.”

Mia Marasco, account manager Quantcast, based in Victoria: “Digital marketing has always been the first born, held to a higher standard of performance than the rest of its siblings (television, radio, out of home). While digital has always been and is always going to be the most accountable media, I believe the 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic has heightened this accountability. With budgets being cut, reallocated, increased, cut again then increased, it is apparent that every single impression, whether it be served via display, search, social, native or video, is being painstakingly analysed in an entirely unique way. This means inevitably higher pressure to do everything in my power as a client’s trusted partner to make the allocated budget work harder and work smarter than it did previously.” 

Zara Cooper, planner, BWM Dentsu: “Professionally, this year has also concreted how lucky I am to have an excellent set of colleagues who have all been honest, open and another form of support. It would be amazing if the events of this year also created a newfound gratitude for the wonderful things we already have.”

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