Forrester’s 2021 advertising and agency predictions see upheaval ahead

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 29 October 2020

Global research house Forrester has released its annual predictions for advertising, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic at the centre of forecasts.

"The future of advertising will be one of significant upheaval," say the analysts at Forrester.

"Impending privacy restrictions, the specter of total third-party cookie deprecation, and rising expectations of values-based consumers will lead to a more data-deprived future — and marketers should be preparing now.

"But in the next 12 months, as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout continue to disrupt, marketers will confront more pressing issues and distractions, testing their resilience and agility under increasingly strained resources."

Among the forecasts are that agencies will get smaller but that demand for high level creativity will stay.

As a result, agencies will turn to technology to work smarter.

And a new wave of entrepreneurs, from among those who lose their jobs, will see a flood of startups competing with the big players.

The year will see a smorgasbord of new pandemic advertising, from videoconferencing pre-roll ads to sponsored face masks.

And an AI-fueled ad creation frenzy will double investments in brand-owned virtual influencers.

Key points of the Forrester forecasts:

Virtual ad creation. The pandemic has forced brands to slash budgets and headcount but expectations for high-quality advertising are still there. In 2021, Forrester says brands will turn to virtual ad creation in a variety of ways, from influencers to increased investments in creative adtech.

Media strategy. While traditionally, the focus has been on the messaging itself, Forrester expects a big brand to put values at the heart of its media buys. Employee and consumer pressure will force the brand to vocally commit to specific values throughout its media ecosystem, from social ads to the local TV stations it chooses to advertise with.

Pandemic advertising. 2021 will bring an influx of new pandemic-friendly ad placements, from branded personal protective equipment to pre-roll ads on freemium video conferencing tools.

AI and automation. Smaller but smarter. Forrester forecasts that 10% of all digital/creative and media agency tasks in the US will be automated by 2023 growing to 23% of overall agencies by 2032.

Chief people officer. This will be the most important role of 2021, tasked with elevating “the strategic profile of HR to lead culture transformation; attract and retain the best talent; train employees for a digital and AI-laden future; and collaborate with her C-suite peers to build a modern workplace that is safe, digitally sophisticated, diverse, and creative.”

Creativity freed from legacy structures. Forrester estimates US agencies will shed 52,000 jobs through 2021 and the major holding companies will lay off or furlough 49,000 globally. The flood of creative talent into the marketplace will bring a wave of entrepreneurs. Forrester sees a minimum of a 5% increase in small/mid-sized start-ups that deliver marketing, adtech and martech solutions. “At the core of their offerings will be creative problem-solving skills; unencumbered by legacy structures, they will be free to find creative solutions in a nimble, cost-effective manner.”

And Forrester’s 2021 B2C Marketing predictions:

Spend on loyalty and retention marketing will increase by 30%. Instead of product or performance-based marketing, brands will double down on retention efforts and lean on brand loyalists (and their wallets) to help weather the economic storm.

Marketing message volume will increase by 40%, forcing brands to innovate. As brands seek to retain and reengage customers, consumers will be inundated with messages in direct channels like email and mobile.

Marketing automation spend will grow 3%. The growth will be driven by investments in campaign optimisation, which reduces the time humans spend analysing campaign data to determine what offers to serve customers.


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