Predictions 2022: Media agencies on a heated market, talent and seeing the back of this year

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 15 December 2021
Credit: Zab Consulting via Unsplash

Media agencies are looking forward to 2022, a year promising to deliver growth with brands willing to spend and with a coming federal election also helping to buoy the market.

The hot sector is retail but travel as a category is also on the rise as pandemic restrictions ease.

However, the industry has one eye on a talent shortage -- a potential restriction of growth -- and pay and conditions, including flexible work. 

Pia Coyle, Managing Partner, Avenue C: “2022 will be a big year, we are all hopeful that we have seen the back of extended lockdowns and economic disruption. 

“We believe that the trajectory for demand that has been set in the back end of 2021 will become the new norm next year. We have seen in the past that even the perception of demand carries over for months, so even if the market eases off slightly from an investment point of view, we will have a demand hangover for many months to come. 

“In terms of 2022, the retail/trade space is heating up for clients, it’s time to bring a new focus on the dollars brands spend to secure shelf space and ranging. 

“Whilst the commitments are inevitable for most consumer goods brands, this doesn’t mean we can’t bring more of a strategic, omni-channel view and more rigour to the sector.

“At Ave C, on a more personal note, we are looking forward to cheers-ing our clients and partners in person, to celebrate a huge year, full of wins. Sounds simple, but it’s what we all need. We had crazy momentum in a very weird and suppressed market in 2021, so we are eagerly awaiting the expansion that next year will bring.”

Sian Whitnall, co-CEO, OMD Australia: “What a ride the last two years has been – culminating with that ‘end of term’ feeling hitting the whole of the industry mid-August! Once we push that aside, 2022 looks likely to be another year of ad spend increase, buoyed by the impending Federal Election and heightened consumer spending confidence.

“The brands that will benefit from this are the ones who have done the hard yards for the last 18 months, overhauling their ecosystems to support Australian consumers’ newfound passion for e-commerce. 

“The result is a predicted uplift in digital investment dollars, but what I would anticipate is digital investment divesting away from ‘traditional’ digital channels and into e-commerce platforms.” 

Seb Rennie, GroupM Chief Investment Officer: “Heading towards more responsible investment. With an estimated $230bn of accumulated household savings, advertisers will want to make sure they are at the front of the queue to get their share of a potential consumer spending boom in 2022.

“We’ll see a move from the bust to boom demand cycle that has been evident over the last two years and move into more sustainable, but still positive, growth period in 2022 and beyond. 

“Advertisers will continue to adjust their media mix given the permanent moves in consumer habits, be they online shopping, shifts in video and audio consumption, re-invigorated audience opportunity with OOH and Cinema and geographic shifts as regional markets have seen population growth.

“Regulatory updates, governmental and corporate policy will put a renewed focus on responsible investment as the impact of new laws governing privacy and continuing moves towards sustainability and DE&I are felt across the advertising and media supply chain. All of these are for the good and will hopefully start to make advertising better for people.”

Chris Parker, CEO, Awaken: “Are we in an attention recession? Are audiences so over lockdowns and years of COVID that we are all switching off from mainstream media?

“GWI reported that US linear TV has taken the same trend as Australia - lockdowns ended and TV ratings declined off a cliff. 

“We are in a media recession of sorts, ratings are down, summer is here, we are all checked out from 2021 and it is not immediately clear if ratings will return or move to another medium in 2022. 

“The networks would have us all believe that linear viewers have just moved to BVOD. Nine’s Chief Sales Officer, Michael Stephenson, recently said “total TV” (linear, live streaming & BVOD), “reaches the same number of people that linear TV in isolation did 10 years ago”. The golden question for 2022 is will the audiences come back to linear after summer and into autumn? It is also important to note that the networks make most of their revenue from linear TV, not live streaming or BVOD.

“Forecasting for 2022 is tough when media consumption has changed so dramatically. So here are our thoughts for 2022:

"1. Cinema is back because we all want to be 'normal again'

"2. Out of home is virtually booked out until January and as workers return in 2022 and commute numbers should increase

"3. Radio & Digital Audio is exciting in 2022, starting with ARN's new regional acquisition, SCA 's LiSTNR has become smarter and digital audio is becoming more intelligent with third party data

"4. Facebook will still be a necessary evil to most, but we hope that contextual targeting will help drive an increase across 'premium' publishers 

"5. And lastly. Are audiences switching from linear to BVOD as the networks would have us believe or are they moving to streaming services? This appears to be the billion-dollar question. Honestly, I really hope they are staying with the networks as that is better for Australia, jobs and our local content, but time will tell."

Tom Frazer, Managing Partner & General Manager, Half Dome: “Throughout the long lockdown periods and uncertainty associated with COVID over the last few years, lots of businesses bunkered down, with the better ones using it as an opportunity to review operations and objectives. 

“Now we are on the other side (hopefully!), change is on everyone’s lips. We expect to see this be reflected in more pitches, heightened expectations, and the rise of specialist agencies who are able to meet the growing demand of more sophisticated businesses.

“This will no doubt be coupled with a massive shift in how employers approach their people. Those businesses who continue to invest further in wellbeing, flexibility, learning, and development are the ones who will no doubt come out the other side in front. It’s been a super challenging couple of years, and without this focus on people and retention, no doubt ‘The Great Resignation’ will take hold here.

“We feel as though we are really at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ad spend. E-commerce is certainly one vertical that has sustained record growth over the last few years, especially in the midst of ongoing lockdowns. In 2022, as we continue to navigate our new normal, we expect this trend to continue but also to grow into the wider digital native vertical – which we describe as any product or service with a primary home online. Globalisation is possible in this landscape, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see several success stories come out of the year ahead with Australian companies moving into overseas markets.

“2022 will be the year of the connected customer and real-time media mix modelling. “Everyone can see the potential for both these in a post cookie world but realistically it will be like the year of the mobile (2008 to 2013), which had more repeats than a dodgy kebab. We’ll see both of these crop up again as predictions in 2023 for certain. As I’ve said before about a range of tech enabled experiences, it’s kinda going to be like teenage sex 'everyone’s talking about it, very few actually doing it and even less doing it well'.  It will take a number of years to perfect the measurement and mainstream adoption but important steps forward will be had in 2022."

Luke Brown, CEO, AFFINITY: “2022 will be the year of the connected customer and real-time media mix modelling. 

“Everyone can see the potential for both these in a post cookie world but realistically it will be like the year of the mobile (2008 to 2013), which had more repeats than a dodgy kebab. 

“We’ll see both of these crop up again as predictions in 2023 for certain. As I’ve said before about a range of tech enabled experiences, it’s kinda going to be like teenage sex “everyone’s talking about it, very few actually doing it and even less doing it well”.  

“It will take a number of years to perfect the measurement and mainstream adoption but important steps forward will be had in 2022.”

Daniel O’Brien, Commercial Director and Head of Strategy, Frontier Australia: “True to form of the last two years, it’s tricky for anyone to predict exactly how 2022 will play out. As it stands, and assuming no further lockdowns or significant economic disasters, it’s safe to say that 2022 will see our industry return to something resembling ‘BAU’.

“That said, the year will carry with it fundamental changes brought on by the events of the last two years.  I believe consumer behaviour has changed in a number of ways, WFH or hybrid working arrangements seem here to stay, these adjustments to how we live our lives will have significant implications on how we as marketers and agencies help our brands/clients continue to connect with consumers into 2022. Key will be staying agile and continually re-evaluating plans and strategies across the course of the year, something we have all become accustomed to and not something I see changing in the year ahead.

“Will the ad spend growth run continue? Considering many categories and advertisers are already switching back on/ heating up into 2022, I certainly see ad spend growing into H1 next year.  Whether that continues into H2 is uncertain at this stage but assuming no unexpected setbacks, I don’t see why next year wouldn’t be a big year for many advertisers and categories who were previously impacted by lengthy lockdowns and closures. Bring on happy days for all!

“Where is the upside? From a channel perspective, it’s hard to see commercial opportunity within the streaming space slowing down, that’s considering growth in both video and audio platforms, combined with new ad opportunities likely to land in 2022. As an example, Foxtel’s upfronts teased what’s to come from its perspective.

“With a return to routine and provided consumers stay out and about, the likes of cinema, outdoor and perhaps even radio will see a resurgence in advertiser interest and investment. TV may see some softening given the run its had. Finally, diversification of social is a hot topic among brands we work with and for good reason. I expect the likes of Tik Tok, Pinterest and LinkedIn - who have been staffing up -  will take the fight to Facebook and YouTube in the new year.” 

John Vlasakakis, Next&Co co-founder: “What’s in store for 2022? Business confidence will skyrocket as markets begin to open up even on an international level. We also expect 2022 to be ‘the year of the indies’ as brands look to find agencies made up of senior talent who can service larger brands.

“Will the ad spend growth run continue? Yes it certainly will, brands will look to make up for lost ground in 2022 which will cause an inflated price for those wanting to win the hearts and minds of customers.

“Where is the upside? Good agencies with great service models will experience a great rebound in revenue, and on the flip side, brands with a great unique selling point will be the big winners in 2022.” 

Sam Buchanan, General Manager, IMAA: “The Merging of Lanes. We will start to see more and more pure-play digital agencies play in traditional agencies’ space with the ability to buy traditional media via digital pipes.  These changes will allow these digital agencies to have exposure to larger budgets as many media channels evolve deeper into automation.

“Spend. Ad spend will continue to increase as long as consumer confidence is high and that will remain until interest rates increase. The IMAA’s latest November Pulse Survey showed that 84% of IMAA member agencies are predicting a slight to considerable revenue growth in 2022.

“Where is the upside? I believe the great resignation will not happen – at least in the independent sector - as there appears to be a level of contentment amongst IMAA staff.  In fact,  87% of IMAA agencies are likely/very likely to stay in their jobs in 2022.  However, the struggle with the talent shortage will continue into 2022.”

Adam Shalagin, Commercial Director, AdUnion: “This is probably a healthy combination of a wishlist and some predictions for 2022.

“Changing behaviours – I’m not attempting to obscure the real value of what is bought and sold in media land.  

For the first time I recently had a media owner tell me: "Right now - there is not a significant audience".  The last two years have provided much insight into how publishers choose to present their audience and there was a telling contrast between those who decided to be real and those that did not.  An opportunity exists to reset how the industry behaves in relation to audience measurement and building trust. 

“Data over easy - seeking clarity through simpler methods of data collection, organisation and analysis. 

Are you a bit confused? We have spent much of the past 12 months talking about different approaches to data.  I see 2022 being a year when we see an easier version of this to understand and implement for most advertisers.  Agencies will play a key role in this for advertisers who lack sophistication in this area.

“People - taking time to re-evaluate what is most important to us - made visible in choices of where and how we work.  Employers will need to provide a genuinely great experience in order to retain talent.

“Planning - promoting a longer view of the opportunity to build brands. Ahhh wouldn't that be great!”

Pat Crowley, Incoming Essence Australia CEO: “At a high level the Australian media market in 2022 will be heavily determined by two factors:

  1. The impact of the supply chain and logistics issues we are seeing affect most businesses globally

  2. The potential continuation of the uncomfortably high inflation figures we are seeing driven by the earlier Covid stimulus and supply chain issues globally across the last two years. 

“If these continue to be long-term problems, we could see a deflated media market in 2022.

“These are the economic factors that will ultimately affect how much budget a business gives a CMO to invest in advertising and media. Underneath these, we still have the day-to-day battles we all face as an industry:  the continued move towards a world of less mass scale due to fragmented audiences, less attention when audiences are consuming content and ever-increasing ad free media environments. 

“These challenges make it harder for us all to engage and connect with audiences in meaningful ways, but they’re challenges that most good marketers and agency people are trying to solve and hopefully enjoy doing it. I know I do.” 

Kate O’Ryan-Roeder, Mindshare Sydney Managing Director: “If 2020 was the year we all jumped on the rollercoaster of chaos and uncertainty, then 2021, for me at least, was when the ride turned into a choose your own adventure book. My book had two distinct chapters. 

“Firstly, the path to realising a truly "people-first" industry. I'm pretty chuffed that collectively, we spoke out (and listened) and helped shape a future that includes flexible working, remote working and a whole host of other empowering initiatives. In the second chapter, we’re choosing a path towards increasingly more purpose led work that has a more meaningful and positive impact on society. 

“For us at Mindshare, it's not just about growth for our clients, it's about good, sustainable growth that respects diversity, equity, inclusion, and the environment. Our mission is to help clients unlock their wildest ambitions, so building quality ideas that are anchored in good growth and deliver over the long term is what I'm most looking forward to next year! After a few long-overdue Chrissie parties, catch-ups and award evenings that is…”

Megan Kay, Zenith, Managing Director – Melbourne: “Staff retention will be an ongoing challenge in 2022, but we need to ensure we are setting our people and our industry up for success. Rather than poaching talent by enticing them with promotions and higher salaries before they are ready, we need to invest in their training and development.

“A big opportunity lies within the continuance of the successful reintroduction of QR codes.  This resurgence is driving the opportunity for innovation in everyday advertising.  We are also investing heavily into the education and readiness of our clients for a cookie-less world, leading to data-led opportunities to fuel their growth.”

Jonny Cordony, Zenith, Managing Director – Sydney: “The 2021 talent shortage continues to challenge agencies, and it will get harder with the high volume of new business movements. 

“This challenge means that we need to reshape the importance of media as a long-term and viable career choice, turning the focus into attraction and retention – supercharging clearer career plans, balancing the new hybrid working model, while re-instating the culture our industry is based on – connection and engagement.

“We remain hopeful that the world will return to some semblance of normalcy, however 2022 will present additional challenges for marketers and agencies in the steady recovery, and increase ad expenditure. ‘Short termism’ and the hunt for sales in 2020/21 will need to change to a finer balance on the long-term brand and balancing data and creativity to cut through. The opportunity for brands will be to plan early, and navigate channels like cinema, including events like the election that will tighten up access.”

Peter Roins, Spark Foundry, General Manager – Sydney: “If the past 2 years have taught us anything, it is that the flexible working conditions for agencies, clients and media owners don’t necessarily hinder productivity. 

“With the entire industry being confined to their living rooms, we have become accustomed to creating a working environment away from our peers –  with our only connection to the working life we once enjoyed and potentially took for granted, being through our screens. “This has worked for some more so than others, however it has shown that an agency’s success isn’t defined by their ability to work in the office. Spark Foundry are testament to this, as we were fortunate to be successful in winning some of the biggest pitches in Australia over the past 2 years, with the majority of them being delivered from our homes.

“2022 will be no different. While ad spend is forecasted to increase next year, so will people’s appetite to work remotely and this will extend beyond our state and national borders. Agencies are going to have to take the idea of flexible working global. With a large portion of our staff born overseas, it’s likely many of these have not seen family since the start of the pandemic. Agencies will support their people by allowing them the flexibility to be reunited with their family and friends abroad, without having to utilise their entire annual leave allocation.

“After being locked down for almost 2 years, we are all desperate for freedom. We are desperate to visit our favourite local English pub with our families. To smell our grandmother’s cooking. To celebrate our sister’s wedding that we missed, and to visit the grave of a loved one whose funeral we couldn’t attend. But we also cherish the place we call home.

“We are currently experiencing one of the biggest talent shortages ever witnessed. If we are to succeed as an industry and if we really believe that our people are our greatest strength, then we need to find a way to get the job done regardless of where we are located. I feel fortunate to work for a company that understands and acknowledges people’s need to reconnect, to explore and to reenergise.” 


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