Perspectives - Good riddance 2020

Lee Stephens
By Lee Stephens | 11 January 2021
Lee Stephens

Lee Stephens, CEO, Switch Digital

Well good riddance 2020! Everyone I have spoken to, even if they did well last year, said it was personally and professionally a shocker. Anyway, it’s over and welcome to 2021. It has to be better right?

In December, Westpac’s Consumer Sentiment Index jumped to a 10 year high despite significantly reduced support of Job Keeper and Job Seeker. The local new outlets, who had been bombarding us with impending doom all year, had also cheered up with 58% of budget and taxation news being positive. The big question was whether we are seeing a genuine recovery or the dreaded Dead Cat Bounce, of a market driven by the hope of continued government largess past March 2021. Instability is here to stay for some months yet.

As marketing and media professionals however we are already coming to grips with a new reality. The market has changed and isn’t changing back anytime unless we own a time machine. Community newspapers? Over 140 titles gone. Magazines? Bought by Bauer for $525 million, sold in 2020 for $20 million.

For the first time since the music industry was devastated by a shift to streaming, audiences are shifting their media consumption behaviour faster than media suppliers can migrate their profit models.

It wasn’t always this way. When Apple released to iPhone in 2007 many industry leaders, including me, declared 2007 as the Year of the Mobile. There was even an annual lavish award night called the Mobile Marketing Awards. Of course it wasn’t the Year of the Mobile. As an industry we were over-estimating consumers’ uptake of new behaviours on new devices. It wasn’t until 2012 that we finally realised that mobile media consumption will one day dominate online media access.

The situation we face in 2021 is the reverse. Audiences have changed their behaviours faster than our technology to track, target and value audiences can evolve. A great example is Nielsen’s announcement that Nielsen ONE will track all cross-media metrics by 2024. Is it just me or does this sound a little odd in an Australian context where digital TV viewership jumped 48% in 2020 and Smart TV penetration will approach saturation by 2024. Are we trying to solve a problem that probably won’t exist?

The challenge is how we, as industry professionals, work within a vacuum of truly consistent and actionable consumer information. The only thing we know for sure is that campaigns and media plans that worked in 2019 will be horribly inefficient in 2021.

Despite all the headwinds 2021 has already served up, there are golden opportunities to connect with audiences in new ways. A fragmented media market reinvigorates the art and importance of storytelling. It opens up opportunities to connect with audiences in ways your competitors have not considered. It allows us to smash and reshape the traditional concept of the conversion funnel. If there is a year to execute work you can truly be proud of, 2021 is the year.