A Look Ahead: 2021 Predictions and Hopes for The Industry

From Member Elena Klau, Global Chief Strategy & Analytics Officer, Momentum

What changes has your company implemented moving into the new year to address inequities within our business? What partners, if any, have you aligned with to maximize success?

Over the past decade, our agency spent time and resources attracting more diverse talent to the industry by launching MECA (Manhattan Early College School for Advertising) with the 4As and supporting internships and apprenticeship programs, such as Verizon AdFellows.

However, in 2021, although attracting talent to the industry will always remain a focus, we have widened our view to also support diverse talent within the industry. Our work must go beyond talent mix and support a more inclusive internal culture and diverse work. This is the kind of environment where people thrive and grow.

To ensure that we are supporting our team, we let the voices of our people lead us. On an annual basis, we temporarily close our agency for a day to allow our “Day For Meaning” to take place. During this day, we collectively reflect on our ability to create an inclusive environment. We address how as both individuals and as an agency we can and will commit to addressing diversity, equity and inclusion. This reflection provides us with a clear agency mandate, which we have manifested through a global inclusion committee, an agency manifesto, and local market DE&I goals. These steps ensure we hold ourselves accountable in not only increasing diversity across all levels and departments, but also creating a culture of inclusivity, allowing for a multiplicity of views and enabling diversity to flourish.

While the developments in 2020 have not shifted these goals, they have amplified the importance and stakes in ensuring we get it right. Working with our DE&I task force, as well as clients like Verizon who have helped lead this charge through their Ad Fellows program, our community partners help us broaden our focus beyond creation of an inclusive environment. They also assist with us expanding our efforts to the work we deliver, our partners and our culture as we look toward 2021.

Addressing DE&I needs to happen at every level, from student to C-Suite. What advice do you have for young talent that are just starting out in the industry in the midst of uncertainty?

As painful as 2020 was, and as difficult as it must seem for young talent right now, it’s important to recognize that on the other side of this comes change for the better.

It has become clear that the systems currently in place don’t work. In the United States, people are looking forward to systemic change as a result of the pandemic. For example, in our latest MW Truth Central research, 48% of Americans believe the lasting positive change will lead to improvements in social systems such as healthcare. Which begs the question: What needs to change? How do we make that happen?

Particularly in the case of DE&I systems within our sector, I see traditional hierarchies starting to shift and collapse—this is a good thing. Leaders in our world are becoming students in many ways, recognizing the work that needs to be done. Conversely, some of our most junior talent have become important and critical voices in the DE&I landscape. Inclusion comes to life in our agency through an openness to voices and perspectives that bring us outside our own echo chambers. We must learn, unlearn and relearn as a matter of practice.

This is actually the perfect time to enter our industry, as the need for diverse representation has never been more acute and the demand so great. So my advice is, if you want to make a difference, have your voice heard and be a change agent, now is actually the right time to jump in and make a difference.

Although 2021 presents some uncertainty, how do you predict brands will shift their media strategy in the new year?

In many ways, we are starting to think of 2021 in two parts: H1 vs H2. For the first half of the year, we anticipate brand media strategies to hold steady from 2020. There is still a lot of uncertainty in the system as it relates to consumer confidence due to the pandemic. For that reason, the contingency plans that many brands had in place during 2020 will continue throughout the winter and into spring. The changing point is the vaccination plan. If all goes to plan, we believe that summer and fall could be busy seasons both for our brands and consumers.

Assuming a large majority of consumers who want the vaccine can receive it, people will start returning to social activities. Since the announcement of the COVID-19 vaccine, the desire to attend live events and experiences in groups of people over 20 has grown by 94%, according to our recent Momentum COVID-19 wave study. Whether it’s eating out, going to events (still with limited capacity), etc., these booster activities—enabled by warmer weather—will in turn have a positive effect on consumer confidence, unleashing a flurry of Brand activity to capture that spend. For that reason, we imagine media strategy and marketing work to increasing in the second half, recognizing the shifting tide to normality as we head toward the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022.

This past year has inspired a re-birth for creativity. What are some of the best or most innovative works you have seen or been part of creating?

Before COVID-19, our research showed that, in many ways, global brands were trusted more than global institutions: 72% of people believe that global institutions like the World Bank and United Nations don’t understand the needs of their country, while 81% of those surveyed believe global brands can play a vital role for good. This made the role and expectation that consumers hoped brands could play apparent. From a creativity perspective, the brands who recognized the critical role they could play during this time stepped up and showed brilliant innovation.

For example, Verizon repurposed their sponsorship assets to create a new campaign called “Pay it Forward,” leveraging virtual concerts with music acts like Dave Matthews Band, to raise awareness and money for struggling small businesses. Similarly, American Express helped the struggling theater community during this time of crisis. We saw creativity expressed through the lens of purpose whilst tied to new types of virtual mediums.

In addition, some of the most innovative work our industry did this year was actually around innovations regarding how we “create.”  While many of us started as video conference novices, those in our industry have now deftly learned how to use Zoom hacks and Microsoft Teams to run dynamic creative brainstorms, meaningful workshops and culture-creating agency events.

Even when we return to the office, the innovations that we identified during this time will carry on. Previous limitations of time and geography will be broken down, allowing agile assembly of the best teams from around the globe.

What is your greatest hope for the industry as a whole this year?

My hope would be that all the changes we have started to see over the past 12 months in business are changes for good. That includes there being a greater focus on striking a balance between work and health, a greater acceptance for different work models and a renewed commitment to urgently addressing the inequities of our industry. I hope we don’t take steps backward, but build on the strides we have managed to make during this taxing time. We must continue to make the systemic changes we need to create a more inclusive, diverse and, ultimately, more creative world than we had just a year ago. Oh, and yes, I hope we get back to activating in real life!

Elena Klau is Momentum’s first Global Chief Strategy & Analytics Officer, having helped originate the disciplines for Momentum. Prior to Momentum, she was at Kaleidoscope Sports & Entertainment. In 2017, Klau was named to the SportsBusiness Journal’s “Forty under 40” list. She has also been listed in the Path to Purchase Institute’s annual “Who’s Who in Shopper Marketing” list every year since 2012. Klau has published numerous pieces in AdWeek and Admap, and has been an invited speaker at conferences like Social Media Week, EventTech and the Fast Company Innovation Festival.