We asked some of our IPA Group Chairs what their 2021 ad industry highlight has been during another tough year. Here's what they had to say.
If 2020 was all about fear and remote working, 2021 developed into a kinder, more respectful hybrid working year. Forget the turmoil of Lockdown 3 (or was it 4?) a moment and think about the embracing of a combination of people in the office and people not comfortable with being in the office, from both clients and agencies alike. No one has batted an eyelid when two clients are in the room in real life, but their colleague is in on the screen, and although all agency meetings are technically a little challenging when some are in Manchester, another is in Cambridgeshire and everyone else is in the office, it works because people respect that traveling to and from the office may not always be possible, and frankly doesn’t really matter. This is how we will, ultimately, diversify our industry, as we respect locations, family commitments and personal preferences better.
Amidst all the challenges of the last 12 months, this is a moment to pause and reflect on what we have achieved together — an industry awakening to its responsibilities in the face of our climate crisis. We've dropped our competitive instincts to come together in various guises to take collective action. To learn and share knowledge and work together to accelerate change at sufficient scale and speed. We saw the launch of the IPA Climate Charter, now a group of 25 media agencies and counting, and the Advertising Association's Ad Net Zero Group. In the wider industry landscape, we saw the creation of the #ChangeTheBrief Alliance, Good Life 2030 and others. All evidence of collective action and something I've drawn strength from in this tough year.
The resilience and inventiveness of the industry has been my highlight of the year. After the toughest commercial period in living memory (and I’ve lived through a few recessions and crashes now), it’s heartening to see brands and agencies sprinting back to financial health. People and businesses have had a tough time, and though full recovery may still take time for some, talent and creativity has a way of breaking through even on arid soil and there's lots to be optimistic about.
2021 has definitely been a challenge, but there have been highlights… Firstly, with my IPA hat on - the optimistic Bellwether report from Q3 which reported on marketing budgets increasing at their strongest rate since the first half of 2017, very welcome news in such a turbulent year. I’m also incredibly proud of the work our industry is doing around D&I with the All In Action Plan and our bid to improve the experience of diverse talent across the industry. Also, the training around Ad Net Zero, which is helping people working in our industry to better understand the impact the work we do has on the climate crisis.
Looking at our industry as a whole, and notwithstanding the very recent pandemic news surrounding the Omicron variant, there are many reports predicting a strong recovery for 2022, this is something we can all look forward to.
One of the positives that has come from this pandemic is heightened environmental awareness, and there is an even greater expectation on brands to engage and share their climate credentials in the wake of Cop26. We have seen some great examples of bravery, with no doubt huge support, because sustainability sells. I’m also very excited to see the developing campaigns of brands that lead the way on green issues.
The shift to ‘growth’ as the underlying question and ambition. How can you help me find new markets, new customers, better serve existing customers, sell through more channels, build rapidly? Efficiency-based and more-for-less marketing strategies seem very last decade. So my highlight is more people and companies looking to the sky rather than their shoelaces. The return has been both buoyant and brimming with ambition.
OOH got smarter, more flexible, and innovative during the pandemic. As audiences returned through 2021, advertisers came back to the category with confidence. Despite budgets being under more scrutiny than ever, it’s been an outstanding year for unique creative solutions, fuelled by new technologies, dynamic data-led creative messaging, and imagination. Be it exploding jars of Marmite; incredible ‘deep screen’ experiences from Amazon and Balenciaga; VW’s pollution cleansing billboard; or the Playstation 5 launch collaboration with TFL. OOH has found ever more inventive ways to connect with people on the street and drive reach through people sharing these campaigns across social.
My 2021 highlight has been all those moments reconnecting for the first time with clients and colleagues in real life following lockdown (and in some cases, meeting for the first time); those meetings, shoots, events, dinners that are the lifeblood of our agencies. We’ve all seen the balance and productivity benefits of hybrid working, a model that rightly looks here to stay. But while we’ve shown we can achieve lots working remotely, we can achieve even more in real life, and have more fun doing it.