In 2020, Marketing Challenges Will Be The Same As 2019's

It’s almost the end of the year, and the end of the decade, so it is time to do some crystal ball gazing. Don’t worry, I am not going to do an overview of the biggest issues that defined marketing in “The Tens,” which is what Wikipedia says we call the period of 2010 — 2019. But, hint: it was content, integration and transparency.

I am also not going to tire you with clickbait like “The hottest marketing trends for the new decade.” (Spoiler alert: it is more of the same: content, integration and transparency, according to industry research).

And I am going to refrain from reviewing or commenting on the large crop of (global) Christmas ads. John Lewis wins again, and Coca-Cola and (here in the U.S.) Academy Sports are awful. Peloton is either brilliant or brilliantly misguided.

Instead, I thought it would be more useful to look at the economics of the year ahead, as we have seen a deluge of ad spend and marketing spend predictions coming out over the last two weeks. We have Group M’s Brian Wieser gazing in his crystal ball, Zenith has been reading the tea leaves, and Magna Global revealed what it has seen in the future. If you want the numbers, they were usefully summarized in this MediaPost Agency Daily story.



All forecasts agree on moderate growth, roughly in the 4% range. That is, as your CFO will attest, better than nothing. But it is not very robust, especially when you take into consideration that media inflation is going to eat all that growth, and then some, as it is forecast to hit just over 6%. 

This means that, net-net, your ad dollar will yield 2% less of whatever-you-measure versus 2019. On top of that, audiences across all media are continuing to decrease (by 1.6% in 2020, no longer driven by declines in just print, but now also by declines in network and cable TV audiences).

By the way, 2020 should be a bumper year if you are looking at historic factors driving marketing and advertising investment. There is the U.S. election — which used to always drive up TV ad demand and therefore cost, but spending is now focused in online advertising because there politicians and political influencers can say whatever the hell they want with little oversight). 

There is also the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and the EURO2020 football/soccer tournament across Europe. These are all traditional audience drivers — but despite all these heavy hitter events, the industry is still predicting declines..

That puts us all in a serious predicament. Audiences for video continues to grow, but sadly on unattractive online platforms (because fraud, bots, and poorly measured), or platforms that do not depend on advertising income at all (Netflix and chill). Digital is being questioned on effectiveness, but also on appropriateness. 

What is a marketer to do? Where do you take your dollars to drive an audience? How do you build a brand if the very backbone of brand-building is less and less effective? How do you run an agency if marketers keep diverting cost away from advertising vehicles you used to manage? How do you develop the all-important content as a media company if the cost of doing so keeps going up, while audiences fragment?

I guess these are the REAL questions for 2020. And I am sure that this time next year, we still won’t have the answers…

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