VMLY&R Creative Leaders Offer Thoughts On 2021 Trends

There’s no doubt this year was tough on creativity and well, just about everything else, but VMLY&R leaders have high hopes for 2021 according to top creatives at the agency who provided their trend predictions to MediaPost.

As life becomes increasingly digital, marketers will need to become even more adept at navigating this new world, believes Jason Xenopoulos, CEO, New York/Co-Chief Creative Officer, North America. 

Online shopping soared this year due to the pandemic and brands needs to boost their digital commerce and messaging capabilities or risk losing out. “In this world, timing and context will be critical to ensuring that brands are top of mind. And that kind of targeted approach means more data-driven marketing and media across the board,” he says.

At the same time, the growth of streaming platforms at the expense of network TV, out of home experiences, and other traditional entertainment channels will force brands to become more deeply embedded in culture. “Being part of the cultural conversation will be essential to remain relevant and top of mind – which means more meaningful and better social media engagements and mainstream branded entertainment content,” states Xenopoulos.



John Godsey, co-CCO, NA cautions brands not to forget about tangible experiences. One of the main challenges is that after a year of isolating with their devices, consumers are going to yearn for more visceral, analog connections, he predicts. “So how do we continue to make digital connections feel more intuitive and human?”

There is no question 2020 opened doors to ways of producing that will never close. Combined with the year-over-year decrease in production budgets for content, Adland will continue to see more and improved ways to shoot, edit and collaborate remotely. “But no matter how much money is saved, ‘being remote’ will always compromise the work and frustrate everyone involved, including the client,” says Greg Lotus, head of production. 

Mel Routhier, global CCO, WPP Walgreens Team claims clients are going to be asking: “do we really ever need to return to the way production was handled before? Does the agency REALLY need to be on the ground? Do clients need to travel? Can’t we do this all remotely like we’ve been doing this year?” 

He quips, “Spoiler alert: No…we can’t. The product really does suffer.”

“There is likely to be pent-up artistic energy that’s sure to come out just as we can travel and be together,” states Debbi Vandeven, VMLY&R Global Chief Creative Officer. “But it’s also because we’ve become so much better at collaborating globally. We’ll continue to build on that, giving creatives more opportunity to concept on a broader range of accounts and, in turn, giving clients a broader range of perspectives.”

Wayne Best, Chief Creative Officer, NY, adds “comedy will make a comeback in advertising. People need to laugh again. Or maybe that’s more of a hope than a prediction.”

Messaging and imaging will remain delicate balancing acts, predicts Alli Pierce, the agency’s global CCO for client Intel. “‘PPE or no PPE,’” ‘social distancing or no social distancing’, and ‘crowds or no crowds’ will be a constant, difficult conversation when creating work. “Feeling like we’re close to an end with vaccines coming, but also needing to be sensitive to the world’s current state will make it hard to decide what to pull the trigger on,” says Pierce. “There will be a growing feeling that things like masks and zoom calls will start dating the work quickly.”

Noel Cottrell, CCO, Kansas City channels everyone with the wish that “by June, ads stop telling us where and when to get the vaccine and start telling us about cruises and concerts.”



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