How Marketers Can Exploit The Past Year's Turbulence To Optimal Advantage

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, March 19, 2021

Last year was a roller-coaster ride for most media directors. Massive shifts in consumer behavior, media consumption and purchase patterns have challenged everyone. 

This year can be better. 

The good news is that lockdown in 2021 will give media directors time to think and develop a new strategy. There are no summits, no speeches, there was no CES and, despite protestations from the organizers, there will most likely be no Cannes. 

This provides a unique piece of headspace for media directors. It’s time to build something new and take advantage of the extraordinary, and slightly surprising, sense of optimism that we find among many in 2021. 

With the right focus, we believe that 2021 is a year when advertisers can be as smart as their agencies, hungry for information and with a willingness to learn. 

They should be encouraged to plan for the future by what happened in 2020. Many worked with external agencies to radically pivot on their retail strategy and adapt to revamped consumer behavior. Much closer partnerships have been formed and the benefits have been obvious. 

Ambitious marketers should be asking what’s next, how can I take advantage of all this disruption to build competitive advantage via media for the long-term. 

I believe there are five steps to a successful 2021 for media directors and all of them focus on getting things right internally rather than responding with a knee-jerk: “I need to pitch.” 

Firstly, you need to design a good workflow that will drive change. Work out your process for change and how it needs to unfold, who needs to be involved with each stage so that you know how the process is going to work. 

Next you need to define what you want media to achieve. This may have changed radically thanks to the step change in eCommerce, for example, but you still need a North Star that can unite your internal team and the agency behind a core purpose. 

Also, you need to be clearer about the purpose of media investment. Everything should be linked to a business growth KPI. Media investment needs to be tied as closely as possible to improving the bottom line. 

And you need to be really honest about what you are good at and where you struggle. If you can identify the gaps in your operations versus best practice (and peer brands), then you can identify waste and inefficiencies that can be addressed. 

Finally, you should consult your agency on what they think can be improved. They are your closest partners and they also have lots of experience of working with other companies so should be able to contribute ideas and new ways of working that can deliver results. 

Times of radical change are often the best moment to rethink established routines and practices. They are times to shake up what you are doing. Many brands have already experienced radical change in 2020 but no one can afford to relax this year. 

The best media directors – and our conversations certainly reflect this – will have gained an appetite for more and will be allocating time in 2021 to bring all stakeholders together to design new ways of working and become more accountable for success. 

The outcome of this process will be competitive advantage that could last for years. Anyone who thinks they can wait is making a big mistake. Because even if you aren’t undertaking this process, at least one of your rivals will be.


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