by MarkLives (@marklives) What are the industry expectations for the marketing and advertising industry in 2020? A panel of key agency and marketing execs discusses the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and any consumer and communication trends they’ll be looking out for in the year ahead. Next up is Avatar‘s Keri-Ann Stanton.

Keri-Ann Stanton

Keri-Ann StantonKeri-Ann Stanton (@KAmuses) is head of PR for Avatar PR, part of the Avatar Agency Group owned by M&N Brands, a new agency network for Africans by Africans. A multi-award-winning PR strategist and creative (APEX, Loeries, SABRE EMEA, African Excellence and Prisms), she works across sectors and disciplines from FMCG to SOEs. The global Holmes Report named her as one of the top 25 communication innovators in EMEA in 2017 and she has been invited to speak on various panels in Miami, Rwanda and SA.

I expect more projects, less retainers

Watching the whirlwind of client changes and restructuring and getting future-ready or whatever buzzwords of the moment are used to deal with the ugliness of a shrinking economy and retrenchments and downsizing: I expect more projects and less retainers.

It takes nerves and guts of steel to work in this environment because it affects your planning, your resourcing and cashflow. But agility also breeds creativity, and high-impact project work maybe rewarding as you work within tight parameters and timelines. I like it.

I expect more best-of-breed collaboration

This is the time for freelancers to regain their foothold in the economy. High-output, high-delivery project work isn’t made for junior staff. You need to be able to pull best-of-breed consultants together who understand collaboration, specialisation and end goals. Instead of trying to fit an existing team around every unique brief, I’ve moved to creating ‘dream teams’ that fit the client, project and timeline.

I expect more main-market briefs

Q4 2019 was an eye opener in just how many ‘traditional’ agencies have been failing clients in understanding the market they’re selling to. And the answers to this are anything but simple. The main market is nuanced, segmented, regionalised. When clients understand that, and give time to the right agencies to craft these solutions (what’s up with these one-week turnarounds?), then we may actually start seeing good work instead of plasters over mediocre solves.

I expect more media closures

I don’t think I need to explain further. Magazines and newspapers are luxury items now. While there are some clever crowd-funding and paywall campaigns, the money needed to keep true, proper journalism alive is shrinking. The upside is that all the marvellous storytelling talent can be absorbed into your best-of-breed team collaborations.

I expect more safe, less edgy

When clients are under pressure (doing more with less) and agencies are under pressure (doing more with less) and the relentless wheel of delivery picks up pace, then safe, tick-the-box campaigns become the norm. I saw it in the entries that I judged last year across Prisms, Sabre EMEAs, Loeries etc — the industry feels depressed.

I expect more events and activations

Clients are wanting something tangible. Something they can see /touch/hear/feel and that puts them bang! centre in the middle of their markets. I’m not sure it’s the most-effective tactic but I’m seeing more and more of it.

I expect more ‘testing’ and ‘trying’

The era of long relationships and commitments and growing together seems to be coming to a messy end. Clients are jumpy and jumping: a project with this one, a project with that one — chasing bigger and better on less and less. Nerves and guts of steel, as I said earlier. Rest when it’s quiet because three campaigns will land at the same time the following week.

I expect more downsizing

Clients want to know you have big teams and resources, and can handle their work seamlessly. But the pitch win soon translates into projects and tight budgets. Agencies can’t cope with heavy overheads and need to become more agile and flexible in answering to these changing needs.

I expect more disruption from my younger peers

The kids are okay, and they are doing the things. From Skinny Sbu hustling the president to wear his socks to owning a space that marketers haven’t woken up to properly [full disclosure: M&N Brands, which owns Avatar PR, established M&N Entertainment a year ago to house its media investments, including the newly acquired youth culture magazine] — these are the ones I watch.

I expect more demand for senior hands-on

Clients need answers on the spot; strategy changes in real time. I’m not sure how we’re growing the next generation of practitioners in a fast-paced environment like this. It’s worrying.

I expect more hyper-connectedness

Unless you’ve mastered your craft and expanded your skills and are committed to outcomes, 2020 is going to be very, very hard for you. We’re working on a national campaign — with multiple stakeholders — that has no meetings: it’s Google Docs, Dropbox, Slack, Zoom, WhatsApp groups and, very rarely, emails. I’ve watched the youngsters thrive, and the seniors struggle. Adapt or die.

See also


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key advertising and marketing industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.

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