Bill Harvey’s 2021 Predictions for Business, Culture and Regulation

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Cultural context will help reshape mass communications in 2021 as it always has done. As we enter the new year we still live in the schismatic culture created by the infiltration of propaganda warfare into the new media which have exacerbated relatively small abstract differences into atypical levels of anger and hatred. Yet the challenges we face require a degree of working together that is the diametric opposite of the split personality, tug of war, zero sum game culture we have become. Accordingly, many of my predictions below relate to a whole new way of advertising that is rebuilt from the ground (the creative) up.

2021 Predictions -- Media and Advertising Business

  1. Local advertising will spring back in the first areas to move back into a normal world, and then fan out as more and more markets get back to non-COVID conditions. This will give local media with new tech a chance to show how those media can add to national media usefully in a non-COVID world.
  2. Those who have lost jobs and/or were in economic straits before will need help. The government will do its best. Advertisers will figure out that helping the less fortunate half of the population is a great investment opportunity -- speaking again of gratitude effects. There will be as many different approaches as there are advertisers. For example, discounts to those who subscribe at a chosen cadence to home delivery of a brand (cancellable at any time), who lost jobs due to COVID, who got vaccinated when they could, who still wear masks in public anyway, who performed essential services during COVID -- a deeper discount for qualifying on more of these bases.
  3. More of advertising time and space will be used to tell real stories about the good work a brand is doing, as contrasted with pitching the brand.
  4. As the economy comes roaring back and advertisers try many new things, they will rely more and more on experiments as the way of quickly judging what is working and what is not. This is easy to do with random control trials programmatically. (Let me know if you need help with this; it’s easy. That is, we make it easy.) Experiments provide a far higher degree of certainty than MMM, MTA, single source, lift studies, eye tracking, etc. By the end of 2021 the number of advertisers using RCTs and matched zip code experiments will start a long-term growth curve.
  5. Television in all its forms will again be recognized as the powerhouse of media for creating demand (whereas digital excels for harvesting demand). Dollars will cease flowing out of television into digital year after year and reach something like an equilibrium state in aggregate, with specific brands coming back more strongly into TV. When the long-forgotten promise of interactive TV is remembered, TV will do everything, with higher reach, and better context effects, and all the data capabilities of digital and more so in terms of data accuracy.
  6. Not only the disappearing cookie and privacy concerns will cause a return to context as a top criterion in media selection. The RMT proof of how much an ROI and branding difference context makes will be an equal cause to the reawakening.
  7. Practitioners will gather into two camps: those who are satisfied that panels are best for cross-platform measurement, and those who feel that big data are more representative and have greater utility for addressable media than panels can ever achieve. Those comfortable with the status quo, including walled gardens, will gravitate toward panels. Those who are fighting for every buck will go the other way.
  8. TV networks will also divide into two schools of thought: those who are willing to bake in the cost of outcome research chosen by the advertiser, and to guarantee those outcome results at a certain level and to pre-agree on how many Advertising Deficiency Units (ADUs) will be given if those results are not hit, and networks that have a slightly different approach (must use their outcome measurement supplier/design, no guarantee beyond delivering eyeballs because the creative is not the media’s fault, etc.). The networks of the first type will grow more than the second type in 2021.
  9. Efforts will be made to make TV and especially MVPD addressable TV as easy to buy as programmatic digital. All of these efforts will succeed -- the easier it is to buy, the more the success.
  10. Advertisers and agencies will also bifurcate philosophically: the majority will continue to treat advertising as a weak force that should be bought as cheaply as possible per impression; a growing minority will see advertising and branded content as potentially powerful forces and will be willing to pay higher CPMs for greater contextual resonance.

2021 Predictions -- Social, Cultural, and Governmental

  1. As vaccinations takes hold and the herd becomes immune to COVID-19, the economy will spring back strongly. We will appreciate the lives we had before, like we never appreciated them before. The gratitude infusion into the body public will enable a lift in consciousness to a more moral and effective level. Manufacturing may be given government vaccination priority in industries that are important to the national welfare. More and more people will agree that the economy must be brought back strongly, and all must act more cooperatively in order to achieve that, preventing shutdowns by self-discipline; this single thought will enable the creation of a unity which has not existed for a long time.
  2. The content of TV commercials, video commercials, and brand messaging in TV and digital will increasingly be about People Who Help Each Other. Conceivably if improbably, the government might even consider television and cinema producers as a vaccination priority if they agree to produce programming which shows characters with character.
  3. Countries That Help Each Other could become an international theme. America will be re-establishing the alliances it once had and still has to some degree. Cooperation between political parties will be the same theme, and will remove the freeze on innovative, experimentally pre-tested and pre-validated new legislation. At personal levels, we will all give some additional consideration to helping people every minute of the day, if we see the opportunity. There could be a Peace Coalition, such as in my sci-fi novel PANDEMONIUM: Live To All Devices.
  4. The connection between deforestation (and the more general category of interference with animal habitats) and plagues like COVID-19 will be scientifically investigated and the findings given appropriate weight in decision making at high levels.

Wishing you all a rip roarin’ 2021!

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