2021 HERE WE COME!

We ask industry voices on what to expect in the age of the unexpected. We hope you find more answers than questions…

FASTER, CHEAPER, BETTER.

The customer journey has changed forever. Integration is now a verb, and marketers need tangible ways to make it a reality. Retail and e-commerce, technology and entertainment, influencers and consumers. The question is no longer “Why should we do this?” but “How?” 

Brands need a totally new way of communication and will be looking for partners that show their ability to adapt to the times. And forget about a single-agency partnership. Marketers are no longer afraid of working with multiple partners. What brands want is an agency model that can deliver on expectations and help them stand out in their category. 

The value of pitches will be driven down both by budget decline and more project-based pitching. In-housing, as a trend, is not necessarily driven by cost efficiency alone, in some cases, it may cost more than outsourced expertise, depending on scale.

“The value of pitches will be driven down both by budget decline and more projectbased pitching. Inhousing, as a trend, is not necessarily driven by cost efficiency…”

Clients are looking for “faster, cheaper, and better” output.

Without the use of technology and new ways of collaborating, this will always be a pipe dream for agencies.

Greg Paull
Principal, R3

RESISTANCE TRAINING

I remember reading Anthony Robbins who had a chapter titled ‘Questions are the Answers’. He postured that the right questions will lead us to the right answers. This has helped me see things differently. This period, requires us to ask of ourselves and our teams powerful empowering questions.

Over time, I have come to realise that if we frame the right questions, we will somehow uncover the answers in our search. There are always answers. I think the trick is to fail fast and move on so that we can find those answers that work.

“I remember reading Anthony Robbins who had a chapter titled ‘Questions are the Answers’…”

This environment has forced us to build our business muscles. As an ex-insurance sales professional of 18 years, I was trained to think positively. I would somehow like to think that this resistance training will help us all fast forward our business growth over the next 5 years.

Sailendra K
Founder, Visual Retale

WFHOA HERE TO STAY

Forgive the stubborn optimist in me but in 2021, I believe the world will get much prettier.

There will be a greater sense of civilisational decency with Biden at the top of global leadership. Part of the global correction would be a saner US-China conversation; renewed focus on climate; and probably a partial reset of the ‘extreme-feels-mainstream’ algorithms of social media that have given rise to deep right wing insecurities everywhere.

In our industry, a certain hybrid “WFHOA” (home, office or anywhere) model will become the norm.

Office for induction, bonding and brainstorms – processes where exchange of human energy is central. Home for regular work, reporting and basic collaborations. Anywhere for tapping varying moods as per the day, time, company and stress levels.

Smart clients realise that online sales – where data asymmetry between products on one side and global media platforms and eCommerce marketplaces on the other – is vastly unfavourable to products. Hence the need for stronger branding is greater than ever

More so, as brands fight to take control of their first party data in a cookie-less world to help protect their margins.

“Smart clients realise that online sales – where data asymmetry between products on one side and global media platforms and eCommerce…”

Branding, owned data and a delightful integrated marketing experience design built around it are the three holy grails to note.

Prashant Kumar
Founder & Senior Partner
Entropia

YEAR OF CREATIVE RECKONING

Over the past few years, I found exceptional creative work to be missing from the market. Work that makes me want to kick myself for not having thought of it in the first place.

Malaysia was ranked as one of the top creative nations in this region. Today, we are in a very different state.

I am genuinely concerned with where the creative industry is heading. Is it due to the lack of talent caused by the brain drain? Or because work is being approved by committees wanting a piece of themselves in it?

Do clients provide an unrealistic budget and timeline, but expect incredibly high-quality of work in return? Maybe the creative people are just over-stretched, burnt out and treating creative opportunities as just another deadline they have to deliver and no longer a part of their passion.

We need to urgently rectify this and bring back the fun, the pride, and the joy of being part of the creative industry. Creativity gets stifled when there’s fear overriding the fun.

“I am genuinely concerned with where the creative industry is heading. Is it due to the lack of talent caused by the brain drain? Or because work is being approved by committees wanting a piece of themselves in it?…”

The creative industry is an essential component of the business world. If not treated with care and respect, brands will lose their competitive edge and be slaves at the hands of platforms.

Tan Kien Eng
CEO of Publicis Groupe/Leo Burnett Group Malaysia

HUMANITY RULES

2021 is a testament for all of humanity. Businesses who can connect and influence people virtually without physical engagement will sustain and shine.

Consumers need real value that can help improve the quality of life, to sustain, ie. health and family are the key issues now.Businesses who continue to focus their budget to show off the luxury outlook or sophisticated hi-tech features in their products, are accelerating towards the exit.

“Consumers need real value that can help improve the quality of life, to sustain, ie. health and family are the key focus now. Businesses who continue to focus their budget in showing off the luxury outlook or the sophisticated…”

Reconnecting humanity with authentic sharing and focusing on functional values is key for sustainability in 2021. Authenticity is the new creativity. Businesses who appreciate the fundamental basics of life and able to provide real values to improve humanity will win.

Tham Yen Lee
Head of Marketing Services
Astro Media Solutions

DATA WILL DRIVE IDEAS

 2021 is going to be interesting, just because it will be built off the experiences of 2020.

Firstly, with a year of remote working behind us, agency operations are bound to change with us finding a nice balance between the virtual and the real. In my view at least, any cost efficiency accrued here needs to be redeployed in investing in capabilities and of course rewarding employees.

Secondly, we should see a rise in creativity within shoppable media. 

A reawakening of the old school, long-term, branding principles, but driven out of, believe it or not, the much aligned, tactical, digital addressable platforms.

“A reawakening of the old school, long-term, branding principles, but driven out of, believe it or not, the much aligned, tactical, digital addressable platforms…”

And this will happen because we as an industry will become more and more sensitive to the creative potential of performance data.

Amit Sutha
EVP & ED Global Business
Mediabrands Content Studio

CHALLENGE OF NEW HABITS

New normal was 2020.
2021 is permanent normal.

During the first lockdown last year, some businesses could not survive because they had underlying issues that perhaps had been deferred once too often, eg. delaying digitalisation, upgrading their tech strategy, improving cashflow, or even building their brands.

After the first wave, for businesses who managed to scrape through, there is this false sense of hope that 2021 will be better because there is a vaccine in sight but clearly this is not the case.

And who knows what other challenges the year has in store for us. This false hope is when we think everything will return to pre-COVID normal.

MCO has shifted consumer behaviours tremendously and when they are prolonged,  these shifts become new habits, and the entire consumer journey gets reset. 

There are three things to do this year, reinvest into your business to protect current and grow new revenue streams.

Expedite, and not delay any strategic priorities to reinvent your business to cater to the current climate.

“There are three things to do this year, reinvest into your business to protect current and grow new revenue streams…”

And always be laser focused on your consumers and notice sentiments and change.

Sue-Anne Lim
CEO
Trapper Media Group

NO MERCY FOR LEADERS

I have heard much chatter claiming 2020 was a trailer of things to come in 2021. But I’ve a slightly different take on this…

While 2020 gave us a chance to prepare ourselves, 2021 will be the year of no mistakes, no excuses and no mercy for business leaders.

Which brings me to the next point which I continue to maintain:

Take care of your people and the business will take care of itself.

Given the wait for vaccination roll out and flip-flopping on lockdowns will continue to disrupt and slow down business plans, the biggest challenge for us will be keeping the focus, motivation, and enthusiasm of our teams as this will take a toll on overall efficiency and productivity.

This year our entrepreneurial acumen beyond managerial skills will be put to test both within the organization, and the Client ecosystems where we serve in, as off the shelf services and solutions in the name of data, analytics, campaigns and digital will not cut ice.

“In short, this is the year of unlearning and relearning the business of business for all of us. In my view the focus should be on ‘surviving and thriving’…”

In short, this is the year of unlearning and relearning the business of business for all of us. In my view the focus should be on ‘surviving and thriving’ while staying relevant in a world we really don’t know much about.

Mazuin Zin
Managing Director
Edelman Malaysia

MARKETERS KEEP MAKING MISTAKES

I feel the market will be flat up to the 3rd quarter despite the advent of COVID vaccine and slow recovery in general, except for cyclical business like health care, logistics and tech-centric industries.

Domestic business travel and tourism may resume in the second half and bring much relief to the business. But one has to be innovative and fully leverage on tech and new opportunities amid the pandemic to sustain.

For news media, many local marketers are still slow in adopting brand safety, ignoring ad fraud and buying into cheap commoditised inventories.

“So it is up to publishers to tell the good story and unveil the value and power of their news brand.”

So it is up to publishers to tell the good story and unveil the value and power of their news brand. 

Eugene Wong
ED/Group CEO
Sin Chew Media Corporation Bhd

NO LIMIT TO CREATIVITY

Gone are the days when doing one’s business meant sticking to and doing what one does best. We did that during the first months of the pandemic.

Till we realised that no matter how we hammered or clawed our way through things we’ve been doing all our lives, it was like putting a square peg in a round hole.

Doing what one does best was shortened to Doing, period.

Doing what?

Suddenly, from practically everywhere, creativity sprouted out like a seedling on the first day of spring.

Suddenly, businessmen, professionals, entertainers, housewives, etc., put on new hats and tried doing new things for dear lives, and amazingly, the first time they did it, it’s as though they’ve been doing it all their lives.

“Production house owner sells bacon”. “Movie star delivers food”.  “Housewife assembles products from home never thought of before”.

Interestingly, I just got a text asking about perspectives on the proverbial cup being half full or half empty.

One replied, “Neither. In this trying time, I am glad I have a cup.”

“Till we realised that no matter how we hammered or clawed our way through things we’ve been doing all our lives, it was like putting a square peg in a round hole…”

So what to expect in 2021? Generally, a whole lot more of the above. As long as the fire of ingenuity burns.

Julie P. Lingan
Retired award-winning Creative Director and out of practice concert pianist


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