Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Adjusting to a post-pandemic life, and other reasons 2021 will be great

By Gary Taylor, Deputy Managing Director, tmwi

It would be easy to use my first column of the year to talk about resolutions but I am actively avoiding that for two important reasons: not only do we simply end up feeling guilty when we fail to achieve the targets we have needlessly set ourselves, but if there was ever a year when we do not need to set targets beyond basic survival, it is 2021.

Instead I am going to allow myself the luxury of crystal ball gazing and predict why I think 2021 will be a defining year for our industry.

A new dawn

Once we come out of this challenging period I predict a sweeping post-Covid shift in attitude. How permanent it will be remains to be seen, however throughout 2021 we will see a raft of new consumer habits and behaviours revealed that will make for a very interesting response from advertisers.

The last 12 months has seen a rapid uptake in digital and expedited growth in new formats. Video is leading the way with a 5.7% uptake in spend and a reported 32% of advertisers increasing investment in online video. (

While restrictions will be lifted gradually, millions of people who have been locked down for the best part of a year or more will be eager to get out and live. Whether that’s trips to the theatre, holidays, meals out, or taking up a new hobby, setting personal challenges or changing career, there will be a palpable sense of a second chance after 12 months spent considering all the things we took for granted. The global team at Time Out listed 37 small things they are dreaming of doing once we return back to some level of normality – … many of which I’m sure will resonate with people across the UK.

After a torrid year for the high street and brands in the worst affected sectors (hospitality, travel etc.), this could be a great opportunity to tap into a new attitude. Advertisers will need to be quick off the mark while remaining sensitive to what many people have been through. Taking advantage of the exponential shift to ecommerce is critical for survival. We’re super proud of the results we’ve helped deliver for our client Furniture Village who has seen a 25% increase in sales YoY with a 90% increase in online!

Mind the gap

The divide between clients and their partners has lessened in the past year thanks to the levelling effect of Covid. Every business has had to adjust to the new way of working, and no one has been immune to the effects of the pandemic – direct or otherwise. We have all shown glimpses of ourselves that we’d normally keep private – we’ve seen the insides of each other’s houses, glimpsed a child or pet misbehaving in shot and let our guard down during those moments when you wait for everyone to join the call… and I firmly believe that anyone who forgets to take themselves off mute before talking on a video call in 2021 should be publicly flogged!

There’s no denying things are not the same. And I welcome that. When people see themselves on a level playing field, it can open the door to frank discussions and brave decisions that will have a hugely positive impact on the work that is collectively achieved.

Stay home and log on

Historians looking back at 2020 will undoubtedly mark it as the year that redefined the way we work. Working from home became compulsory for most in our industry and, after an initial period of adjustment, we discovered it actually worked OK. Many business leaders have openly admitted they were not a fan of the concept but have been forced to accept it, and a lot of those same people will now be welcoming its benefits. I was pleasantly surprised how well our 60-strong team adapted to remote working so quickly and with minimal disruption to our business.

Organisations are focusing more on output than attendance, employees are being given the opportunity to work to a schedule that suits their lifestyle, managers are being asked to trust their teams, all of which leads to an empowerment that results in heightened morale, greater output and an improved sense of job satisfaction.

As everyone was thrown into the home office it quickly became apparent that location and physical supervision need not be a barrier to great output. Quite apart from the fact that there is precious little to fill our housebound days besides work, there is nowhere to hide if you opt not to pull your weight.

Equal ads for all

Despite all the obvious distractions, 2020 continued to build on earlier groundwork in the quest for equality in the workplace, with diversity of gender and race remaining high up the agenda throughout the pandemic. The #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements took the debate to an important new level and the industry has started to see better representation of all groups in advertising. While there is still a long way to go, I’m hopeful that in 2021 the tireless campaigners for this cause will start to see the fruits of their labour in the work brands put out.

The power of advertising to influence and shift opinion cannot be underestimated so it is crucial to ensure campaigns reflect real life by representing a broad range of people, lifestyles and experiences.

2020 presented us with new challenges and forced us to tap new depths of patience, strength and resilience, proving to ourselves as well as others what we’re made of. As we go into 2021, and with the optimism that the pandemic can be conquered in the coming months, it is time to embrace those newfound abilities and harness them for long term good. We have proven how adaptable we are.