By Jill McDonald – Associate Partner M&K Media

Looking at the year ahead, our outlook is dynamic, agile and filled with complexities that will need to be carefully managed by media agencies, advertising and marketing disciplines.


The main thing we have learned over the past 21 months is the importance of nimbleness and agility. Our world will continue to be in flux as we wrestle with the realities of the pandemic and we will have to respond accordingly, be it participating in the opening-up jubilation or commiserating with the continued fear and frustration with variant caseload setbacks and ongoing lockdowns.

The truth is we do not know yet, but we do know that we have to in fact “read the room” more than ever and respond as quickly as possible. Consumers have changed and will continue to change and we need to continue to adapt our media strategies, messages and platforms in real time.  What will be different is that the messaging will be more deeply rooted in a post Covid-19 ethos of brands reflecting evolved societal values, habits and needs.

So, on a societal level brands need to accelerate work to meaningfully reflect current social issues across all their touchpoints -social media and otherwise. Consumers now more than ever will demand that you stand for something and that you prove it.

On a practical level many brands will have to ensure that their messages include safety measures and protocols along with realistic delivery dates and how they intend to improve them (if necessary). Consumers are less likely to allow Covid-19 to be an excuse for less than satisfactory service since we have all had over a year to figure it out. Included in this will be the continued evolution and improvement of the shopper on-line ordering experience.

On a basic advertising fundamentals level we will all be preparing for a seismic change in our digital targeting practices with the roll –out of stronger privacy options and a resulting cookie less digital landscape. This will include a re-evaluation of all our platforms and corresponding reach, frequency, and efficiency KPI’s as well as a rush to secure first party and permission based data.

On a brand building level we will be urging brands to set aside more time and more budgets to continue long term brand building planning and execution. While we must continue to be agile and react to short term market fluctuations we cannot neglect the long-term without compromising position and growth.

What are the 3 biggest challenges marketers face building a brand?

  1. Budgets: Budgets continue to decline year over year and finding ways to drive brand awareness in an increasingly fragmented environment, deliver competitive SOV, break through the clutter, devise test and learn scenarios, as well as provide greater efficiencies is always a big challenge.
  2. Digital and technology transformation: It is inevitable, it must be embraced, it can be painful but those that implement will win! At the heart of this is managing data and attribution: There is either too much or too little and discerning what is relevant and important can be very challenging. Key to most brands is determining what and how hard are their chosen platforms and channels working. The ongoing goal is for greater precision and efficiency on how to reach core customers and opportunity segments with relevant messages at the right time and place to motivate them to buy or take a prescribed action.
  3. Balancing short term success with long term strategy and goals: Sounds logical and easy but very hard to accomplish. In the present day environment short term results almost always supersede long term growth investment. Sustained growth is only achieved by a balance of the two.

What do clients want post-pandemic?

In general, clients will heavily lean on agency partners to help navigate post-pandemic and continue the required flexibility and agility to wade continuous uncharted waters. “Returning to normal” may not actually happen and clients will need partners who understand that and can help forge a new path for their business. We see a desire to have an even stronger ‘finger on the pulse’ of societal changes and consumer trends and the ability to provide real-time, actionable insights into the evolving media landscape. They want their marcom partners to have the capacity and courage to provide ‘break out ’ thinking which will become even more important as clients emerge from this unprecedented time and wrestle with fluctuations in many aspects of their business, like never before. Specifically we have noted:

  1. The physical return of their customers and their employees in a safe environment.
  2. To have their brands positively positioned and sensitive for the new reality of consumer behaviour i.e. The ability to resonate with consumers – people’s lives have changed since Covid-19 (financial, health, diversity, inclusion and outlook on life etc.).
  3. For brands that experienced declines, focus efforts on fueling their rebound efforts to supersede pre-pandemic levels.
  4. For brands that experienced increased sales (i.e. food) during COVID, they are seeking to either increase or maintain SOV and revenue gains that they experienced.
  5. Innovation and original thought – now more than ever.
  6. Continued flexibility offered during the pandemic.
  7. Efficiencies: To do more with less.
  8. A “partner” who brings expertise, knowledge and insight about their marketplace and most importantly their customers and their media habits, to support them in making optimal decisions for the brand and company.

Above it all, we are excited about the year ahead and regardless of how complex the process may be, we look forward to navigating together with our clients and partners in 2022!