WFA Predictions 2020
The WFA team share their predictions for what the next 12 months hold for brands.
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1. Start showing up on climate change
This was the year Extinction Rebellion came to Cannes and a 16-year-old Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of stealing her future and was named Time’s Person of the Year. Many brands are trying to address climate change in their own ways but as the voices of the climate activists become louder every company will have to ask itself what it’s doing for the future of our planet. The marketing industry, traditionally seen as a driver of consumption, faces a daunting challenge to which it’ll need compelling answers. 2020 will see more protests, more greenwashing, more brand bashing and, with a bit of luck, more smart, creative solutions.
2. Going beyond gender
Images of people in advertising affect how we think about the world. The last few years have witnessed big efforts from some brands in ensuring advertising promotes progressive gender portrayals. But as EA’s Head of Global Marketing Intelligence puts it: “Diversity has now been co-opted to simply mean “women,” and most often to mean “white women.” Gender stereotypes do not exist in a vacuum but are often intertwined with others about race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical activity, class and education. Brands can do more to portray society in all its diversity. We expect 2020 will start to see more progressive work become more mainstream.
3. Food marketing in the crosshairs
Despite all the talk from the World Health Organisation about increasing engagement with the private sector, food and restaurant brands should expect no respite from health regulators in 2020. The now infamous “Chilean” model, which treats the labelling and marketing of fatty, salty and sugary foods like tobacco (big black health warnings, bans on giveaways and the use of licensed characters, etc.) has spread like wildfire across Latin America to Peru, Uruguay and Mexico. Regulators in Argentina and Singapore are now considering outright bans to adults. In 2020, we expect more countries to take inspiration from Latin America and some, under the premise of the so-called precautionary principle, to look at wholesale bans on the marketing of sugary soft drinks and any foods that do not meet strict nutrition criteria.
4. Alcohol marketing coming into focus
Globally, alcohol marketing is already much more restricted than food marketing on largely cultural grounds. But in countries where it is still allowed and regulators have been unable to curb excessive drinking rates, expect more talk of health warnings on bottles and curbs on sponsorship and online marketing. The pressure will be most felt in Europe, where drinking rates are the highest globally, and in Latin America where health officials have been emboldened by their ‘victories’ over Big Food. Alcohol companies have already made big efforts to apply controls to prevent minors from seeing alcohol ads not least through partnerships with the big social media platforms. But a number of countries have adopted alcohol ad bans which extend to social media. Expect more pressure in 2020 for greater control both online and offline.
5. Kids’ data: YouTube took the hit in 2019 - Facebook next?
Last year we predicted that 2019 will be the year when Facebook and Google can no longer turn a blind eye to the presence of children on their platforms. In effect, the FTC settlement in September this year drew a line in the sand: giant social media platforms cannot boast the presence of younger audiences to advertisers, and then deny having ‘actual knowledge’ of them in order to claim compliance with privacy laws. YouTube is already rolling out ambitious measures for kids’ content following the settlement. 2020 will offer Facebook plenty of opportunity to proactively improve their policy and processes. But we predict it will be regulators that force their hand.
6. The privacy train rolls on
GDPR has been a reality for over a year now, and the privacy train shows no signs of slowing down. 2020 will see significant new privacy laws come into effect in some of the world’s biggest advertising markets, including the US (January in California) and Brazil (August). In India, parliament will start discussing the country’s first major piece of privacy legislation in Q1. If GDPR is anything to go by, all are likely to have a significant impact on advertising as marketers grapple with further restrictions on their ability to access the data they rely on for their digital marketing campaigns – not only for targeting, but also for measurement. WFA will be tracking all of this in our WFA Global Privacy Map, available to download here.
7. Duopoly to attract more regulatory interest
Marketers have been talking about the ‘digital duopoly’ of Google and Facebook for some time and antitrust regulators are starting to take an interest. 2020 will see antitrust investigations into digital advertising take shape – from Australia to the UK. Even the EU’s formidable competition chief, Margarethe Vestager, has apparently started asking questions about how Google & Facebook gather, process, use and monetise data, including for advertising purposes. There’s no guessing how long these investigations could take but the message is clear: regulators want to know more about how these companies are using data and advertising is at the heart of their questions. We can expect more fines…
8. Clamp down on the ugly side of the internet
Hate speech, child abuse, bullying, terrorism, racism, fake news… 2019 was a year where the ugly side of the internet was exposed warts and all. Policymakers started asking questions about who is responsible and how to stop it. Facebook, Twitter and Google were hauled in front of committees and next year we can expect to start seeing the regulatory response. Regulators around the world will be debating just how much responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the tech giants. Brands have an important role to play in this with brand safety a top priority for WFA members. Debates around what kind of content can and should be monetised will be important in shaping the global response to this issue.
9. Balancing the short and long term
Concern regards over-emphasis on the short-term are nothing new. Peter Field and Les Binet’s ‘The Long and the Short of it’ was published by the IPA seven years ago. Yet finding the right balance has proved to be a challenge for most brands whether they’re 100-year-old FMCGs heavily invested in econometrics or DTCs with an unwavering belief in attribution modelling. With 80% of clients responding to WFA’s marketing effectiveness survey agreeing ‘our effectiveness programme is overly focused on the short term’, it feels as though there is a groundswell of companies looking to change. The key, of course, will be avoiding an over-reliance on one solution and finding integrated measurement programmes which are right for your organisation – balancing the measurement, and therefore investment, in both the short and the long term.
10. Unifying company goals
Alongside ‘CMO’, ‘KPI’ is probably the most overused acronym in our industry. We’ve even got to the stage where we have seen presentations talking about Key KPIs!?! Yet it feels as though brand owners are starting to evolve their approaches towards shared outcomes. Rather than increasing investment in dashboards for siloed functions (arguably ‘marking their own homework’), will we start to see cross-functional objectives working towards common outcomes? As with any big change, it will likely come from heads of functions such as media, marketing and procurement. But a key factor may be marketing operations, a role growing in prominence with an interesting transversal perspective and making it well placed to identify and impact change.
11. Evolution of partnerships
The meaning of the word ‘partner’ in our industry has been bastardised. This probably first came from well-meaning clients wanting to demonstrate the value they put on relationships with their agencies. Fast forward to 2020 and everyone now seems to be a partner; agencies, sponsorship properties, consultants, digital platforms and media owners... the list goes on, even if clients are rarely the most monogamous of bed fellows. But one interesting new area is where clients have been partnering with other clients, for instance through co-op campaigns, joint purchasing, data sharing or simply lower level knowledge exchange between non competitors.