As the year draws to a close, 2021 was not quite the ‘back to normal’ year we had all hoped, but regardless I look back with intense pride on how the creative sector has adjusted and is continuing to produce great work, with incredible innovation along the way.
We’ve spotted a few key trends with clients, starting pre-pandemic that have accelerated. Clients are re-evaluating their agency ecosystem; some are focused on decoupling production from creative and some clients are looking to centralise operations and functions to streamline the creation and efficiency of content production.
All of this has resulted in a number of RFPs requesting a combined response from multiple or partner agencies, to help clients drive efficiency through one seamless operating model. The conversations we’ve been having over the last 18 months certainly show no sign of slowing down in the year ahead.
With environmental sustainability high on the news agenda too, brands will continue to come under increased pressure from consumers who require the businesses they trust to sell them affordable and sustainable products. We have already helped many of our clients bolster their specific sustainability improvement journey as marketing production comes under increased scrutiny.
We have been helping CMOs understand how to reduce carbon emissions, not just by dealing with the problems on their doorstep, but rather considering what’s coming down the line and what needs to be done to turn the tide.
The fact we operate a truly end-to-end marketing production business gives us a unique advantage because we create assets for every marketing channel. We are constantly looking at the whole picture for our clients, assessing the impact of what’s being made for social and TV, as well as what we are producing for print through to what we source from third parties.
Looking to the year ahead, the trend for more sustainable omnichannel production is undoubtedly a trend that must and will continue. We look forward to helping more brands live up to their aspirations of people, planet and performance, so I’ve asked Tag’s experts to reflect on 2021 and give their predictions for the future.
Bigger investment in personalised digital advertising
Tamara Lover, divisional director: The biggest shift I have seen is a bigger investment in personalised digital advertising. Firstly, Covid saw a huge shift in consumers to shopping online, so brands needed to move where their consumers were. Secondly, we know that personalised advertising often delivers a higher ROI and can be linked to performance. Lastly, digital advertising can be automated, leading to higher efficiency and optimisation using the latest in AI technology.
Decisive restructuring of supply chains
Sue Tait, global head of governance and sustainability, head of sourcing network EMEA: The supply chain in 2021 has been a difficult and unpredictable landscape in which to forecast demand and mitigate against risk; the early part of 2022 won’t be any different. Sharp increases in utilities bills and rising freight costs continue against a resurgence of new Covid virus variants, which will affect labour and material supply in all manufacturing processes. Although the general feeling is that time will rebalance many of these supply chains, some are more permanent and in 2022 there will be a need for decisive restructuring of supply chains.
We are entering a period of inflation and passing on some inflationary costs is inevitable. To mitigate these costs we need to ensure all other processes outside cost of goods are as streamlined as possible.
In a complex global marketplace, businesses need to focus on solutions with reliability and sustainability ingrained to guarantee surety of supply.
Measuring emissions and setting reduction targets
Alex Hicks, global compliance and sustainability director: Our main focus for 2021 was evolving our sustainability strategy for the separate Tag business. We have been able to leverage the wider WLT Group resources to build a strong foundation of certifications, policies and processes that are more common in manufacturing businesses than agencies. We have worked to understand our clients’ objectives, ensuring that our strategy is aligned to theirs.
As the majority of the industry’s CO2e emissions are incurred through the supply chain (cloud storage, shoot production, sourced print) the key focus of the industry will be measuring ‘scope 3’ emissions (those outside a company’s direct control) and setting reduction targets. Tag’s Partnership with AdGreen and the launch of our DI Sourcing Platform will give us the tools to measure the impact of the end-to-end marketing production process, and help clients understand their emissions and how they can reduce them.
Next year, we will focus on developing joint sustainability plans with our clients and agreeing on measurable targets. It’s vital for us to work together to reduce our impact on the environment and make a positive social impact.
Pushing re-imagined content
Gary Szabo, chief creative officer: For 2022, sustainable production is going to be front and centre, and driven a lot by the learnings from Covid. We’ve already learned that we can shoot a lot more with remote technology than ever thought possible, and this will continue as the tech continues to improve. Now we have a reliable carbon calculator, we are able to make real savings and not simply offset bad behaviour with a levy.
Once the obvious carbon costs like flights, night shoots and catering are considered, we are already starting to look at further savings in the way we source and use props, sets and the like. Pushing reimagined content gives us some fantastic wins in this space – always check if you’ve shot something already that could be reused – you’ll be surprised at how great a saving this can make.
A virtual global production workforce
Murray Stevens, EMEA integrated production director: It’s impossible to think about which tech got us through the last 18 months without mentioning Teams/Zoom/Connect/Facetime. For such a collaborative industry, where face-to-face time was key and working as a group seemed necessary to every delivery, it is amazing how video calls are now not only an option but are as valuable as sitting next to each other. To see a global production workforce move to a virtual world in a matter of days and still meet every delivery has been a mind-blowing inspiration.
Data-informed design is another giant leap forward in tightening the loop between creative and results. Up to now, we have relied on the performance data of the live piece of creative to truly understand how something is resonating with the consumer; now we utilise AI that can give real-time insight into what the consumer will react to before anything has even gone to market.