Marketing Briefing: Marketers and agency execs are hoping for more optimism post-inauguration

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This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Welcome to the Marketing Briefing, a weekly feature for Digiday+ members that goes deep into the world of brands, marketing and the executives shepherding them for their companies. The Marketing Briefing, which will be authored by senior marketing editor Kristina Monllos and marketing reporter Kimeko McCoy, will hit and inboxes every Tuesday.

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Ready to turn the page

Ahead of the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden this Wednesday, there’s a sense of unease among marketers and agency execs who are waiting and hoping the event passes without serious incident.

With political tensions high and the potential for another insurrectionist event in Washington D.C., or elsewhere in the country, marketers and agency execs are “treading cautiously,” having added more contingencies to ad deals should something ugly occur. 

Still, even as marketers “wait with bated breath for this to pass quickly,” as one media buyer noted, there seems to be a hope that should Wednesday’s inauguration go off without a hitch, that there’s the potential for optimism of a different future. That’s not to say that the inauguration of a new president will simply flip a switch to sunnier times — the country is so politically polarized that it’s difficult to imagine how to fix that divide — but that people are ready for change, according to agency execs and industry observers.

That need for change overall after a difficult year — with the pandemic, the economic impact and layoffs of the pandemic as well as the social unrest and the litigated election results — was present in every conversation prior to the holidays. Agency execs, media buyers, PR professionals all joked about being ready for the end of 2020. 

“Everyone, buy and sell side, is aching for a new normal,” noted one agency network executive. 

Of course, 2021 has delivered another round of difficulties with the insurrection at the Capitol building, a new strain of the coronavirus and a less than stellar roll out of vaccines. Now, it seems, the hope of change for a more positive year seems tied to the inauguration now as the New Year didn’t deliver. 

“Brands are looking forward to turning the page,” noted one agency exec. “And moving towards optimism.” Should that page actually be turned, “I think you will start to see more optimistic messaging” in ads, according to the exec. “More sunrises. More smiles. Fewer maudlin piano pieces of music.” 

3 questions: Next Glass CMO Tisha Hulburd

As a a tech company for the alcohol industry, what does your marketing strategy look like in the age of coronavirus and lockdowns?

It’s one built on both empathy and action. When we are communicating with our users or business customers, let’s make sure our language reflects the true concern we have for what they are going through. It’s not a time to be selling, it’s a time to be actively listening, to come up with creative ways to adapt our offerings to meet each user and customer’s unique needs. For example, one of the first things we did when many areas went into lockdown was help our business customers create events and maps that communicated out their curbside and to-go availability. We also ramped up QR code availability to help our customers create contactless menus. On the user side, we created the “Untappd at Home” venue and produced some virtual festivals to help our users feel connected.

What are your thoughts on marketing strategy in a post-cookie world? 

When I first began my career as a marketer, we were hyper-focused on what we then called “1:1 marketing.” We spent a lot of time buying data and creating data models to predict how people would behave based on what we knew. Marketing got away from that a bit with digital advertising, but now we have an opportunity to return to our roots: people marketing. Marketing strategy will still revolve around data, but in a different ecosystem. Identity resolution using technologies that provide the capability to combine our own data with data from other first and third-party sources, in an anonymized way, will help us better segment and target our audiences to deliver more personalized experiences.

What should marketers be focused on in 2021?

Identity resolution and data privacy will be key — extending that model to the B2B space too. B2B marketing is starting to do a great job of incorporating the B2C model, of real customer engagement versus traditional sales models. And speaking of selling, marketing strategies that more tightly align with sales are key — sales and marketing should be partners on the journey together to delight the user and the customer. That creates a flywheel that drives real brand value. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Marketers increasingly have a lot of options to chase viewing audiences. Discovery+ may have only officially launched earlier this year on January 4, but the Discovery Channel’s latest offering already has consumer attention on lock. According to a new report from iSpot, the service is the only one to garner billions of TV ad impressions. Since the launch of the streaming wars, services such as Disney+ and NBC’s Peacock have been vying for viewer eyeballs. And while some streamers remain ad-free, the ad-supported streaming war may officially be kicking off this year. 

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Discovery+ (5.2 billion TV ad impressions)
  • Disney+ (864 million)
  • Hulu (451 million)
  • Peacock TV (372 million)
  • AMC+ (194 million)
  • Amazon Prime Video (172 million)
  • ESPN+ (150 million)
  • HBO Max (142 million)
  • Sling (132 million)
  • Apple TV+ (88 million) — Kimeko McCoy

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