It’s that time of the year when people try to forecast what the trends will be the main drivers in the year to come. Not to be left out, we’re jumping on the bandwagon and channeling our inner Nostradamus. Now, because we are a digital marketing communications agency based in Nigeria, three things to point out from the outset:
- This is going to be focused on digital.
- It is focused on trends for Nigeria and
- It is going to be short – after all, we all know that people’s attention span on digital isn’t very long.
Consider – we have articles that tell you how long the content you are looking at will take you to read cos that seems to be bigger driver in deciding whether to read it than whether the topic/content is actually interesting. But hey, let’s not go there. So, this will be short. And, without further ado, we present the Playhouse Communication Ltd Trends for 2021. Oh, sorry, one more ‘ado’ – the list is in no particular order.
COVID COVID COVID
Sorry but we’ve got to start with this: 2021 is still going to be about covid! Ever seen the film “Usual Suspects” ? Remember this quote: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Well, please permit to us to paraphrase it and say, “The greatest harm we have pulled over covid is convincing the world that it is temporary.” You know, “we’ll just do lockdown for a few weeks and before you know it, everything will be back to normal”. And so we keep treading water waiting and not accepting the position we find ourselves in so we can come to terms with it and move on. In plain English, we think we need to accept that covid is not a short-term thing, so we plan for the worst and hope for the best.
“But they’ve found a/some vaccine(s)!”
True. We’re not experts but what we have read is that we need to get herd immunity which means that we need to get about 75% of the population vaccinated . So considering we i.e. Nigeria probably can’t afford the vaccine (see the next trend re recession) and bearing in mind that most times we i.e. Nigeria couldn’t organise a ‘you-know-what in a brewery’, how long do you think it will take for us to vaccinate 75% of 200 million people??? Wait, since this is meant to be focused on Nigeria, we need to find a Nigerian equivalent of “piss-up in a brewery”. Any suggestions? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, as an aside, and hoping that we are wrong and that Nigeria actually can organise that drink up, maybe the push to get people to link their NIN (National Identify Number) to their mobile number is because the government plans to use that as a way to identify people for the vaccination programme? Maybe???
Anyway, back to the matter. So what’s covid got to do with digital? Well, a lot.
We pull out some of the ‘impacts’ as actual trends later in this write up but in brief, it is going to mean that offices will have to continue to allow staff to work from home. It will impact the economy and the plans for economic recovery. It will force companies to fast forward or develop their digital transformation strategies. It will drive us to find ways to socialise and connect. It will drive growth in digital marketing budgets. That’s just a few of the things we think you can expect in 2021.
So, covid, covid, covid. You heard it here first.
So, some more ‘not so good news’. As a result of covid and poor oil prices, our economy is f*cked. We are in a recession. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This is not unique to Nigeria. Globally, times are hard.
For example, the UK has forecasted that its economy will bounce back in 2021 but full recovery won’t be until the end of 2022. Yes, the UK is dealing with the covid pandemic and its own self-created pandemic of stupidity – Brexit but at least they – and the West – have a plan to get their economy sorted. We’re hoping that we do as well. I mean, we must. I mean, we haven’t seen it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Does it?
So pending us finding the recovery plan, the recession will continue. Now the recession isn’t necessarily bad news for Digital as, coupled with a perception that ‘Digital’ is cheaper than the other media/channels out there and the fact that covid/lockdown has driven more people online, we expect to see some growth in digital budgets. The question is whether this growth will be in actual Naira value or just in terms of the percentage allocated to digital within the overall Marketing budget. I.e., will businesses who used to spend N1 on digital now spend N2 or will they keep spending N1 but previously that was N1 out of N20 which was their total budget but now it is N1 out of a reduced budget of N10? We believe that it will be the latter.Because as we all know, the first thing that gets cut in a recession is the marketing budget!
So, and because our MD knows that Playhouse employees will be reading this – he’s asked us to point out that there’s no money for pay rises! And that they should all get back to work. And in fact, be thankful that they have a job! Oh, re the growth in digital spend, we mustn’t ignore the small businesses out there. We think this is where the real growth in Naira terms, if any, will come from. Reason being that we think covid and the recession are going to push more small businesses to try their hands at online advertising. Did you know that according to Deutsche Bank, the biggest chunk of Facebook’s $70 billion ad business comes from small businesses, which account for nearly 75% of its annual ad revenue! We don’t think Nigerian small businesses have started using digital to that extent so there is room for growth.
SOCIAL ACTIVISM, GOVT REGULATION & FAKE NEWS
You know what they say about buses: You wait for ages and then three come along. Not sure how that is relevant to this but seemed to fit as we are packing three things together for this next trend. We think we are going to see a lot more ‘attempts’ at social activism. We feel that #EndSARS has shown the populace that they have the power to drive change. They have tasted blood and they will attempt to do it again. We say ‘attempt’ because creating a movement isn’t as easy as it sounds. What we will see is a lot of socially conscious hashtags but the challenge is whether they will then be picked up by the general public and become a cause.
Take the #BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement. The hashtag has been around since 2013 but it really only became a ‘movement’ in 2020.
Seven years! And we don’t think anyone can explain why 2020 was any different from the previous six. Which leads us on to the second pillar in our triptych – whilst the people have tasted blood, the Government has been wounded and you know what they say about a wounded animal! We believe the Govt will know it ain’t over yet and one way they will try to deal with further social activism is via legislation. Late in 2019, the Nigerian Senate started considering two bills relating to freedom of expression online. The two bills are ‘the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech bill’ and ‘the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and other Related Offences’ bill . Those in support of the bills claim that they will help curtail hate speech. Those against believe that the bills are aimed at reducing our freedom of speech. So, we expect that the Govt will try to push these bills through.
And for the final pillar, Fake News. We have seen the power and influence that digital/social media has. One of the big issues coming out of that is the proliferation of disinformation or Fake News. Whether it is State-sponsored fake news or just content created by individuals ‘for a laugh’, Fake News is a problem. In 2021, we expect the Tech giants will try to find more ways of dealing with it.
But we’re not sure it is something they can succeed at. We’ll explain with a quick story someone told a colleague of ours: Ms A has a good friend who regularly shares content. She says she has pointed out on several occasions to said friend that some of the stories are fake yet he doesn’t seem willing to take the time to verify the content before sharing. In fact, Ms A claims that on one occasion having been shown that the story was fake, said friend said, “wouldn’t it be great if it was true!”.
Now Ms A says that her friend is an intelligent, well educated, digitally savvy person but the fact the content seems to back up whatever his own views are seems too strong an enticement for him to share before checking its veracity. Yet this is the same friend who when Ms A told him that a mutual friend had lost someone, asked for proof before he would send a condolence message to the person!
So, we fear that the sharing of information is in our nature. And so to solve it, it will mean that the Tech giants will have to ‘check’ all content to verify whether it is true. And how many people would be happy to know that everything they send is being checked? And from another angle, how do we then avoid the checking systems adopting the prejudices of those building the systems so we only see what they agree with? Anyway, with the pressure the Tech Giants are going to be under from regulators in 2021, we think finding a solution to Fake News could be a way they try and appease the powers that be and keep them at bay.
Alright – to steal the words of Andrew Finney, in the ‘Come and Knock on Our Door’ episode of Ray Donovan – “This is taking far longer than I thought it would.”
But we are halfway through – hang in there.
Digital transformation has been talked about for years but covid and the lockdown forced us all to truly act on it. And since we believe that covid will still reign in 2021, we expect to see even more digital transformation. Now in 2020, we might have adopted digital transformation solutions as short-term fixes believing that we would soon return to normal, but we haven’t and we won’t – for a while. So, expect more people will look critically at the solutions to see which ones are potentially long-term solutions. So for example, ‘Working From Home’ was a short term solution but not only is there no date on the horizon when we are likely to be back in the office but our staff have experienced it and some are asking for it to continue even if we can go back to our offices. And if we are going to allow them to do so, do we still need those large offices? And if we don’t, what does Mrs Landlady do with her property and where does she earn her money? Which in turn impacts on those she employs cos she will look to cut her staff. Which in turn increases unemployment and impacts the economy. And so the recession continues.
But digital transformation does have its limits. One thing 2020 has shown us is just how much we are social animals. Yes, you can have a Zoom/Teams/Google Hangout meeting but there’s nothing like seeing the person, smelling them, touching them, laughing with them – and as good as the online meetings are for the actual meeting, it can’t create the moments after when you go for a drink and really connect as human beings. Ask anyone who does business and they will tell you that it is in those moments that the real business is done. Also, tell us you haven’t missed being able to shake hands, hug your friends, attend the party and n till you are dripping with sweat. Some won’t have but we believe the majority have.
DEMISE OF THE COOKIE
And this is not a reference to people being healthier in 2021 (sorry, MD dad joke). This one is pretty technical and is really about digital advertising.
Let’s start with ‘what is a cookie?’ As explained by Wikipedia , “An HTTP cookie (also called web cookie, Internet cookie, browser cookie, or simply cookie) is a small piece of data stored on the user’s computer by the web browser while browsing a website. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember stateful information (such as items added in the shopping cart in an online store) or to record the user’s browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past). They can also be used to remember pieces of information that the user previously entered into form fields, such as names, addresses, passwords, and payment card numbers.”
Next, ‘what’s happening to them?’ Well not all cookies are going away. Just third-party ones. They are going away due to increasing data privacy laws. As more consumers have raised concerns about how their data is stored and used, “some companies have chosen to implement permission-based third-party cookies, while others have begun to phase them out completely and are seeking new solutions”.
And so? Have a read of this article – The Death of the Third-Party Cookie: What Marketers Need to Know [https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/third-party-cookie-phase-out]. It’s an 11 minute read!
Oh, our Head of Tech read a draft of this document and had this to say:
“Re death of the cookie, there’s also another school of thought that in the near future, tech giants will no longer own our data, the users will own their data, almost like how you own a esim and you can leave a platform with your data once you exit. This tech is expected to run on block chain.”
And the final trend we wanted to mention is also a bit of a call to action:
As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. So, flowing from the covid pandemic, from the recession and from the need for digital transformation, we expect to see a lot of innovation in 2021. We don’t think we saw it in 2020 because we all thought this would pass soon so everyone was treading water. Now, we realise it isn’t going away soon and also, we have seen certain behaviours that have the potential to be here to stay. Again, take working from home. If it is here to stay, what solutions/ideas will come up to service that behaviour?
We’ll throw one idea out for free: one of the things we did as a business at some point during the year was to get all staff on a Closed User Group which meant that we could call each other for free. But we still have the issue of internet access. Each person has to subscribe to their own provider and should their data run out, we have to give them more money to buy data.
Could a service provider give us a ‘bucket’ of data from which all staff could pull from? That way, we pay centrally and hopefully get economies of scale. We are also able to shift data across the agency as different people’s needs rise and drop. #Justanidea So we said this was not just a trend but meant to be a call to action. There are opportunities out there for local/Nigeria-grown innovation. We don’t think it needs to be some BHAG . We don’t think the idea of the data pool above is anything out of the ordinary. And, it doesn’t have to be digital. We just hope that we will not tread water waiting for a return to the way things were but will instead seize the opportunities that will be there.
“Finally!” I hear you say.
Oh, just one last thing.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours all the best for 2021. May the best of your past be the worst of your future.
If you have any thoughts or comments or questions, please feel free to email them to email@example.com
Playhouse Communication Ltd is one of the leading digital agencies in Nigeria. We believe that successful brands need to create communications that ENGAGE, and we understand that digital – whether mobile or desktop, content irrespective of the industry, offers an effective and transparent platform for CREATING and MAINTAINING this dialogue. We don’t do digital for technology sake, because we believe in real engagement with the audience. So, at the core of all we do is “The Idea”. The Idea, powered by data and insights. The Idea that inspires and connects a brand with its audience so that they willingly give their time and invite the brand into their space.
Let’s face it, that’s where every brand wants to be – talking WITH their audience rather than AT them.
That is our objective!