Industry Outlook Survey: 2020 Vision, Lessons Learned For 2021
A cross-section of creative and business pros share POVs, goals, opportunities for the new year

With a 2020 in the rearview mirror that no one could have predicted, we now stubbornly try again to see what the new year has in store no matter the pitfalls of prognostication. Yet while crystal balls are inherently flawed, there’s something to be gained from considering what’s possible with a new beginning, particularly coming off of a year in which so many have endured so much. By the same token, there’s value in reflecting on what a year like 2020 has taught us and how those lessons can be applied to 2021.

In that spirit SHOOT called upon a cross-section of creatives and execs from the industry at large to offer their hopes, goals, plans, and a forecast or two for 2021. Feedback often carried a sense of purpose and responsibility, especially in light of recent events. 

Katie Keating, founding partner/co-chief creative officer at Fancy LLC, observed, “As tumultuous as 2020 was, and as much as none of us want to relive it (literally, or even in memory), it wasn’t a bubble. It didn’t pop at the stroke of midnight on Jan 1, 2021. I’m writing this on January 7, 2021, less than a day after the insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington DC and across state capitols, a day when 255,728 more Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19 and another 3,964 died. A day when the decision not to file charges against a white officer who shot and severely wounded a Black man in Wisconsin was announced. As marketers and creators we have the talent and the tenacity to push the cultural needle forward. We can do it with the stories we tell, with the people we cast, with the crews we hire. What we do has the power to shape our world and people’s responses to it. It’s a privilege none of us can afford to waste.”

That privilege also extends to opening up opportunities for diverse talent and storytelling voices, according to Dustin Callif, president, Tool of North America. “For me personally, my “aha” moment was that Tool needed to become more diligent in pushing outside our network to discover new creatives,” he shared. “To shake up our foundation, we now look beyond a standard 3 spot ‘commercial’ reel. What’s important is that we look for the creative spark in a director and make a leap of faith and trust that using our platform to create opportunity will help talented individuals become the next wave of commercial directors. It’s working well. We’ve had some amazing, new directors join our roster and are already producing work for Allstate, Ford, Root Insurance, and others. We’ve also been supporters of Manifest Works and FreeTheWork and now Bid/Black. We’re going to keep pushing and improving and very much look forward to evolving the teams and talent that we work with.”

Predictions for 2021 contained a wide mix of visions, ranging from more altruistic messaging to an embracing of technologies that gained favor during the pandemic, and a word of caution about acquiescing on IP ownership. On the latter score, Ben Looram, partner/owner, Chapeau Studios, said, “My slightly tinted crystal ball is telling me that creative businesses who are embracing bespoke technology should enter 2021 with a careful focus on IP ownership. I always embrace dialog and prefer to collaborate openly, but the hard lesson for boutique creative studios is to properly value our creativity. As creative work shifts to client-direct models, we’ve increasingly been seeing far-reaching NDAs from potential clients that note their ownership of vendor IP, in some cases even before it has been formulated or clearly concepted. For creativity to thrive in 2021 and beyond, we have to collectively insist that clients value creative autonomy as much as they value their own intellectual property. Innovation will be critical in the post-COVID climate, but for creativity to thrive, clients need to incentivize it, invest in R&D, embrace big ideas and give them room to grow, and their brands will blossom in 2021 and beyond.”

Meanwhile on the progressive messaging front, Dan Kelleher, chief creative officer, Deutsch New York, projected, “2021 will be the year for more purpose and caring in our advertising messaging. 2020 has left everyone disheartened, cautious and weary. People need something to believe in. To be part of. To trust. There is a massive opportunity for brands to truly step up and connect with their consumers by thinking bigger than their own immediate needs. I am inspired by this moment for our industry and look forward to being part of more meaningful work.”

As for pandemic-sparked practices, Jason Gaboriau, chief creative officer, Doner LA, related, “2020 has fundamentally changed the way we work, and I predict this new way of working will continue well into the future. This is not because the pandemic will rage on, but because it is simply a better way to work. Bloated productions and boondoggle travel have long been a thing of the past. Agencies have learned/been forced to work smarter, faster, and cheaper. Collaborative work sessions and interfacing with clients has evolved for the better. We are all fully embracing collaborative ways of working via Zoom, Google Docs, Collaborative Keynote, Slack, Miro, etc. 2020 has forced everyone to move outside of their comfort zone and adopt new ways of doing things. Those that are waiting for the pandemic to end so things can ‘go back to normal’ are short-sighted and doomed. We’re not going back. The industry had changed. Get on board.”

For our Industry Outlook Survey, SHOOT posed the following questions to execs and artisans:

  1. What’s the most relevant business and/or creative lesson you learned in 2020 and how will you apply it to 2021? 
  2. How will the events of 2020--from the pandemic to the call for social and racial justice--impact the content you create and/or the way you work? 
  3. Gazing into your crystal ball, what do you envision for the industry--creatively speaking or from a business standpoint--in 2021? 
  4. What are your goals, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your company, division, studio or network in 2021?
  5. Tell us about one current project you are working on for early 2021.
  6. How did your company, agency, network, service or studio adjust/adapt to the marketplace in 2020 (new strategies, resources, technology, health/safety expertise) and what of all that bodes well for 2021? 
  7. What’s your New Year’s resolution, creatively speaking or from a business standpoint, for your agency, department or company?

Here's the feedback we received from a range of respondents:

Name Title Company
Justine Armour Chief Creative Officer Grey New York
Dustin Callif President Tool of North America
Tasha Dean EVP, Head of Production The Martin Agency
Michelle Eskin Managing Partner Cut+Run
Jason Gaboriau Chief Creative Officer Doner LA
Thom Glover Creative Director Droga5 New York
Bonnie Goldfarb Co-Founder/Executive Producer harvest films, inc.
Angela Guice Founder/Executive Producer NuContext
Katie Keating Founding Partner/Co-CCO Fancy LLC
Dan Kelleher Chief Creative Officer Deutsch New York
Gavin Lester Partner + CCO Zambezi
Ben Looram Partner/Owner Chapeau Studios
Jason Mayo Partner/Managing Director Bonfire
Ronald Ng Global Chief Creative Officer MRM
Patrick Ortman CEO PluckStudio
Danielle Peretz Sr. Executive Producer Wondros Collective
Luis Ribeiro Partner/Executive Producer LOBO
Sam Swisher Owner/EP WoodShop Studios Inc.
Jack Waldrip Sr. Editor/Co-Founder charlieuniformtango


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