Media agency CEOs share 2020 expectations and hopes

"Brand safety will continue to be a big topic but potentially for the wrong reasons."

In-housing. Payment terms. Talent. Transparency. What do agency leaders think are going to be the most important issues in media planning and buying in 2020?

Following Campaign’s "The Year Ahead 2020: Change and Grow" Breakfast Briefing earlier this month, we caught up with three media agency chief execs who spoke at the event to hear more of their thoughts.

See below for what these industry veterans have to say about their expectations and hopes in media this year.


Adam Gerhart, CEO, Mindshare USA

  1. 2020 will be a year of New Majorities. While the USA has always been one of the most dynamic marketplaces for media and advertising, 2020 is poised to be a year of ‘new majorities’ in many respects, well beyond the reality of just marketing. These new majorities will see trends go past tipping points to move previously smaller minorities to into new majorities of perspective, audiences, and channels in the USA. Here are just a few to illustrate the point, but it really start with understanding the first: 2020 marks the first year when the majority of the population (52 percent) of individuals under 18 years old will be non-white (other racial or ethnic backgrounds). 2020 marks the first year when digital spend in the marketplace eclipses all other media combined (52 percent of total media spend will be digital). 2020 marks the first year when the majority of the online population believes technology makes lives better (51 percent of population).

  2. Clients and agencies will need a renewed sense of the collective responsibility for attracting top talent. During the breakfast briefing, someone said that they ‘demanded’ diversity, but you can’t simply demand it from an agency if you don’t live it yourself. People want to work with brands that inspire, liberate, and challenge, but they also want to do so with people who share their values. So finding top talent to work on a business which places greater emphasis on savings over value of ideas, or where a brand or agency claims to celebrate diversity but lacks it themselves, is paramount but that gap is felt by individuals across the board. We have a shared responsibility to address this together, so let 2020 be a call to arms for us all to work together to provide the types of environments which attract, not demand, top talent.

  3. Brand safety will continue to be a big topic but potentially for the wrong reasons. It started as a critical means to protecting brands from appearing in the wrong environments, but today brand safety technology can also inadvertently siphon money away from many partners and publishers whose values or voices we look to support. As a brand looking to support diversity across gender, race, ability, or sexuality (yes, this article may well be blacklisted simply because I used that last word, and the ability to understand its context is still in its infancy) or orientation, by simply using a blacklist, money to support queer voices has been inadvertently diverted away from them on the basis of technology and code. As an industry, we need to find ways to leverage and apply brand safety technology but with a finer focus on purpose and brand values moving forward.

Amy Armstrong, US CEO, Initiative 

  1.  New found creativity requires more diverse and inclusive thinking: The best media campaigns are where creativity is at the forefront. To fuel that creativity, Diversity & Inclusion initiatives become more critical than ever in order to foster and develop talent to create more culturally relevant work.

  2.  A plea for pitch criteria to make room for talent, tech and ideas: With a highly anticipated "pitch year" ahead of us, I urge consultants and potential Clients to revisit their judging criteria so that it’s less "payment terms" or "cheapest cost" and more focused on the quality of the talent they’re engaging with, more focused on the differentiated tech capabilities and more focused on the application of the insights uncovered to unlock growth opportunities on their behalf.

  3. Today's audiences demand more relevant connections or they won’t engage: Because of this, we’re identifying and activating with audiences at a personal level better than ever before, connecting them with brands in a more relevant manner via better data. Augmenting this understanding with cultural motivations means we can embed brands into their cultural context in a more meaningful way.

Sean Corcoran, US CEO, Mediahub

  1. This will be the most pivotal year for TV in the past two decades – and maybe ever. Streaming has overcome linear and people, especially younger people, are redefining what "TV" even means. This is the year that the industry will need to start to rethink how it plans, buys, and even talks about TV. Our opportunities to reach people will be even more limited while costs go up. It’s going to be a lot of disruption, which will require a lot of innovation and new thinking, which I think is scary, but also very exciting.

  2. Digital media moves into the unknown. We’ve spent the better part of the past two decades relying on browser cookies to help us implement, track, and measure almost all of digital media. Popular mobile apps and monster walled gardens started to throw a wrench in that the past few years. Now Google has announced that Chrome will phase out cookies in the most popular browser in the US. Add in growing regulation and digital media is moving towards an unknown frontier that will require new innovation – also scary and exciting.

  3. Media and creative begin learn to work together again. Most of the media planning industry is lost in acronyms and nuanced technologies that have forgotten about engaging actual human beings with advertising. Meanwhile the creative industry rarely even talks about data and technologies that are taking over the advertising world. In order to survive, these two groups are going to have to start to work together to bring actual creative messages to actual human beings through the media technologies people are actually using every day. We’re certainly looking forward to bringing these two worlds together. 

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