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It’s that time of the year when people try to forecast what 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: 1. This is going to be focused on digital; 2. it is focused on trends for Nigeria and 3. it is going to be short – so we’ve highlighted just six trends.

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-19

Sorry, but we’ve got to start with this: 2021 is still going to be about COVID-19! 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 permitus to paraphrase it and say, “The greatest COVID trick pulled 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 we keep treading water waiting – 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. Yes there are vaccines on the horizon but how long do you think it will take for them to vaccinate 180+ million Nigerian?
So make your plans based on the here and now – but accept that you have to be flexible in case things change.

RECESSION

Some more ‘not so good news’. As a result of COVID and poor oil prices, our economy is in trouble.
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.

We all know that the first thing that gets cut in a recession is the marketing budget! But this recession isn’t necessarily bad news for Digital: the fact that COVID/lockdown has driven more people online means that we expect to see some growth in digital budgets. We expect that even if brands are cutting their spend, the one budget they will look to at least keep constant, if not grow, is their digital spend/activity.

In addition, we expect to see more digital activity from the small businesses out there. 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 Facebook’s annual ad revenue!

We don’t have the figures for Nigeria only but we are sure that Nigerian small businesses aren’t using digital to that extent and so, we see that as an opportunity for them – and digital marketing.

SOCIAL ACTIVISM AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION

We’re coupling these two together as one trend as we feel they are linked.

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 realised they have a voice and can be heard and they will attempt to do it again.

We say ‘attempt’ because creating a movement takes time. Take the #BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement for example. The hashtag has been around since 2013 but it really only became a ‘movement’ in 2020.
So we think what we will see is a lot of “social activism” hashtags as people attempt to create a movement.

Which leads us on to the second pillar – whilst the people have ‘woken up’ to the power they have, the Government has been wounded and we believe it will be looking for how to prevent future ‘uprisings’. And one way it 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. Either way, we expect that the Govt will try to push these bills through.

For brands, we think the bills in themselves don’t present any problems – most brands are already very careful about the content they share. However, there is more and more pressure on brands to take a stand with regards to the social issues in society. Now, the consideration is whether in taking a stand to support a cause, is there a danger that a brand could fall foul of the proposed bill? For example, if a brand was to use the #LekkiMassacre hashtag to show support, where the government claims that no ‘massacre’ occurred, could the brand be accused of spreading ‘hate speech’?
In short, if you are a company, we suggest that your Legal department should review the bills and give its guidance on what to do.

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.”

Hang in there – we’re half-way.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

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/organisations will look critically at the solutions to see which ones are potentially long-term. 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 speaking from our own experience, our staff have tasted it and some are asking for it to continue even when we can go back to our offices.

But we also think that digital transformation has its limits. One thing 2020 has shown us is just how much we are social animals.

Yes, you can use digital transformation to improve the process and speed up the production, but bear in mind the need for the human touch. Tell us you haven’t missed being able to shake hands, hug your friends, attend the party and dance 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.

Wondering what a cookie is?

Basically, it’s a small piece of data stored on the user’s computer by the web browser while browsing a website. Cookiesenable websites to remember user 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).

Here’s the Wikipedia explanation.
Next, ‘what’s happening to them?’
Well third-party cookies are going away due to increasing data privacy concerns. Third party cookies were the ones that allowed brands to develop strategies for targeting specific audiences.
And so?
Well, we believe brands need to think about their own first party data. What info are you getting and keeping regarding who is visiting you site and what they are doing on the site? And with regards to being able to target audiences on other sites, it is a “watch and see”. Google, and others, are looking at solutions like a ‘Privacy Sandbox’ that will give users control of their data but also allow marketers to still develop targeted campaigns.

INNOVATION

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

That’s it.

“Finally!” we hear you say.

Oh, just one last thing.

We’d like to 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 or are just wondering about digital marketing, please feel free to email [email protected]

Lastly, shout out to Barene for helping to edit – thank you.

About Playhouse:

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!

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