Senior agency figures tell WARC what they expect to happen next year.

The potential of sound

“Sound is going to emerge as a must-have expressive layer in brand experiences. While some brands have been moving in this direction – and a few stand out as leading the way – too many have ignored this aspect of sensory communication. But not anymore; incorporating high quality sound into the entire brand experience is an untapped potential for brand owners. Sound will be embraced by brands going forward as it brings a new level of interactivity, creativity and emotional intelligence to the brand experience.” – James Ramsden, Executive Creative Director at Coley Porter Bell

Getting smart with TV buys

“There are usually some things you can count on in the New Year – a surge in gym memberships, diet book sales and cheaper TV slots. But not so in 2022. Lockdown and the pandemic saw seismic shifts in consumers’ media consumption and e-commerce habits; they are using more channels than ever before, making them harder to reach and therefore more expensive to target compared with previous years. After many fallow months, there has been a surge in advertiser interest looking to tap into pent-up consumer demand. Couple this with linear TV viewing declines and a relaxation of TV booking deadlines, and the result is the best TV slots being in ever higher demand and that means a higher price tag.

TV can’t be viewed in isolation. Brands need to be aware of external factors that may impact their ad spend effectiveness, such as the ongoing supply chain issues – there’s no point trying to drive purchase if there is nothing there to buy. Brands looking at their TV spend for January and February need to make sure they are looking at their data and responding to consumer behaviour accordingly. Adopting an agile, test and learn approach, will be beneficial as it enables them to flex their TV spend and make data-driven decisions in real-time, which will increase the chances for higher returns on their TV spend.” – Justine O’Neill, Senior Director, Analytic Partners

Beating the industry drum

“In 2021, the government once again underestimated the creative (including advertising) sector’s contribution to trade. The UK is the largest ad market in Europe – and one of the biggest in the world – with ad spend worth £23bn in 2020 and that’s in a Covid-stricken year. In 2022, accuracy must become the industry's guiding star. Proof and detail of the value of the market only comes with auditing and scrutiny of budgets. Next year the onus will be on the industry to better champion its place as an income generator for the UK at large.” – Federica Bowman, Global CEO, FirmDecisions

Prepare for immersion

“Brand-building is world-building – this is now more true than ever. Brands are starting to create their own meta spaces – from the early pandemic days on Animal Crossing to the newly released Nikeland on Roblox. These are early indicators of what will eventually become table stakes in the branding game – creating online immersive worlds that embody the essence and values of the brand. The emerging elements of motion, sonic and 3D graphics are going to culminate and level up into full digital worlds.” – Naeiri Zargarian, Strategy Director, Interbrand

It’s all about the climate

“As we learn to live with COVID-19, the key challenge in 2022 will be around how we collectively accelerate a response to the Climate Crisis. All the discussion around COP26 once again highlighted the sheer scale of the job to be done. YouGov released stats in the aftermath of the conference showing that 68% of the UK population were worried about climate change and its effects, while 83% of the public say the development of cleaner and more environmentally friendly technologies is key to this issue. This heightened engagement will lead to consumers asking searching questions of brands, and increasingly making consumption choices based on alignment to their values and outlook. Brands will need to innovate but will also be looking to their agencies for guidance and solutions. It is imperative we meet the climate challenge head on and all collaborate to deliver those solutions. In doing so, we will uncover new opportunities and ways of working that are good for us as well as the planet.”  Rik Moore, Head of Insight, Strategy and Planning at The Kite Factory

Gaming culture gets everywhere

“2022 will be a year that gaming culture goes deeper into pop culture ubiquity. With Netflix and Amazon making forays deeper into gaming, dead TV channel G4 resurrecting on Twitch and increasing branded collaborations from gaming properties like Arcane and Fortnite, the characters and stories we see in game will be even further outside of it. 2022 will also see continued discussion about what the ‘metaverse’ could be, but the technology that could power it will continue to exist in discrete pockets or in development. While cultural conversation around the concept looks poised to peak next year, and possibly decline until substantiated technologically, functionally bringing it to the masses will be a multi-year endeavour.” – Dubose Cole, Head of Strategy,  VaynerMedia

The rise of the metaverse high street

“There is no question that metaverses such as Roblox – not to mention the broader ecosystem promised by Facebook’s timely name change – will have a profound effect on the marketing mix in 2022. Brands are already constructing shiny temples within these worlds, but don’t expect this to take shape like a virtual high street.

In these new spaces, experience must be prioritised over selling. Brands must be willing to collaborate with users and yield a degree of control to the rapidly-diversifying user-base. This may feel too uncomfortable for some brands, who will likely create virtual destinations more akin to the set in a spaghetti western than a high street – all façade but little behind the door.

For those brands willing to embrace these new rules of engagement, however, the rewards will be profound; prime real-estate within a brave new world and levels of audience engagement hereto unseen in any media channel to date – traditional, digital or social.” – Will Sansom, Head of Strategy, The Brooklyn Brothers

Time – even more valuable than Bitcoin

“Among many other things, lockdown has been an unrequested course in time management. Brands that help us spend this most precious commodity for the best possible return will continue to grow. In fact, time saving has long been the underlying, but sometimes unheralded, benefit of a lot of the most successful brands from the past few years. Think Peloton, Deliveroo and Uber. In 2022, we’ll be navigating another year in which we live and work differently, and the brands that help us spend more of our time doing what we want – and less doing what we don’t – will be in a great position to grow.” – Richard Exon, Founder, Joint