Prohaska Perspectives: December 2021

Happy Holidays, Friends!

As a rule, we try to avoid end-of-year-roundup cliches, but this was no ordinary year. 2021 was twelve months of social unrest, political intrigue, supply chain disruption, and in our little corner of the business universe, non-stop upheaval as marketers tried to map out a successful approach to a privacy-safe, cookieless future. With all this in mind, we thought we would make an exception and look back at what we learned this year and where we think it will take us in 2022.

  • In-person meetings and events are back—sort of

As the old saying goes, uncertainty is the only certainty and that is especially true as we stare down the latest incarnation of Covid-19. Mid-year, we cautiously tip-toed back to live events and face-to-face meetings, with masks, hand sanitizer, and vaccine cards in tow. Many of us realized how starved we were for human contact, and the smallest things—brainstorming with colleagues in the same room, seeing old friends across the conference coffee bar, an al fresco business lunch—took on a whole new resonance. Finally, we were back! Until we weren’t. Omicron reared its ugly head in Q4, and though it did not send us back to a full pandemic lockdown, it did remind us that a complete return to the Before Times is not in the cards.

All that to say—and though we have said it before, it bears repeating—hybrid is the new normal. We will be wearing masks, flashing our vaccine cards, and taking rapid PCR tests before hopping on flights for a long time to come. And, in a weird way we are OK with that. We will be more mindful of how valuable those in-person moments are and more determined than ever to make them count.

2022 Forecast: As live events continue to return, hybrid virtual elements become a de facto standard, and the stand alone, in-person event heads for the dustbin of history.

  • Changes to work-life balance and a post-pandemic redefinition of benefits

We touched on this last month, but the old way of working, with constant facetime and on-site fringe benefits, won’t be a viable strategy moving forward. While in the past many employees may have been enticed by catered lunches, nap pods, and on-site yoga classes, more and more of us now have a whole new perspective on the meaning of work/life balance.

Employers that do not embrace the hybrid new normal from a workplace perspective risk serious attrition and team leaders will struggle to adjust their management styles to effectively coach their virtual and semi-virtual employees to peak performance. We also predict that in our very age-conscious industry, this new hybrid workplace will be a renaissance of sorts for more seasoned talent who have the depth of experience to function independently at the highest level.

2022 Forecast: The Great Resignation becomes the Greater Reshuffling and a new surge of opportunity for senior talent. (As you can see from the job opportunities below, the Reshuffling is already happening.)

  • Smoke, but no fire, for Big Tech in the U.S.

We tend to like things big in the United States —cars, fast food, buildings. The one thing we don’t like super-sized is tech. In a recent Gallup poll, 57% of US adults felt that government should increase its regulation of big technology companies, up 9% from an earlier poll. A Progressive Policy Institute poll found that 57% saw Big Tech as monopolies with too little competition.

20+ years after mass adoption of the internet, consumers are wiser and warier. Unlike analog media consumers of the past, we are very aware that we produce data—and even more aware of how valuable it is to big brands and big tech. In response to this growing awareness, the walled gardens are taking a step back from the aggressive targeting tactics of yesteryear. Facebook and Instagram have rolled back a host of previously available demographic selects for their ad platforms, while Google pushed the pause button on FLoC implementation and third-party cookie obsolescence. What did not change for any of these companies was the fundamental way of doing business. Token gestures towards consumer privacy aside, for each tech giant, measurement, attribution, and, subsequently, billing, remain in a black box.

There are very few issues that have true bipartisan support in the United States. Big Tech having too much power and money crosses the aisle, and we expect politicians and parties will continue to fund raise and speak to these issues. Yet, thanks to fervor over mid-term elections, we don’t expect to see any meaningful trust-busting legislation happen in 2022. This comes at a cost to consumers, brands, and advertisers. It also cannot continue forever, due to our next trend.

2022 Forecast: More of the same, but not for the long-term.

  • EMEA is on the rise and driving the U.S. Internet experience

Spend enough time with any given member of Team Prohaska, and you will inevitably hear how passionate we are about helping clients move past last-click attribution. This simplistic and misleading approach is how advertising on the web has worked from day one and, as we all know, while change is good, it is also hard. As an industry, we realize that relying on last-touch prevents us from understanding what really works. But we still do not want to give it up.
We saw big growth in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in 2021, leading us to add new teammates in key locales and return to EMEA conferences and events. The reasons why are varied. With a few exceptions, EMEA Covid control and response has been among the best in the world for business, increasing the speed of the recovery. Higher expectations of consumer privacy and a more active political situation have led to legislation that have forced tech companies to plot a more cautious course regarding consumer privacy. All of which has accelerated the need for a more sophisticated approach to data and identity and a more pressing need for a real solution to multi-touch attribution.

Meanwhile, Brexit’s seismic impact continues to echo throughout economies, leading to unpredictable challenges and opportunities. This all creates a dynamic market, one in which a company like ours thrives. We expect to see global tech companies adopting EMEA expectations on how the Web will run. Big Tech will act on EMEA dictates, rather than wait on the U.S. This means a fast track on privacy considerations like the right to be forgotten, changes to remarketing, and more.

2022 Forecast: Look to EMEA to set the course for digital marketing and data transformation in the coming year.

  • Monetizing privacy is no longer a safe and set way of doing business. Demand for privacy-safe digital identity, attribution, and measurement solutions was on the rise in 2021. We predict it will boom in 2022.

Thankfully, 2021 ushered in new tools and means of analysis that can help clients obtain a crystal-clear understanding of who the right consumers are and which tactics and channels will resonate with them in a world without third-party cookies. We have seen interest in data and identity strategy grow steadily, quarter over quarter in 2021. We expect to see that demand curve take a hockey stick shape in 2022.

2022 Forecast: Ready or not, 2022 will be the year of getting a true multi-touch view of one’s marketing mix.

  • Content with context is (still) king

Though third-party cookies are on their way out, many brands and publishers have yet to get their digital data and identity ducks in a row. Hence—though this may seem like an old chestnut—once again, context is king. We spent much of 2021 pivoting third-party data dependent advertisers into thinking more about old-school contextual targeting and getting users to embrace a first-party relationship with publishers through proactive cookie consent and privacy policies. The bigger and more established providers have an obvious edge on consumer acceptance and volume, putting increased pressure on smaller, upstart publishers.

2022 Forecast: Big media strikes back, while new media innovates with urgency.

Many thanks to all of you for your contributions to Team Prohaska in 2021. Whether you gave us your business or contributed your talents, we see all of you as dear friends of the show. May 2022 bring each and every one of you good health, success, and much joy!

Hoping your holidays are merry and bright,

Rachel Pasqua, CMO

P.S. We are happy to continue the conversation on any of these topics, especially as we move to what is traditionally a quiet time of the year in our industry. Please feel free to reach out.


Rachel Pasqua, CMO