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Future of Media: Havas MG boss reflects, media trends aplenty and change at Snap/BuzzFeed

The Drum's senior reporter and media correspondent John McCarthy rounds up the latest media trends and developments. Also available in your inbox every Thursday as The Drum's Future of Media email briefing. Sign up here.

This is an extract from The Drum’s Future of Media briefing. You can subscribe to it here if you’d like it your inbox once a week.

The media trends reports are coming in thick and fast, particularly thick. So my last few weeks of this hell-year are committed to digging in and working out just what happened.

We all hope to start 2021 making up lost growth, vaccine in hand (or arm) with crystal clear objectives.

Havas Media boss reflects

Having ridden out his first few months as Havas Media Group UK/Ireland chief executive, Patrick Affleck is enthused by the hardiness of his media agency in the face of chaos - but there are more challenges ahead he warned.

He's aware of the systemic crises facing society (and naturally marketers) and shared how HMG is evolving to meet these issues. It was a chunky chat, and I'll admit, quite unusual to hear a chief exec talk so frankly about real-world issues and feasibly connect them to media strategy. But isn't that the point?

What struck me is that he said many clients haven't firmed up marketing budgets yet.

There's too many variables ahead; Brexit, vaccine roll-out, recession, being some. If we don't nail this vaccine roll-out, Q1 could be another lost quarter.


Media trends

GroupM and our friends at Media Voices were out the gate with media trends reports this week.

I deep-dived the GroupM report and pulled out some snackable bullet points. If you want a feel for 2021 budget predictions check this. Growth will return, caveats apply.

Meanwhile, Esther Kezia Thorpe ofMedia Voices condensed its new report, which was more about lessons about how publishers rode out the storm.

A stat about the media's representation of race struck me as the most interesting. "By October, magazine covers in 2020 had featured Black subjects three times more than the previous 90 years." Let's hope this is the start of more people seeing themselves reflected in the media they consume.

Snapchat Spotlight

Huge change at Snapchat. It remains a closed-off messaging app for friend-to-friend comms (unlike TikTok that broadcasts to the world) but it is moving closer to its rival with the release of Spotlight.

Looking like TikTok's For You feed, the stream is adding a competitive element to its user-generated content with the allure of a $1m a day fund for the best clips. Of the 4bn Snaps sent a day, the elite will feature. There's undoubtedly a huge amount of creativity in this walled garden, this is Snap's way of opening up and chasing some of that out-of-app rep that TikTok's enjoyed.

Natalie Carder, head of paid social at Zenith, talked us through it.


BuzzFeed's been no stranger to collaboration and acquisition, however, the HuffPost-acquisition took me by surprise, knowing how tough a year the title had (although things are looking up for the streamlined business).

Nat Poulter, chief operating officer at Jungle Creations, donated some words to us weighing up publisher value vs what they can actually create.

"The digital dream prophesied by many never happened," she wrote. "Any publisher totally reliant on display advertising is going to have a hard time staying afloat. It simply doesn’t pay."

BuzzFeed, as a late entrant to programmatic display, should be protected from these issues, with sponsorships, branded content, subscription, programming, affiliates and commerce playing their part. But now, it also has the opportunity to make better use of the Verizon Media ad network from whom Buzz salvaged the troubled news title

Read it here.

Other stuff

Well, that’s this week’s round-up. If you missed the last one, I have summarised it here.

Got a tip, a correction, a complaint, want a chat? I'm at or @johngeemccarthy on Twitter.