What will stay the same in 2021?

“COVID accelerated our 5-year digital transformation plan into a 5-month plan”. That client comment was amazingly accurate. While initially we saw a great deal of uncertainty with clients all responding differently, by April clients were forming strategic plans to adapt. By July, an intense focus on digital emerged and the rest of 2020 has been a whirlwind of activity as budgets shifted toward digital. We expect this will continue into 2021, and we sense digital has earned, and will retain, a new, more valued position in marketers’ tool kits even post-COVID. The uncertainly around COVID, vaccines, adoption of vaccines, etc., will remain through much of 2021, but we’re hopeful to put COVID behind us by Q3. Another continuing trend will be working from home from your “Zoom office.”

What will decrease?

I anticipate we will see some sizable layoffs in pharma salesforces once Biden is sworn in and Trump is out of the spotlight. It’s harder to justify a Zoom-force in a world with even more limited access to call on physicians. Office space, barely used at all in the past nine months, will have to find a new equilibrium. Some roles will remain remote post-COVID while others will be hybrid home/office roles. Floor plans, required space, office layouts, will all change, but office space use in aggregate should decrease.

What will increase?

We expect to see continued increases in digital ad spending, remote work and a robust explosion of innovative tools for engaging, collaborating and monitoring remote teams. Old school tools, such as the phone, will increase as an alternative to Zoom. We expect the insourcing of some marketing functions by pharma will also increase. And unfortunately, at least initially, COVID cases will increase before subsiding and hopefully go away entirely.