Vaccinating Your Marketing for 2021: Tips on Planning Media for a New Normal

covid-19 vaccinate your marketing 2021

Vaccinating Your Marketing for 2021: Tips on Planning Media for a New Normal

covid-19 vaccinate your marketing 2021We’ve all been wondering when we will start to see the light at the end of the (pandemic) tunnel. In a December interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated, “We may actually have enough herd immunity protecting our society that as we get to the end of 2021, we could approach very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before.” He added that this prognosis is based on an assumed 75-80% vaccination rate for adults across the country. The New York Times reported that according to CDC data through Tuesday, Jan. 26, about 44.4 million doses had been distributed, with just over half (23.4 million) of those administered. Federal health officials acknowledge that this slower-than-expected rollout is due primarily to logistical and supply-based hurdles, but public perceptions of the vaccine could also slow the push towards herd immunity. A Statista study reported in December that 27% of U.S. adults at the time said they probably would not (12%) and/or definitely would not (15%) get a COVID-19 vaccine if it was free and deemed safe by scientists. While that number was down from 34% in September, it continues to indicate hesitancy among some of the US population.

While vaccinations are ramping up by the day along with receptivity towards a vaccine, indicators are that we will not truly emerge as a country from COVID-19 until well into 2021, and that even then, it will not be a full “return to normal.” Life will be different in many ways from what we knew before COVID in terms of economic realities, consumer behaviors and media usage.

For businesses and brands, aligning objectives with these realities is crucial, and for advertisers, understanding the dynamic environment to which they will have to adapt throughout the year has never been more important.

With all this in mind, here are some ways to think about doing business this year that are also different from the norm – that is, our quick hits for planners and marketing decisionmakers as they prepare for 2021.



  • Understand the specifics about how businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, and how this will evolve as the country continues to emerge. Different industries have been damaged much more severely (travel and hospitality), while others have achieved some gains (grocery, eCommerce).
  • Avoid a sweeping, uniform/national approach to media and marketing:
    • Embrace regionality in terms of targeting and delivery
    • Evaluate and address markets uniquely – conditions will vary greatly by area
  • Embrace audience diversity in planning:
    • Avoid wide-net “demo approach” in defining audiences
    • Identify and address consumer segments uniquely – consumers will be influenced by distinctly different values, perceptions, and financial situations
  • Explore enhanced data-collection/intelligence opportunities, maximizing the ability to measure and interpret results in a timely manner.



  • Position yourself to take advantage of dynamic negotiation opportunities
  • Place early for better rates
  • Be prepared to go to market quickly, and to make changes in-flight
  • Consider shorter-term contracts in lieu of annual contracts
  • Consider slush fund for emerging opportunities or shifts in priority
  • Avoid media or marketing initiatives with long lead times
  • Be prepared for quick pivots – in products and services, pricing and promos, creative and messaging – to reflect shifting consumer sentiment and needs, and a dynamic business environment



  • Increase emphasis on new customer acquisition and competitive conquesting to capitalize on continued shifts in consumer behaviors and loyalties
  • Regardless of category, convenience services are crucial – if a brand has them, promote them; if not, work aggressively to develop them
    • Convenience services can include mobile ordering, curbside pick-up, contactless delivery, telemedicine, online scheduling, eCommerce, CPG subscription services, etc.
  • While promoting safety and cleanliness will remain important well into 2021, heavy messaging around convenience (see above) and value will be key to retaining current customers and capturing new ones
  • Plan for a new normal:
    • Some consumer routines will return to a reasonable semblance of their pre-COVID selves as 2021 progresses, some routines will have evolved or been altered completely
    • Gradual Rebound: OOH, transit, AM/FM radio –plan for two-phase pricing, with current (often reduced) COVID-impacted usage levels sustained in the early months of 2021, followed by rising impression levels as the year progresses
    • New Norms: OTT, social video, streaming audio, podcasts, eCommerce – plan for COVID-accelerated usage or share increases to sustain throughout 2021
    • Understand how different portions of your customers and/or target audiences consume media, and adapt your marketing appropriately