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11 Things We’ll All Be Saying in 2020

In this industry, cultural context is everything. A new creative campaign that sounds good in a conference room can play out much differently than intended when it lands in the real world. One key to success is anticipating the landscape even as it constantly evolves. In the year ahead, these 11 quotes are sure to be on everyone’s lips – and marketers should pay attention

1. “Activism is the new mainstream.”

activism 1

In Ruder-Finn’s December study, “Activism Is Mainstream,” 51 percent of people report taking action on a social issue in the last six months—a majority, for the first time—with a third of those actions directed toward a company. In the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, 74 percent agreed that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it. For these companies, leading with purpose—2019’s buzziest buzzword—is no longer enough. They must take measurable action on the issues that matter, convey those actions clearly, and be prepared to be held accountable by consumers who are spending, and boycotting, in line with their values.

2. “Turns out Chicago is denser with security cameras than Hong Kong.”

security camera

As privacy concerns continue to mount in the U.S., Jon Fasman Resistance to surveillance cameras, facial recognition technology, and online data collection will continue to increase—California’s Consumer Privacy Act went into effect on January 1.

3. “The yolds are upon us—and they grow stronger.”


What’s a yold? A young-old person, aged 65 to 75, whose life no longer fits the stereotype of an aging retiree. The peak of the baby boom was from 1955 to 1960—which means, as John Parker reported, those boomers will turn 65 between 2020 and 2025. Today’s boomers aren’t retiring and they’re staying socially active, which will completely redefine their demographic.

4. “Year of the plant, you say? Finally, it’s time for plantfluencers to shine.”


The United Nations has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health, an initiative to raise global awareness on how protecting plants can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development. Okay, plantfluencers, time to harness the power of #plants, step out of your ethereal apartments and into the international limelight for the greater good.

5. “Wait, video games are part of the streaming wars now?”


In 2019, much talk about the streaming wars focused on TV and film—Amazon Prime, Apple’s TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, and the upcoming HBO Max (from Warner Bros.) and Peacock (from NBCU). In 2020, video-game streamers enter the fray. Google launched Stadia in November, Microsoft is rolling out xCloud, and Amazon is rumored to be working on its own streaming service. If gamers no longer have to spend money on pricey consoles, then, as Tim Cross wrote in The Economist, that will open up a whole new market of laptop consumers in what is already a massive industry. According to Cross, gaming raked in $140 billion last year, which makes it bigger than TV, film, and music.

6. “Alexa, pay for gas—then play the new Adam Driver movie.”


At CES this month, Amazon announced a partnership with Exxon that will allow consumers to pay for their gas by simply saying, “Alexa, pay for gas” at the pump. They also announced that Fire TV will be incorporated into automotive entertainment systems. Those systems are in the backseat, for now, but as driving becomes increasingly automated, the auto industry is creating new platforms for consumption and engagement.

7. “Now my daughter wants a gold medal in skateboarding.”


When the Olympics descend upon Tokyo in July, new sports in competition include skateboarding, surfing, karate, and rock-climbing. Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy are just two 2018 athletes who used the Olympics as a springboard into top-tier influencer status. A whole new sector of talent is about to get a global stage.

8. “Remember when we thought we were divided in 2016? We were so innocent then.”

vote stickers

The presidential election will consume—and divide—the country. We don’t need a stat for this, but here’s one anyway: For the first time in American history, an impeached president is running for re-election.

9. “Don’t worry, we’re not going to tumble into another recession. Unless we do.”

money economy

In Price Waterhouse Cooper’s latest annual survey, 53 percent of CEOs said they expect global economic growth to decline in 2020. (That’s quite an increase from 29 percent the previous year.) In The Economist, John O’Sullivan recently predicted that the slump in business sentiment could start to infect consumer confidence in early 2020. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 confirms this unease: A majority of responders in America (and in every developed market) said they did not believe they will be better off in five years. Economic anxiety will be the baseline for everyday Americans this year.

10. “Reality is overrated.”

Facebook Horizon

Standing on the shoulders of communal virtual spaces like Sims and Fortnite, Facebook Horizon will launch in beta early this year, as billions of dollars keep getting thrown at virtual reality. Which makes perfect sense, really, when reality continues to give consumers so many reasons for wanting to escape it.

11. “Wow, progress is messy.”


Race. Gender. Sexuality. Climate. The issues are complicated, constantly shifting, and they’ll be at the forefront of the 2020 cultural dialog. The year will feel divisive and difficult—and inspiring. Yes, inspiring. We are rising to the challenge. We are taking stands. We saw brilliant, groundbreaking work in 2019. And a new year has just begun.


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