2021 Digital Predictions with John Cawdery, US CEO

In the second instalment of our Incubeta Ignite: 2021 Digital Predictions Series – where we’re catching up with some of Incubeta’s leadership team across our Global offices, to discuss predictions for 2021 – we had the pleasure of talking with John Cawdery, Incubeta’s US CEO.

Matilda Rose Moir

After spending 12 years at Google, John started his new role as CEO of Incubeta US in September last year, during the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Expanding on his previous experiences at Google, John discussed the current virtual environment, and how this will shift in 2021, whilst elaborating on his previous predictions regarding post-pandemic regeneration and what a US Democratic Senate will mean for the marketing industry.

Virtual Working

Having been appointed as the new US CEO in a completely virtual environment, John elaborated on how his experience at Google aided him in his transition to Incubeta. Throughout his 12 years at the tech company, John made heavy use of multiple Google technologies and platforms allowing him to develop a substantial background in virtual workings – skills that he was able to transfer to his current (virtual) role as CEO.

Looking towards 2021, and the topic of virtual working. John discussed the value of personal human connections, and how they’ll be brought to the forefront of the marketing industry moving forwards. Whether in a virtual, or physical environment, human connections and personal interactions should be a keen effort to focus on in the coming months. Brands should be looking to get the most out of this avenue, rethinking their ways of working. It’s also important to consider client approaches to virtual working environments and the shift to digital. As always, client needs should be first and foremost in our minds. It’s up to us, as marketers, to ensure we’re being innovative in the current space – providing solutions to this new economy that we, and our clients, find ourselves in. 2020 showed us a somewhat dramatic generational shift to digital, which had varying implications to businesses, in 2021 brands need to be one step ahead of the game, refining and optimising their strategy to support industry growth and change. 


One of the key topics that’s repeatedly resurfacing is the notion of client ad budgets in the digital space. The economy is hurting post pandemic. Every brand, business and company – to some degree or another – experienced difficulties throughout the last year, and this was reflected in their budgets. Over the course of 2020 we saw both a drop, and revival in budgets across the industry, and looking forward John predicts that we’ll only see a rise in budget spend in the next coming months.

At this specific moment in time clients are looking to invest in this new area of the economy, witnessing the positive effects it can have on performance in the long run. Throughout 2021 we’ll see budgets beginning to increase as clients respond to new needs and trends, in particular the need to engage the customer in a way that is specific to the environment that the engagement appears in. Owning the moment that matters for their consumers. 


Measurability is going to be a factor across the whole digital landscape going forward. The methods of measuring media engagement, both traditional and digital, are coming under increasingly higher levels of scrutiny, and as change occurs, companies need to understand, adhere and innovate accordingly. Moving into 2021, the norms of measuring engagement will be challenged by additional legislations and advancements in technology – with the implications of having certain measurements beginning to take their toll. 

US Democratic Leadership

Both the presidential election, and the more recent senate election in Georgia last week will undoubtedly have an impact on the digital landscape in the US. With John discussing how a  Democratic senate majority will likely bring about certain legislations surrounding privacy and data regulation. John discussed this in a positive light, highlighting how federal level legislation will provide a lot of clarity for companies regarding privacy policies. As it stands State specific legislations can be challenging for businesses as adhering to specific regulations can shift geographically.

It’s also possible that we’ll see a shift in the approach to big tech companies, with a democratic senate passing legislations that will undoubtedly see a change in the accountability of these companies, putting them under tougher levels of scrutiny. The million dollar question is, will a democratic leadership see the break up of big tech companies? John elaborated on this, explaining how the government will likely try to analyse what is best for the consumer, asking questions such as; what benefits the consumer, what should we be looking for in the long run, and is competition fostered by the existence of these companies or is it a monopoly situation?


2021 will be the year for regeneration – moving back to a more physical way of life, regaining that human connection and physicality that was lost in 2020. For certain sectors, such as travel and hospitality this might take a bit longer due to the current uncertainty around restrictions, however the industry will undoubtedly see their recovery and regeneration in the long-run. Consumers will be wanting to travel, and the tourism/hotel industry will see a substantial uplift in performance as the vaccine takes its course and restrictions relax.

Click here to watch the full episode of Incubeta Ignite: Digital Predictions with John Cawdery.

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