Business unusual.

Coronavirus cases in the US are still on the rise, despite what all the outdoor brunch tables in New York City and the packed Florida beaches we see in our timelines may lead us to believe. The recent push to reopen and get back to some semblance of normal feels, more than ever before, out of step with Google results for “coronavirus statistics.”

till, most companies we work with are planning for a future shift back towards stability. There are some promising leading indicators: as The Information notes (paywalled), ad costs per click on platforms like Google, Facebook and Bing have risen 1% every ten days since April (which marked the low point for prices since lockdown began). Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising, then, that (according to Gartner’s new 2020-2021 CMO Spend Survey) B2C marketing budgets are expected to grow by 78% in 2021.

Digital ad spending is a smart enough idea: in that arena, things seem like they could edge back to recognizability soon enough. 73% of the 432 executives surveyed in Gartner survey expect COVID-19’s negative impact to be short-lived, and 57% of them believe that “business-as-usual” will resume in the next 18 to 24 months. 

For marketing execs who are beginning to budget for 2021, the optimism at the corporate level combined with the facts on the ground present something of a quandary: do they plan for a return to normal, or hedge their bets? 

Spoiler alert: they should probably plan on doing both. That means staying cautious and light on their feet both in terms of budgeting and comms strategy, while laying the groundwork for potential major projects if business continues to pick up into late Q3 and early Q4. That million-dollar rebranding project that got put on hold in March? Probably not quite the time to press go, but keep your finger near the button.