Red Havas – Word of the Year 2021

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By its nature, 2021 defied categorization. (Now that we think of it, so did the year before.) So, for help identifying Red Havas’ 2021 Word of the Year, we went to our top global contacts across the marketing and communications sector. As these are the very people who’ve been charged with putting the present into words for others, we knew we’d be in the best of hands. With their help, we identified “adapt” as the Word of the Year. It best summarizes the flexibility that’s been required of all of us during this ongoing pandemic. However, we also know that everyone’s experience of 2021 was a human one, and thus unique to them. That’s why we further asked how some of these comms professionals would personally describe the year in a single word, if up to them alone. In return, we received a variety of responses that are, in some ways, more interesting and representative than our exercise to define the year in one word. 1

A DAPT Make suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

Marketing is always subject to change. In my career, going back to the mid-’90s, I’ve seen the transition from analogue media to digital completely change the parameters for advertising. Social media is little more than 15 years old, but has changed everything. Yet the unpredictability of the last 18 months is something I have never experienced. Every short term and long term plan has had to be revised and replanned, almost constantly. The effects on buying behavior have been surprising. Who would have thought, at the end of 2020, that our kitchen and bathroom brands would scarcely be able to keep up with demand in 2021? To survive, you must adapt. Assume nothing is fixed. Great change brings great opportunities, and the most adaptable companies with the most adaptable people are best placed to take advantage. Nigel Palmer Marketing Director Victoria and Albert Baths 3

A D APTATI ON A change or the process of change by which something becomes better suited to its environment.

The world of healthcare is changing, whether marketers are excited about it or not. The last unturned stone of personalization is finally being lifted, and the industry is collectively staring down an ultimatum: invest in your relationship with your audience, or begin your decline. To this end, the industry has had to adapt – from limited patient/HCP interactions inspiring new ways to build trust digitally, to the ceaseless march towards personalization, we saw the best from the industry this year, on the agency and client side, when we stopped thinking like traditional marketers and started communicating purpose-first.

Lars Bengston Chief Content Officer HAVAS HEALTH & YOU 5

B AL ANCE A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

In this climate of uncertainty and constant changes, most people have been trying to adapt to a new lifestyle where we work remotely or from home, juggling between work and family, and finding the lines between personal and work hours blurred. While the trend is to seek wellness and mental well-being, I believe what everybody is searching for is balance.

Pamela Yun Ying Chun Communications Manager FAR EAST HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT 7

C O L L E CTI VE Done by people acting as a group.

With my glass half full, I’m going for “collective.” The optimistic, sustainable and community-driven reminder of the approach we need to change the world for the better. Collective: A nudge to remind us of our responsibility, that we cannot act as one person, one company or even one country. That we have responsibility to rethink and support others, not just ourselves. That we cannot beat this pandemic in isolation; we cannot combat climate change alone; and we cannot make the world a better place today, for the future and for our children if we do not act as one, as a collective that can and will achieve scale and impact. Ruth Harper Chief Communications & Sustainability Officer MANPOWERGROUP 9

C O M MI TME NT The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.

A word that accompanies us throughout the year and that has been our driving force. With it, we have set ourselves some objectives: commitment to continue offering low prices all year round despite being in a context with difficulties in logistics and raw materials; commitment to our customers to continue offering differentiating services that improve their shopping experience; and internal commitment to care and concern for the welfare of our employees.

Carmen Martínez Communications Director NORAUTO 11

C O R O N ACOAS TE R The emotional ups and downs related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

This word applies to both my personal and professional life. Some days were good. Some days were bad. It was a constant roller coaster of emotions. However, I am stronger, wiser and more focused thanks to my time on the wild ride that is the coronacoaster.

Brandi Boatner Manager, Digital and Advocacy Communications IBM CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS 13

D ARE A challenge, especially to prove courage.

At Havas we have always dared to try new approaches, accept new challenges and anticipate what the future holds, which has proven to be absolutely key this year.

Yannick Bolloré Chairman and CEO HAVAS GROUP 15

D I S RUPTE D Interrupt by causing a disturbance or problem.

I think our conference is the perfect example with the date changing three times due to different COVID disruptions along the way.

Ryan Lacey Manager, Marketing & Support Northern Region TOYOTA AUSTRALIA 17

E NNUI A feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

My word of the year is a French word, “ennui,” meaning “a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” I literally read it this morning and thought that fits! If you would have asked me yesterday, I probably would have said “limbo.” It’s been that protracted inability to make grand plans without dreading the carpet would be pulled out from underneath you that has kept 2021 from realizing its potential.

Angela De Paul VP, Communication FEEDING AMERICA 19

F RE E DOM The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants; without hindrance or restraint.

Freedom has become a question. What does it mean? With COVID, it has become a point of attack politically and source of frustration socially. We have taken it for granted for so long. Going to a bar or restaurant. Jumping on a plane to visit family or take a holiday. Going into the office and schools. We now have a new respect for freedom. Let us learn from this.

James Wright CEO, Red Havas and Global Chairman HAVAS PR GLOBAL COLLECTIVE 21

F U L LY VACCI NATE D Having received all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine that has been authorized or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the World Health Organization.

While 2021 didn’t provide the return to normal we were expecting or hoping for, it did teach us the meaning of a new phrase – “fully vaccinated.” This would quickly become our master key for re-entry into all aspects of our lives, including our family gatherings, workplaces and even our personal care salons and gyms.

Alissa Zito Cruz Executive Director, Communications STEP UP 23

GRACE A change or the process of change by which something becomes better suited to its environment.

It’s about practicing kindness and compassion. It’s about creating connections and encouraging empathy. It’s about listening to learn, with an open mind and heart. And, by becoming a better me, I’m creating a ripple effect that leads to a better community and better world.

Linda Descano, CFA EVP, Corporate Communications & Executive Visibility RED HAVAS 25

H YB RI D A thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.

This was how we worked as teams (across divisions and time zones), in meetings (virtual and in person) and across themes and their interconnectedness.

Sohini Roychowdhury Marketing & Communications Specialist Private Fundraising and Partnerships Division UNICEF


H YB RI D A thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.

The present world is changing its structure which is generated by the emergence of cyberspace in which there are more and more human activities. Virtual settings have new mechanisms, modes and principles of functioning that makes it different from real space but one thing is true, to keep focus on human beings first, then the technology.

Pawel Konon Communications Director TELEMEDI 29

I N CL US I VE Not excluding any of the parties or groups involved in something.

Through our Covid shared experiences, we have started to develop a better understanding of each other that will help us be more inclusive in 2022 and beyond.

Linda Gharib Director, Brand & Communications Legal & Regulatory, U.S. WOLTERS KLUWER 31

I N VI G ORATE D To give strength or energy to.

As an organization, we were invigorated because after 2020, Tourism Ireland entered 2021 with hope, optimism, energy and enthusiasm in a way we’ve never felt before. Our marketing program this year has been more creative, innovative and impactful than ever before.

Aisling McDermott Manager Middle East & Asia TOURISM IRELAND 33

O P TI MI S TI C Hopeful and confident about the future.

I am sure that many good things are still to come.

Miguel Morales Communications HUAWEI 35

PA RADI S E An ideal or idyllic place or state.

The Gran Teatre del Liceu is enthusiastically embarking on the journey of its 175th anniversary to take us to the paradise of opera and art. In the context in which we are living, culture has become a refuge, a paradise in which to escape, and the Teatre is embarking on a 2021/22 season with a programme that invites us to seek the ideal through a universe of sound, sight and aesthetics.

Joana Jadó Press Diretor TEATRE LICEU 37

P R E PARATI ON The action or process of making ready or being made ready for use or consideration.

I’ve seen the past two years as time to hunker down, look at everything and reassess, shore up and get ready. My feeling is when we do normalize the expectations of snap back are going to be high, so you better have used your time wisely.

Jeffrey Whitford Head of Sustainability & Social Business Innovation and Branding, Life Science MILLIPORESIGMA


P R UDE NCE The quality of being prudent; cautiousness.

It has been a year where patience and prudence has been needed to balance the expectation that the old world was returning while adjusting to a new paradigm of how we live. We have to think about the risks we take for previously mundane things we used to do without thought.

Nicki Gilmour CEO, Evolved People and Editor-in-Chief THE GLASS HAMMER 41

P U RPOSE The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

This year saw a much bigger use of the concept across marketing, comms and other disciplines. It’s not a new word or new concept, but the topic experienced a movement, that’s for sure.

Dino Delić Director of Insights and Analytics MELTWATER 43

R EB I RTH The action of reappearing or starting to flourish or increase after a decline; revival.

Our logo has been designed around a Phoenix, so “rebirth” might be the right word. And has been built around the meaning of it: the phoenix symbolizes rebirth, renewal, immortality, healing, and the eternal fire.

Kelly Wells Senior Marking Communications Manager CLUB ACTIVE AUSTRALIA


R EB ORN Brought back to life or activity.

For professionals and companies alike, 2021 has been the year of change. So long asking for one and in the end it was imposed in hours... It is about constantly updating, moving forward, being more creative, adaptable, being true heroes of reinvention. To think big and act small. 2021 is the year we are reborn.

María Sánchez Communications Director, MANPOWER GROUP


R EB ORN Brought back to life or activity.

I think we have all been reborn in some way after 2020, if something COVID has done is make us value what we have that we previously took for granted!

Marta Baquero Brand Manager LICOR 43 49

R EE M E RG I NG Emerging again; coming into sight or prominence once more.

2021 has been a year of slowly reemerging from COVID to reclaim some of what we previously loved, only for a new strain or wave of the disease to reemerge and force us back into our shelters. We’ve reemerged, COVID reemerged, friends reemerged, coworkers reemerged, restrictions reemerged. It’s been ebb and flow all year.

Jeremy Dale CMO Likewize 51

R EF L E CT To think deeply or carefully about.

My explanation? Take a deep dive into what humanity has gone through in 2021 and build on the learnings for a positive and hopeful start of 2022.

Beauty Executive, Middle East Corporate Communications Manager 53

R EG ENE RATI ON The rebuilding of a living organism by itself of its lost or damaged parts.

This is how I believe that society in general and each individual person have responded in a natural way after the Covid 19 era. My family, my friends, my team, my sector... I feel that we have all regenerated and that we are now stronger and have repositioned our values and priorities, despite what we have lost (people, projects, companies....) and precisely in their honour.

Raquel Díaz Marketing Director ACEITES DE OLIVA DE ESPAÑA 55

R EI NVE NTI ON The action or process through which something is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new.

Reinvention is always provoked, we don’t usually change without something that forces us and provokes a mutation. Reinvention goes beyond adaptation, it involves much more than adapting to cold or heat through seasonal changes. Reinvention happens unexpectedly, it is a spur that drives a conversion, a revelation that makes us think that we must transform ourselves, create a different personality, have new interests, take on new professional directions, modify tastes, interests, hobbies and even relationships. 2021 has been, without a doubt, the year of reinvention; the year of being reborn to the new rhythm of the times, the year of re-inhabiting our three-dimensional space despite the still latent limitations. To reinvent ourselves is to have a new opportunity to conquer what has been left unfinished. Melina Díaz Communications FUNDACIÓN CYD 57

R E SI L I E NCE The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

My word for 2021 is resilience, both personally and professionally. Why? I have seen individuals, communities and businesses rise up to the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has offered up. I have seen many embrace, rise above and succeed at embracing 2022 with anticipation and joy.

Nandika Madgavkar Senior Director, Strategy & Growth Chief Executives CORPORATE PURPOSE


R E SI L I E NCE The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

We have all experienced so much change, adapted to new ways of living and learning. Taken an emotional dive into what is important. We hold onto beacons of hope and strive to come out the other side as stronger individuals and resilient communities.

Lorey D. Zlotnick Chief Marketing Officer TEAM RUBICON 61

R E SI L I E NCE The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Although we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I believe that one of the great capacities that we have demonstrated throughout 2021 is the way in which we have been able to adapt to the new professional and personal context that Covid has given us.

Álvaro González Marketing Consumer Director CERVEZAS ALHAMBRA 63

R E SI L I E NCE The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

In 2020, communications plays an important role than ever before to support building organizations’ resilience as a hopeful and practical response to multiple emerging ecological and social challenges.

Le Thanh Van Tran Head of Communications VIETNAM & CAMBODIA SANOFI 65

R E SI L I E NCE The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

After having had a bad time, having seen ourselves so fragile, we have resurfaced with strength and with more enthusiasm than ever!

Marta Menendez Bouzas Communication Manager Spain BURIG DE ARIAS 67

TR A N S F ORMATI ONAL To encourage, uplift, motivate or dramatic change in being.

By definition means. So much of 2021 is defined by this word to me. From this idea that at the beginning of the year that we would all get back to some sense of “normalcy” to find out that the pandemic wouldn’t go away after vaccines rolled out, to a new president and administration, to ever increasing climate change impacts that could no longer be ignored, to individuals existential pause on the meanings of their lives – the great migration of jobs and great migration from cities, to the generosity of supporters and donors that impacted our ability as a nonprofit to save and transform lives around the world for the better. 2021 transformed each of us and what our lives and futures look like forever. Cinira Baldi Vice President, Chief Development & Communications Officer Project HOPE


VA CCI NE A substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases.

This is what has allowed us to face the year with hope and optimism, we all started the year waiting for the arrival of vaccines, we have seen how little by little we have all been able to access them (unfortunately not equally throughout the world) and this has allowed us to recover a certain pre-pandemic normality. In addition, behind vaccines there is a whole ecosystem of words related to public-private collaboration, synergies, shared efforts, teamwork... which I believe also define the society we need.

Sònia Martínez, Manager General Manager FUNDACION CYD 71

JAMES WRIGHT Global CEO, Red Havas & Global Chairman, Havas PR Global Collective Red Havas m: 917-520-7666 a: 200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Red Havas is part of the Havas PR Global Collective, the PR and communications arm of the Havas Group that comprises approximately 40 agencies around the world and more than 1,300 employees. The Red Havas strategic “Merged Media” model brings together traditional and digital publishing, content, social media and data within a single infrastructure. For further information, please visit

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