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TBWA’s Backslash Releases 2021 Edges: 40 Global Cultural Shifts Shaping Canada and the World

January 25, 2021

From Body Debates to Platform Politics to Counter Cancel, Edges offer a glimpse into a new chapter of our history.

TORONTO; January 25, 2021 -- Today Backslash, the cultural intelligence arm of TBWA that Juniper Park\TBWA is a key contributor to, released its annual glossary of Edges. More than a trend, an Edge is defined as a meaningful cultural shift that has the scale and longevity to propel a brand toward a greater share of the future.

“This isn’t just a trend report. It’s an examination of cultural shifts which are impacting the way we live,” says Dustin Rideout, Chief Strategy Officer at Juniper Park\TBWA. “In the face of dramatic change, we find ourselves torn between fight and flight, dark and light. Transformation is never comfortable, but brighter tomorrows are ahead. The new Edges tell this hopeful story.”

Backslash’s 2021 Edges explore the cultural shifts shaping our world in six chapters: Chaos, Preservation, Advancement, Identity, Liberation, and Rebirth.

From culture wars to information wars, nowhere is safe from conflict. The opening chapter sets the stage for our current era of chaos and urges brands to provide a release from the pressure. The second chapter explores how, in the face of disarray, preservation of our mental energy and physical resources will become a priority. As we hope for the best but prepare for the worst, we’ll look to businesses to help us shelter, build resilience, and secure the essentials.

Other chapters that follow include: advancement, which calls technology into question and asks whether we are really ready to sacrifice privacy for convenience, worth for automation, or humanity for optimization; identity, which examines how jobs, relationship status and gender no longer define us; and liberation, which looks at how a culture craving authenticity is liberating itself from constraints, toxic polarization, perfectionism, and needless consumerism. The final chapter, rebirth, offers a refreshingly optimistic vision for a new kind of world. One where greater inclusivity, sustainability, and equity become common goals.

The complete list of 40 Edges can be downloaded here.

Backslash’s rigorous set of criteria requires that Edges be rooted in human values, be recognizable through consumer behaviours, and lead to clear business implications. In order to be declared an Edge, identified shifts must have sustained relevance for over a year and should continue to matter for the foreseeable future. Each Edge must be globally relevant, manifesting in a majority of the world’s regions.

As global headlines spread awareness around the now, Backslash’s Edges point to what’s next. Three Edges are especially pertinent to recent Canadian news:

Body Debates: Between doctors providing vaccine education on TikTok and record-breaking participation in “Veganuary,” matters of biology are being debated like never before. Decisions related to whether or not to get a vaccination, go vegan, wear a face mask, and have children are no longer private and personal. They’re at the center of heated public disputes related to freedom of choice vs. societal responsibility. As the discussion heats up, industries from entertainment to Big Pharma will take a stand in the battlefield.

Platform Politics: Say goodbye to the Wild West of social technology. In the fierce battle against misinformation, filter bubbles, and data collection, platforms are under crackdown. And they’re adapting their products to help us identify fake news, break free of echo chambers, and fight tech addiction—or at least, telling us they are. The war between good tech vs. bad tech is on, and every business will need to choose its side carefully.

Counter Cancel: A record number of brands and public figures fell victim to cancel culture in 2020, causing both brands and individuals to tiptoe around important issues from fear of being boycotted. But as “woke fatigue” sets in, a growing group of people are refusing to participate in a hyperpolarized world. The Counter Cancel movement will favour healthy, nuanced debate over public shaming, ultimately leading to a more productive movement.

About Backslash

Backslash is a cultural intelligence unit powered by a global network of over 300 Culture Spotters from 70 offices across the TBWA collective. Together, Backslash closely observes and analyzes worldwide developments so that TBWA—and its clients—can better understand and anticipate cultural change. Through a dynamic hybrid of strategy, data, and journalism, Backslash turns today’s stories into tomorrow’s opportunities. For more information on Backslash, follow us on Instagram at @TBWABackslash or visit backslash.com.

About Juniper Park\TBWA

Juniper Park\TBWA (juniperparktbwa.com) is The Disruption? Company: the cultural engine for 21st century business. A global, award-winning agency located in Toronto, Juniper Park\TBWA uses Disruption? methodologies to develop business-changing ideas for brands. The 160+ team of world-class creators and thinkers serves clients across North America, including CIBC, Nissan, PepsiCo, GoDaddy, Intuit, among others. It is part of TBWA Worldwide (tbwa.com), named as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company, and to Ad Age’s Agency A-List in both 2019 and 2020. Follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, or like us on Facebook for the latest updates from the Park.

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