Just as technology has brought choice, simplification and/or complication to our private lives in the form of disruptive applications, the same must be expected and in fact demanded in our work lives. This is the view of Thabang Ramogase, CEO of Mindshare South Africa. Michael Bratt chatted with him to get his take on the media agency landscape.
In his current position, Ramogase is responsible for overall strategy and setting the vision for the Mindshare business. In addition to this, is a responsibility for the P&L and growth and development of the business’ people.
Ramogase is a big fan of developing and incorporating tech into the business. “Tech can only work to make us better at what we do as more and more clients start to demand outcomes rather than activity. The right tech can also work to automate much of the laborious tasks inherent in the job, freeing us up to truly look for the insight that sharpens our delivery,” he says.
Challenges and opportunities
Currently, the media agency world is experiencing tough conditions. Not only does it face economic strains, but it is also a victim of shrinking client budgets. But for Ramogase, the biggest challenge is the commoditisation of the work that they do.
“This is followed closely by the digitisation of all we do and the subsequent need for different skill sets to deal with this shift,” he adds.
But just like other agencies, Ramogase and Mindshare are actively responding to these challenges. Their strategy is two-fold: To continually show value to clients, not just in outright rands and cents, but also in the expertise and quality of advice that the agency brings to the table, by striving at all times to be trusted business partners, and complementing this with a continual investment in their people. On the converse, Ramogase sees the biggest opportunity for media agencies as content, with its production and dissemination happening in real time.
The glacial pace of media agency transformation
As one of the few black CEOs in the South African media agency space, Ramogase is frank about the issue of transformation describing it as “moving at a glacial pace”.
“The same excuses are proffered around a lack of available skills, but none of the conversations are being had with clients about the critical need to invest in the future. With the massive long-term shifts brought on by urbanisation, the meteoric growth of the black middle class, as well as geopolitical changes in the landscape, this industry is at risk of losing its relevance in the greater consumer narrative,” he says. “The lethargy in this regard has to be countered with bold initiatives that see the inclusion of talent at ALL levels and not the narrow focus on internships.”
Competition from non-agency entities
When asked how he views companies that are bringing traditional media agency work in-house, Ramogase moves to remind people about the important aspects of the work that media agencies bring to the process.
These, according to Ramogase, are threefold:
- The deep and practical skills we bring to support the infrastructure and required processes, as well as execution of the campaigns in a majority of the cases speaks to the need for collaboration with clients and their desired end states.
- We bring cross industry knowledge and the ability to leverage our global reach and experience in solving business problems.
- We therefore also bring the future proofing that comes with being tapped into the wider industry and can advise on where clients should be taking their programs into the foreseeable future.
How to succeed in the media agency world
Ramogase also shared some advice with youngsters who ply their trade in the media agency world. He believes that the characteristics a star media agency person needs include numeracy, a strategic predisposition, resilience and a keen sense of curiosity given the constant flux.
“They are often the smartest person in the room, but without the bravado of creative agency sorts. They bring together the entire connected plan both on and offline, allowing the client to see the big picture and make informed decisions,” he reckons. “They are often visible by the depth they bring to the conversation in the room: considered in what they say, bearing in mind the measurability of what they do, which brings realism to the discussion, albeit with the required business stretch.”
A diverse career
Ramogase brings vast experience to his current position, having worked in many different industries and roles. He started his career within the investment banking arena at Merrill Lynch. He has since worked for big FMCG brands like National Brands on the Willards snacks and Flanagan’s business units, and The Coca-Cola Company on Sprite, Sprite Zero and the Twist range.
After a brief stint at MTN, he co-founded an activation agency called Brandswell, that counted Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company, ABSA, Courvoisier, SAB and Black Like Me as clients. Six years later, he sold his share in the business and opted back into corporate life as the marketing manager of Nando’s SA, Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia. Highlights include the highly awarded campaigns: ‘The Last Dictator Standing’, ‘Santam vs Nando’s’, the ‘Diversity’ campaign, as well as the brand’s 25-year celebrations.
He also worked for a media owner at the SABC, first as brand manager of SABC 3, then SABC 1 and eventually as trade marketing manger for the TV airtime sales division, with an annual turnover of some R2 billion.
While reading for his MBA at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, Ramogase consulted for the UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing, working on industry changing studies such as Four m=Million and Rising (formerly the Black Diamond Study), Survivors and Top End.
When asked what he does when he is not at work, Ramogase replies with some of his well known humour. “I am what you might call a ‘well resourced amateur photographer’. I enjoy wildlife and landscape photography, for the solitude it affords me.”
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