When a brand wants to advertise in a mall, it approaches a media owner who takes care of facilitating this process. It is during this time that the owner liaises with another very important player, mall management. Michael Bratt explores this relationship.
All of the owners who were approached for comment were naturally complementary of mall management. After all without them, they would not have a space in which to generate revenue. But for all the owners, it goes far beyond this. They all agree that a mutually beneficial relationship between the two parties is key.
What each side brings to the table
Mall management brings insights in terms of their shoppers behaviour and flow, buying patterns, dwell time and they inform what offerings are available that drive feet to the mall. “Without their insight and support, trading conditions in terms of what we do would be quiet difficult,” says Mall Ads’ John Faia.
On the other hand, owners take away the work, administration and sales effort that is required to sell media and advertising in the mall managers’ environment. Danie van Aswegen, chief commercial officer for Primedia Unlimited Malls, says mall management and mall advertisers work together to influence purchasing decisions; support and drive tenant sales; increase brand equity for both mall and advertiser; improve shopper experience and they work to create self-promotion opportunities.
A mutually beneficial arrangement
Faia agrees, saying in order to be successful both parties must provide support to each other as well as focus on their areas of expertise as they are complimentary. “The model cannot work without one another playing a role,” he adds.
Dave Mckenzie, managing director of BOO! Media, concurs. “The market has matured to the level where both parties understand one another’s businesses. It is imperative that decision making and approvals are efficient as our industry requires lightning fast turn-around times.”
For Van Aswegen, it’s all about mall management being rightfully mindful of negative brand association. “Mall managers need to be comfortable that their media partner has the necessary experience, knowledge and understanding to not compromise this intangible asset … A dictatorial relationship is often the result of inexperience of one or both parties or the lack of strategic alignment up front.”
Challenges faced by owners
One of the challenges that owners face, Faia says, are the advertising restrictions in terms of key tenants. “The toughest part is complying and ensuring that the mall brand is not associated with brands that the mall management deems to not be on par or on the same level as the mall brand. FMCG brands mostly fall into this category. Some higher LSM malls will not allow certain FMCG brands to advertise in their common area environments,” he explains.
And alongside this is, sometimes, a lack of understanding of how the media and advertising industry works.
How receptive are mall management to innovative new offerings?
Mall media owners are constantly looking to introduce innovative new offerings to their clients. But they need to receive approval for these from mall management. But just how receptive are the latter to these innovations? McKenzie believes the motivation for new opportunities has to come from the right place.
“There has to be the perfect balance between relevancy and enhanced customer experience,” he says. “The brand communication that can prompt purchase within the mall increases turnover, the malls gain from this through their turnover clauses with tenants and the tenants are happy that their tills are ringing. The brand should ideally also be reflective of the malls brand positioning, we call it the ‘perfect pairing ‘ we have to hit the sweet spot where the shopper can resonate with the brand within their own shopping mall.”
Faia has a clear view on this. “If the new offerings are digital, innovative and serve the needs or enhance the shoppers experience then most malls would consider new innovations.”
From a mall management perspective
Of eight major malls in South Africa that were approached for comment, only one responded, the team at Mall of Africa. Marilize Hay from the mall’s In Mall Media Sales division, gave some insights into the mall management media owner relationship from the other side. “We do have a directive to not have too much advertising clutter in the mall, but we work with advertisers as far as possible to ensure the best RO … We do have restrictions on certain inventory that affects that aesthetics and design of the mall, but we do consider all proposals carefully,” she says.
One of the most fascinating aspects of mall advertising is the fact that it is conceptualised during the planning and construction of the malls themselves.
“There is definitely an increased focus on shopper engagement opportunities during the design and development phase of new malls as well as redevelopments,” Van Aswegen explains. “It is, however, fair to say that architectural design, aesthetics and shopper experience will outweigh advertising opportunities nine times out of 10, and so it should! Without shoppers (feet and spend) all other numbers are unsustainable, regardless of any advertising opportunities in the mall.”
He adds that the increased demand for digital out of home has made it necessary to incorporate advertising opportunities in the design and construction phase as it requires structural integrity, electrical connections, data connections and the like.
Hay shares insights from the mall management side. “We worked closely with the architects at Mall of Africa to ensure sites for advertising were identified during construction. This process ensured that the advertising inventory fits in with the overall design and flow of the mall and does not look like an ‘afterthought’,” she says.
The evolving consumer and mall space
The rise of digital and social media has provided an extra challenge to mall advertisers and mall management. With people glued to their phones while traversing their favourite retail space, both media owners and mall management have had to rethink their strategy to engage with them.
Mckenzie believes that mall owners in South Africa are very well travelled and know exactly what the global tech trends are, but cautions, “The trick is to get the timings right for the local market, this applies to BOO! and to the landlords. The roll-out of tech platforms need to deliver the required return on investment or even return on experience soon after adoption into the local mall environment.”
While the mall management, media owner relationship is more complicated than it may seem, it is simplified through co-operation and understanding by both parties. While each seeks to look after their own interests, a mutually beneficial relationship is a must to garner success for all involved.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8