Competition in digital media agency space has heated up with the launch of the Starcom MediaVest Group’s (SMG) global digital arm, Liquid Thread, in South Africa. It’s arrival in this country is aimed at capitalising on ‘changing consumer media consumption habits driven by technology and social media’.
TheMediaOnline caught up with MD Marsha Azar, a woman who’s spent the last few years intent on conquering the digital field. “I have a strong traditional advertising background but decided eight years ago to focus and specialise in digital and mobile only,” she says.
Current debates within media agencies revolve around whether traditional and digital media ought to be integrated in order to best understand how to deliver return on investment to clients. “We have thought about this topic and debated the extensively,” says Azar, adding that she also has “a strong traditional advertising background”.
And the decision? “Moving forward, our resource will ensure that we utilise the best of both worlds and extensively train all newcomers into the company about our ethos, the traditional media principles and where we see our potential growth channels,” Azar says.
The name, Liquid Thread, describes how the company will function. “Like the name suggests – Liquid Thread has a simple, fluid thought process, integrating content and digital display strategies that are a seamless and smooth flowing process,” she says.
SMG’s Gordon Patterson says Liquid Thread enables the agency to “offer our clients seamless strategic campaign extensions across mobile and online platforms, presenting world class digital opportunities as part of our media solution. It is a globally recognised name in the digital arena, with the brand fully entrenched and already setting benchmarks in Chicago and New York”.
It is this international clout that will help Liquid Thread establish itself here. “At this stage we rely heavily on our international SMG arm for support,” says Azar. “Our objective is to run all components in-house within the local office. We do not outsource to any agency which is not a part of the Starcom MediaVest network.”
These components include providing ‘brand inspired experiences that originate at the intersection of creative, media and technology” and “moving beyond branded entertainment to create communities, conversations and experiences”. Azar says this “process is still in the growth and implementation stages here in South Africa”.
“However our international offices are already offering this to clients. We have a unique advantage belonging to an international channel that is in a market where they can test and perfect strategies, allowing us to simply adapt these insights into our market where relevant.
“And,” she adds, “Our international clients are familiar with this trend and have seen amazing results from these campaigns.”
Azar believes mobile channels are becoming increasingly powerful in the South African conversation. “Mobile is as important in our strategies as digital is to above-the-line campaigns. With the rise of the smart phone, reach to consumers has become limitless. Historically the numbers were skewed towards the higher LSM in using purely digital, however through mobile today, we’re able to reach a broad spectrum of the demographic profile,” she says.
Ultimately, says Azar, Liquid Thread is positioning itself as a content specialist. As Patterson explains, “As a human experience company, it is imperative that we have a channel through which to extend campaign content to the online avenues, making it more easily accessible to consumers. Our aim is to deliver more effective human experiences through digitally-led content”.