Richard Procter explains that local agencies need to embrace globalisation to ensure they get African business.
The need for South Africa to take the lead in making itself the gateway to sub-Saharan Africa has never been more apparent. All global advertisers’ eyes are on South Africa. They are being lured to this region’s double-digit growth in order to position their brands to join the race.
Media agency global network hubs and their global clients in Dubai, Paris, London or Tokyo are relying on media agencies in South Africa to help initiate or entrench their journey by navigating and finding the best solutions to their media investment.
The media strategy, planning and buying industry is very influenced by globalisation. Media partners and platforms have become global, as targets, trends and even brands set their ambitions on that level. And the convergence of digital technology with global facilities has accelerated this process.
If we don’t embrace this, and prove we can deliver, we run the risk of advertisers bypassing us and going directly to Nigeria, Kenya or Cameroon. This risk is huge from a revenue perspective as we are seeing budgets allocated to Nigeria or Tanzania matching that or larger than those offered to South Africa.
Nigeria became Africa’s largest economy, overtaking South Africa in early 2014. This is not only a loss of revenue, but also a loss in our relevance to the global market. From our agency experience, we find that clients have some seemingly basic, but critical needs from their media agency partners. As an example, one of our clients operates in 37 sub-Saharan African markets, and their Paris headquarters looked to South Africa to manage this for them.
1) Quality of service;
2) Consistency of delivery; and
3) Reporting of campaign activity.
Operational excellence was required to extract these three criteria, but when it came to the business of media, we had to go back to basics. We are spoilt in South Africa with world-class research seldom found north of our borders. Without it you need to rely on solid media principles that are globally applicable and combine that with local market knowledge and a measured dose of gut feel.
These principles are: Quality of service: A rigorous process of writing a strategy to global standards is often lacking or adopted only with varying degrees of sophistication across sub-Saharan Africa. However, implementing this process is easier than expected, as it doesn’t require data, just common sense. The process will deliver a media solution that unpacks the challenge, identifies the right target market by gathering as much local knowledge of this market, builds a strategy and then figure out how to plan it, activate it and measure it.
This is not rocket science, whether it’s a campaign launch, maintenance, a weekend retail blitz or a long-term sponsorship. We all know how to phase the roll-out of media spend and choose the best media mix. We know how to infuse this with local market knowledge and populate it with the local brand and consumer reality.
The result should be a local strategy of a global standard. Consistency of delivery: This requires excellent project management in dealing with, for example, 20 markets at any given time on a global or sub-Saharan African campaign. Media agencies are not known for project management skills and we often need to increase staff accordingly.
The role here is to ensure that consistent quality in our media approach is adopted religiously. This requires staff who can build relationships and partnerships that span cultural nuances and language barriers. They must also have passion to train and transfer skills. Reporting of campaign activity: The weekly status reports and consolidated campaign flowplans (which capture ad spend by media type, month and market) that are required from London or Dubai can be cumbersome to complete.
However, once completed, they are a goldmine of information that was previously never seen on one campaign flowplan. It requires relentless chasing and gathering of information, but once this is set up, you become indispensable in your client relationship. Some foundation principles are also required.
Firstly, you need to ensure that clients will allow you to build bespoke solutions to their needs, and not bog you down with a global cut-and-paste solution.
Secondly, you must give the local agency office staff the freedom to influence the campaign with their homegrown knowledge and also build their local client relationship without being micro-managed.
Thirdly, a healthy dose of patience and managing of expectations is required. Our experience has been one of constantly tweaking and refining ways of working on the continent while keeping an open mind.
To quote an old African proverb, “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it has to outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must fun faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better bet running.”
Richard Proctor is a director at Vizeum South Africa.
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