Margie Carr founded In Touch Media back in 2002 as an agency serving the out of home sector. The focus is to tailor out of home advertising solutions to fit clients’ marketing strategies, and ensure real return on investment while protecting both reputational and relational value through its broad knowledge of OOH targeting.
Services include media buying, outdoor production, strategic outdoor media planning as well as portfolio audits.
1. Why did you decide to branch out with your own business/venture, rather than work for other companies or corporates?
I gained great experience from working for corporates, especially in the advertising department of Sanlam head office in the early 1990s, with a highly dynamic team. But with the encouragement of my husband, I took the big step to resign, and start my own marketing company. This was spurred on by the frustrations of working within the constraints of the corporate mindset with all its unnecessary political minefields.
2. Give us a brief history of your media venture? What gave you the idea? How did it begin, and how has your business journey unfolded?
After attending the International Outdoor Advertising Conference at Lost City in 1999, I realised that there was an opportunity in the OOH market in South Africa to create a company specialising in outdoor media planning. In those days, there were very few ‘small’ media owners, and the landscape was dominated by JCDecaux (then Clear Channel Independent), Primedia and other players.
The smaller media owners struggled to get their stock into agencies, and the larger media owners neglected direct clients. So it was a great opportunity to make a difference, and assist agencies and direct clients with their OOH planning. From that, my company was born, officially registering in 2002.
Seventeen years ago, OOH was known as ‘billboard advertising’ or at most, ‘outdoor advertising’. The landscape was dominated by standard size ’96 sheeters’ (3×12) and ’48 sheeters’ (3mx6m). These classifications refer to the number of printed paper panels glued to each billboard. Hence, a ’48 sheeter’ was flighted with 48 sheets on the 3mx6m face. In these early days, there was no digital printing. Ads were produced by sign-writers, or with multi-layered spray-painting. It took days to produce one billboard ad! I can remember a time when Tyger Valley Shopping Centre decided to do an artwork change on five 3mx6m billboards.
We had to get extra people in to assist with the artwork, and it took a week to produce the ads. Today, a 3mx6m ad can be printed in less than an hour. The landscape was dominated by cigarette and alcohol advertising, and the bulk of billboards owned by three large media owners, were to be found along railway lines, and in townships. There were no 3mx6m ads aimed at higher income markets, and the audience demographic was defined in terms of Income Group A, B and C.
With the entry of various new media owners, and the event of digital printing, the OOH landscape changed rapidly in the early 2000s. Digital printing was expensive and installation was cheap. The early 2000’s were the ‘cowboy years’, when media owners sprouted up across the country, establishing niche audiences and products in small volumes, each being a law unto themselves. It was also the time in which city councils were challenged on their bylaws and inconsistency in approval processes, and when media owners started kicking back. In Touch Media had a role to play, as media planners veered away from booking billboards due to the very confusion landscape caused by Cowboys and Councils.
In Touch Media grew from strength to strength. I joined the WPO 10 years ago, in 2009, where I am in the room with female entrepreneurs from various industries. This guidance bolstered In Touch Media into a fast track growth spurt, doubling our turn-over in three years.
Today, we are a dedicated team of six, including thought leaders and highly experienced administrative staff. And through all of this, our focus has remained to provide the best strategy and cost-effective solutions to benefit the campaign outcome, transparency in pricing, and respectful relationships with all our stakeholders both within and outside of our business.
3. What challenges did you face as a media entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge has been to be viewed as a professional company, in a landscape of questionable service delivery and pricing. We had to distance ourselves from brokerages. Which is why we took the big step three years ago to become an accredited agency with the ACA, joining the National Credit Regulator, and becoming a BEE Level 2 company.
Quality of staff has also been incredibly important, and I am proud of the current team representing In Touch Media. Not only are they all knowledgeable in their fields, with vast experience, but they also subscribe to the company’s ethos of service delivery with integrity.
4. Has there been a moment of success that has really stood out for you and that is your favourite on your journey? To what do you attribute your success?
The biggest joy has always been seeing a client’s success. For me, personal highlights have been:
- Growing the Green Cross brand in the time that they opened high-end stores, ensuring best exposure for their brand for the first five years, while they established their footprint across South Africa.
- Starting with one small billboard 15 years ago for the Jive soft drink brand, and growing their holding over the years to large format ads, and taxi and bus branding.
Watching brands grow is the most thrilling experience.
5. What characteristics do you think make a successful media entrepreneur?
The ability to be agile, to be able to implement strategic changes within the company quickly, and the thrill of being a valued plug-in partner to our clients, their media agencies, and their marketing strategies.
6. Your advice to young media entrepreneurs or those looking to start new media businesses?
- Make ethics, especially in pricing, your back-bone. Media is a low GP industry, which can be challenging.
- Make sure you run your company on strong administrative principles. This will reduce mistakes, and ensure that everyone in the company knows exactly how to operate.
- Ensure that your team can multi-task. In companies with low number of employees, it is vital that the whole team knows and understands all function-points within the company, and that they are able to step in to assist where needed.
7. What next from you and your media company/venture? What can people expect? Exciting upcoming projects?
We are the only independent registered agency specialising in OOH in South Africa and Africa. The combined knowledge and experience of our team of six far outweighs other companies offering OOH strategy and management services. As such, our plug-in or exclusive solution offered to direct clients, cross-platform and digital agencies, is highly valued and sought-after.
8. What, in your view, needs to happen to encourage more media entrepreneurs, and not just that, help them stay the course?
- Funding is a huge factor, as it takes time to build up clientele, and margins are tight.
- Mentoring is crucial. If you are a young media start-up, find a good mentor and join associations within your industry. These two things will not only grow you as an entrepreneur, it will also fast-track industry learning and involvement.
9. How do you pay it forward?
I believe in giving without reward and accolade. I believe in the giving of respect, and time. Paying it forward is a way of life. You either live that way in every moment of your life, or you don’t.
10. What quote or passage do you think encapsulates you and your approach to business and success?
In John Lennon’s song Darling Boy, he sings : “Before you cross the street take my hand.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
The first time I heard it, it changed my life. And as an entrepreneur – these are words to live by. The only constant in this life, is change. The sooner you accept that and roll with the punches, the quicker you’ll be to adapt, accept, and rise to each new challenge. And never forget the human connection.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com