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Digital Devaluation is rife – go for quality not quantity

By Andrew Dabbs, Digital Media Strategist at The MediaShop

A trap that many digital departments tend to fall into is to buy the cheapest online inventory, regardless of whether they are sites that you or your clients would usually steer far clear of.

Justifying cheap inventory for the sake of ‘audiences’ will only hurt the brand, and your reputation in the long run - so buy right the first time. The better the campaign’s content and quality of the online platforms the brand is being advertised on, the more likely the brand will enjoy an excellent audience.

With the digital media industry and everyone playing in the same sandpit of budget, we often get told that we can do the same as someone else at a lower price. But I believe that we need a standard of what is being brought to the table, we need to have publishers and inventory vetted so that agencies can work with accredited partners. Don’t we do this with OOH sites that need to have council approval? So why should digital be any different?

When it comes to buying cheap inventory, you’ll never see a TV planner choosing odd spots and time slots so that we can “save” budget. No, the planner works to the agreed upon AR’s and buys the right spots at the right price to ensure that the client’s ads are being seen by, most importantly, the right audience. So why when it comes to digital do agencies insist on buying at the cheapest cost?

Overall, the digital world is still a mystery for many, exacerbated by the fear of fraud, cyber-attacks, social backlash and concerns of where content is placed. But it’s not all bad out there folks, there are many good people, multiple good publishers, good tech, good agencies and really great clients. We just need to find the balance between quality and quantity. We need to invest in the right people to get the right results and most of all, we need to all upskill ourselves to know more.

It is possible to stop the devaluation of digital as a collective and no longer stand for substandard products or dream ideas of first world tech that just don’t exist. We don’t stand for substandard delivery on other media platforms, so digital should not be any different.

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What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down!

Moti Grauman, Digital Media Strategist at The MediaShop explores the Audible Logo as a crucial part of branding.

What is a brand?

As a marketer with more than 20 years' experience, I should probably know, but I am not sure that I do. We talk about things like brand building, brand love and affinity, salience, resonance and mental availability. We know what we mean, as do our clients, but that's not the same as really understanding the essence of a brand.

In his book Sapiens, Noah Yuval Harari argues that a brand is simply an agreed social construct that's lacking anything substantial. In fact, the elements of which any brand comprises are arbitrary. A brand is a not a logo, because logos change, it's not the building because companies move, it's not the management team, because employees move on, and it's not even the product, because brands diversify or change direction completely.

Inherently we know that a brand is more than that even if we can't put a finger on it. Apple is a brand because we all agree that Apple is a brand, we recognise the Apple Icon, but almost nothing about the company today existed within the Apple founded by Jobs and Wozniak in 1976.

Actually, what Harari is really getting at, is that a brand is the story it tells.

Its common knowledge that the average person is bombarded by about 7000 branded messages per day. Equally well known, is that we are not even aware of 99.9% of them, and of the 0.1% that we are aware of, we consciously absorb the message of, at best one or two.

In light of the above we must ask: does the constant branding exercise make a difference? We know it does on a subconscious level, but does that translate into a meaningful action at some point? Conversely, can a brand be damaged by the flotsam and jetsam of modern branding?

A few years ago, I heard something that fascinated me. It turns out it wasn't true, but the idea is intriguing.

By way of introduction - most of us remember our first mobile phone, especially if it was a Nokia. I was lucky enough to have the 6110. But in this context, it's not the model that's important, it's the default ring tone. No doubt you remember it: tulalala tulalala tulala la la – this obviously doesn't do it justice, but its playing in my head perfectly.

Hear it (and its evolution)!

It was based on a classical composition called Grand Vals by the Spanish Composer Francisco Tarrega, who is probably turning in his grave at the thought of what a really beautiful piece of music has ultimately become.

In 1994, Nokia selected this as their ring tone in an effort to create what was the world's first audible logo. By then many brands had an easily recognisable jingle or catch phrase, but what makes Nokia different is that they set out to create a unique sound that clearly identified the brand as unambiguously and as clearly as their visual Logo. This is already inaccurate as its demonstrably true that by this time many brands already had Audio Logos.

But as the story goes, the experiment worked and failed simultaneously. It worked in that everybody recognises the ring tone and knows it as Nokia, it failed (miserably some would say) in that it damaged the brand by creating an unsatisfactory association. It would seem that the ringing of a mobile phone is linked to stress, and therefore in the mind of the consumer Nokia was strongly associated with a stressful and often physiological response. Sweaty palms, a racing heart and a sinking sick feeling in the stomach is not the ideal response a brand wants to illicit.

The reason the story is plausible is that memories differ depending on the sense that created them. Seeing a logo every day may build up a brand association but hearing it will create an altogether different result. Together, a Visual brand and an Audio brand create a far stronger presence.

Ta da da ta da – I'm Loving it. You didn't read that, you heard it, and at the same time you probably visualised the Golden Arches.

Some brands, like McDonalds and Apple have had a "Sonic Logo" as far back as 2003 and 1984 respectively. Microsoft's sound Trademark goes back to 1995. Although it's entirely possible that it wasn't necessarily intended as a "logo"

Both Apple and Microsoft incorporated their audible logo into the consumer's user experience, further entrenching it in the mind.

So why, aren't more brands experimenting with Audible Logo's.

It turns out that lots of brands are (think about Intel, Netflix, the MGM Lion and 20th Century Fox…..) and like everything else in Media and Marketing, it's a science.

Veritonic has built tools and Market intelligence platforms specifically designed to help marketers with their Audio marketing – this includes everything from Sonic Logos to Podcast Marketing and their website includes an Audio Ad Search and Ranking system so Brands can see how their Audio matches up to competitors. It's pretty interesting stuff.

Lucas Murray of Made Music Studio says (Marketing Dive Anatomy of a Sonic Logo): "In fact, every successful sonic logo was created with intelligence, artfulness and purpose. Some companies know this and elegantly bring their brand to life through sound and music. Some companies do not, and either create an uninspired audio cue mismatched to their brand or never think to create a sonic identity at all. What is clear is that the gulf between these two types of brands is growing wider and wider as audio-first mediums, apps and experiences continue to rise in popularity. The simple fact is that if you want to reach into people's brains, hearts and pocketbooks in 2021, you must have a strong, well-designed audio presence."

That makes perfect sense. It aligns with breaking through the clutter, it matches Harari's definition of Brand, it's in sync with the need to reach consumers multiple times on various platforms.

No doubt the etymology of a brand as it refers to a product or company, is the actual Hot Iron Brand intended to burn a mark into something. Today the objective is to burn that something into the mind and consciousness of the consumer.

That's not an easy job to do, and I agree with Murray, marketers need to exploit every available tool to ensure that of the 7,000 daily messages users are exposed to everyday, their brands get through. That means: Omni-channel, multi-sensory and ubiquitous.

Audio Logos are another instrument in the marketing symphony.

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The Luxury Brand Landscape

By Teresa van den Berg, Media Strategist at The MediaShop

For some years now I've been fortunate to work on the Louis Vuitton account. It's one of the most valuable and iconic brands in the world, with a brand value of about $47.2 billion USD in 2019. After a short interlude I'm back looking after the media interests of this client again. It naturally brought me to the question of the current luxury brand landscape and the impact of the pandemic on this sector.

The 19th edition of the Bain Luxury Study states that the luxury industry has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 crisis in 2020. The overall luxury market shrank by 20% to 22% at current exchange rates, and is now estimated at approximately €1 trillion globally, back to its 2015 levels.

Despite the pandemic, the global Ultra-High-Net-Worth (UHNWI) population is set to grow by 22% over the next five years. Much of that growth is being driven by new generations of UHNWIs, born in the digital era. Bain & Company notes that Millennials and Generation Z accounted for 47% of luxury consumers in 2018 and for 33% of luxury purchases. Younger generations are set to drive 180% of the growth in the market from 2019 to 2025.

The turmoil of Covid-19 has been a catalyst for profound change in the way global luxury consumers live and shop. Various luxury players reported changes in buying behaviour as consumers' social routines adapted to lockdowns and physical distancing restrictions. High-end and low-end luxury items proved more resilient than those in the middle of the range.

It goes without saying that Online is set to become the leading channel for luxury purchases. But in order to remain relevant, brands need a new approach to attract luxury shoppers.

Augmented and virtual reality are digital tools utilised more and more. Other novel digital tools luxury brands are utilising is the ability for clients to try on goods digitally. Pinterest has released an AR tool for users in the US called Try On. The front-facing camera enables users to try on different shades of beauty products, while a swipe up feature takes them straight to the brand's website to purchase.

According to The Drum.com, one of the best ways to attract this market is through video, which sells a brand's lifestyle and heritage. Although YouTube has been the reigning platform for video, IGTV (an integrated platform within Instagram) is growing in popularity, as is the use of podcasts to reach UHNWIs. According to Saks' senior vice president and general manager of beauty, jewellery and home, podcasts enable them to “tell a longer and more intimate story” offering the department store the “ability to connect with guests on a very personal level.”

Influencer marketing is also still a crucial part of many ultra-luxury and mass market brand social strategies, but consumers are also experiencing influencer fatigue. In the luxury market, using influencers has always been fraught with concerns about authenticity and cheapening the brand. HNW and UHNW audiences only respond to brands that align with their values and social image. It seems that the traditional luxury influencer model isn't working anymore due to often inflated or fake influencer follower bases.

In its place, trend forecaster WGSN has coined the term Genuinfluencers in December 2020 referring to passionate individuals who are more interested in sharing advice than selling brands or products. They often identify as creators instead of influencers and would rather be noticed for their high-quality content than their follower count.

Predicted to be one of the biggest trends for 2021 and beyond, Genuinfluencers are typically topic experts in a certain niche, whose followers are genuinely interested in what they have to say, trusting their knowledge and seeing their advice as valuable and relevant to their interests. One would typically not see a Genuinfluencer promoting a wide variety of inconsistent products.

As an example, Gucci chose a retired fisherman, Gerald Stratford (pictured below), who loves gardening, especially 'big veg' to be the star of a collaborative video shoot with Highsnobiety for Gucci's Off The Grid 2021 collection. Gucci Off The Grid is the brand's more environmentally-focused collection, made mostly of ECONYL, a type of Nylon regenerated from abandoned fishing nets, old carpets and offcuts. The collaboration makes sense due to Stratford's passion for self-sufficient vegetable growing and love for nature.

On Facebook, the video got 1.2k likes, 53 comments and 89 shares, while the story about the so-called 'Veg King' working with Gucci was covered positively by a broad selection of publications including the Telegraph.

Working with Genuinfluencers allows brands to show their support of social issues through a trusted external voice, making their views seem authentic and reassuring their audience that their activism is not simply a marketing ploy to sell more services or products.

What is the luxury market outlook for the future? Bain forecasts growth that ranges from around 10% - 19% depending on a variety of factors such as macroeconomic conditions, the evolution of Covid-19 and the speed of return to travel globally.

They anticipate four growth engines to profoundly reshape the luxury market by 2025:

  • Chinese consumers will become a dominating nationality for luxury, growing to represent over 45% of global purchases.
  • Mainland China is to become the biggest luxury market.
  • Online is set to become the leading channel for luxury purchases.
  • Younger generations (Generations Y and Z) will be the biggest buyers of luxury, representing over two-thirds of global purchases.

Luxury players will need to not only consider economic motivations, but social motivations as well, transforming their operations and redefining their purpose to meet new customer demands and retain their relevance, especially for younger generations, who are set to drive 180% of the growth in the market from 2019 to 2025.

There will be no more talk of the luxury industry anymore, but of the market for “insurgent cultural and creative excellence.” Bain concludes that in this space, winning brands will be those that build on their existing excellence while reimagining the future with an insurgent mind-set.

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An update on the Attention Economy

Isla Prentis, Intelligence Lead at Tirisano Consulting, a division within The MediaShop

Let’s rewind to the beginning of last year. We were living in a world of increasing information and distractions. A world where we hadn’t even really heard of Covid-19. So much has changed since then, but when it comes to attention, the fight became a whole lot tougher as distraction took a giant leap forward.

We are constantly asked for the best way to win the fight in the attention economy: there is no golden formula and no single answer to the question. As with so many things in life, we need to stop worrying about the answers and go back to the questions.

Questions lead to understanding, not just knowledge. Ultimately, we’re trying to connect with a human being. A consumer is a person before they are a target market or audience bucket and although there’s a world of information about how to build a successful brand, some of it is contradictory.

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My advice is to absorb as much as possible, understand all the options and the science, and then figure out the right questions to ask. Once you know what they are, the answers will start to write themselves from the understanding that you have built. You can have the same starting point and destination, and still take a different path to get there.

My favourite word at the moment is balance. In life, we’re always told to pick a lane, pick an answer. But I truly believe that it’s all about balance. How do you balance up the different options to find the best possible answer?

There’s so much talk about engagement these days, but we need to ask ourselves what it really is. Is it a metric for your media buying? It could be, but that’s not all it is. It’s the content that determines the engagement.

In a world saturated with content, we need to make sure that our message (big or small) draws the consumer in — after all, brands no longer have the control or power.

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you might be trying to get the consumer to stay for a short or long while, but either way, the most important part is getting their attention. This world in which the consumer is in control demands authenticity and bravery.

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Together with authenticity and bravery, this is where we introduce creativity to the conversation. There are many definitions of creativity, and so there should be given the nature of the concept. For me, creativity is finding the unexpected solution.

Everything in life starts with a question or a challenge and creativity is simply solving it in an unexpected way. Make sure that you inject creativity into everything that you do. Constantly seek to find the unexpected answer, or even better — the unexpected answer to an unexpected

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If I huff and I puff…will the big bad wolf blow your house down?

Dashni Vilakazi, Managing Director at The MediaShop Johannesburg encourages companies to take a hard look at their own accountability and corporate culture.

There are many factors that could be protecting your house from coming down and not achieving real business results. I would venture that accountability and corporate culture would be two of these. Whether you’re leading a small team or a full company, the power to deliver and exceed key results really does matter and accountability is key.

A business’s corporate culture and spirit are major factors leading the accountability movement, it makes results possible and sustainable. Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings and then these structures shape us” – this is indicative of the powerful resonance a good quality performance management process can deliver when seeking good results.

I believe that it should also be every employee’s ethical responsibility to take control of a certain amount of business ownership to really understand the issues at hand and the desired results.

As a media agency, clients hire us as the experts to achieve their objectives and it’s our responsibility to realise these and then weigh up the results accordingly. Once achieved, it’s time to stretch accountability in yourself and your team to adjust the end game and magnify those results even further.

How does this impact the culture when you communicate business objectives to the team? When both parties are in synergy and have a good understanding of the company’s objectives, behaviour and actions combine to steer demonstrable ownership, motivation and engagement.

The practice of partnering with employees to define key results timeously and positively also impacts a company’s ownership culture. When the process and result is congruent, there is a systemic response that compounds trust, aggregation of ownership and a clear sense of accountability. An ownership and response culture then begins.

Engagement with employees is often overlooked but your frontline team should never be excluded as they need to be aware of key objectives so that they can shape the customer brand experience, which will positively reflect on the bottom line.

Sometimes however, this can go awry. A disconnect materialises when the performance management process fails to link up the macro key objectives to an individual’s key performance indicators in an understandable and customised method.

Accountability must be tracked consistently through weekly and monthly tracking metrics that presents a triage in the dashboard of delivery. This enables the employee’s productivity to run in tandem to the macro business objectives. Every piece of work should be connected to the company’s organisational imperatives. Repetition is vital until the message reaches home.

When strength and tenacity is injected into a muscularly strong management process that is being tracked consistently, it allows for adjustments to be tailored more easily to address a changing business environment. This will positively and proficiently impact action.

When the key primacy for results change, so should the company’s tactics. The resultant effect of not modifying these dashboards and project plans immediately, drives experience dissonance from team to customer, allowing the big bad wolf passage into your structure.

Engagement across the whole value chain when leading this adjustment is so critical as it supports the value system of trust and partnering with your team. Ownership, greater engagement and leadership will drive better management control for resolving business achievements.

To maximise business efficacy, defend and protect your company’s vulnerability - create an authentic open-door culture that speeds up the ability to solve problems and deepen real engagements.

Protect your house from the big bad wolf and cement your brick force structure so solidly so that he cannot even get in through the chimney of discord.

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Park Advertising invests in community radio across the country

The riots and looting that took place earlier this month affected so many businesses and livelihoods, but it also showed South Africa’s true colours of empathy, unity and resilience.

Amongst the victims of destruction were four community radio stations brought to their knees. Alex FM in Alexandra, MAMS Radio in Mamelodi, West Side FM in Kagiso and Intokozo FM, in Durban all suffered catastrophic losses. But once again South African business has come to the rescue.

Park Advertising, which encompasses media agencies The MediaShop and Meta Media, Tirisano Consulting and most recently Lucid Media, has as a Group assisted three of these stations, namely Intokozo FM, MAMS FM, and Westside FM to purchase essential studio equipment and transmitters to enable these stations to get back on air.

Park Advertising’s Group MD Chris Botha says that community radio stations are one of the most essential media cogs in South Africa. “Communities have been torn apart and community radio has the opportunity and ability to bring people together and develop positive narratives. Without community radio, we start to lose the fabric of community.

While we’re pleased to be in a position to assist, we would like to challenge every business and individual in South Africa to support affected communities as a priority because we need to rebuild our faith in each other as much as we need to rebuild our country.”

Dashni Vilakazi, Managing Director at The MediaShop Johannesburg and Kagiso Musi, Managing Director at Meta Media agree. “South Africans have proved time and time again just how incredible we are in coming together when tragedy strikes,” says Kagsio. “But we’d like to see more businesses and private citizens get involved. The smallest gestures can make the biggest difference in someone’s life. Be kinder, donate your time where you can or even just clearing out unwanted clothing can change someone’s life for the better.”

Dashni adds: “South Africa has been through so much in the last 18 months, but the last few weeks have also shown how incredibly quickly we can bounce back, if we work together. Assisting these community radio stations to get back on air has been crucial for our democratic and editorial freedom, but there is still so much more to be done. Let’s show the world our collective mettle by coming together to rebuild South Africa stronger than before.”

 

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The growth and decline of ad spend during the pandemic

By Muhle Hlabano, Business Unit Manager at The MediaShop

We all know that 2020 was a disruptive year due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Varying Lockdown Levels resulted in a contracted SA economy, a significant drop in advertising spend and several sectors completely shut down, not unlike what we’re experiencing now during adjusted Level 4.

Last year, most sectors operated online, and many began the move to work from home. This shifted a lot of consumer behaviour habits and media consumption patterns as people lived, shopped, worked and entertained themselves differently. Behaviours that would have taken years to change literally happened overnight.

Advertisers had to adjust their marketing strategies constantly to adapt to this new norm, and according to AC Nielsen and IAB, the total ad spend for South Africa in 2020 was just over R41 billion, based on rate card values. This represents a 7% decline overall due to the pandemic and lockdowns interruptions.

Table 1. Spend Report 2018 -2020 Growth Rates

Sources AC Nielsen and IAB

The real decline is actually greater as these amounts reported do not account for the discounts on rate card rates negotiated. The fall was noted across all ATL (above the line) media channels with the exception of TV that flat lined and digital which posted a significant growth of 21%.

The growth in digital is an indicative shift in most strategies by advertisers aligning their marketing efforts with the shifts in consumer media habits. Where did most of the ad spend in digital go? From table 4 below you can see that paid search and social made up 75% of the digital spend.

Nielsen and IAB

Table 2. Digital View in South AfricaSources AC

Table 5. ATL Spend Report 2020 vs 2019 spend Variance

Sources AC Nielsen

Doing a deep dive going into 2020, ATL compared with 2019 month by month, we can see that in the first two months most media was on track to be better than 2019 but 2020 had other plans.

The first hard Lockdown had a significant impact across all media types, all reporting a negative growth in this period. Electronic media started recovering with TV becoming positive in the fourth quarter only when the country entered Level 1.

The top three categories in 2020 were FMCG with 26% share of spend, Retail (22%) and Financial Services with 18% share of spend.

And how did the top advertisers adjust?

Table 6. Top 15 ADVERTISERS

Sources AC Nielsen

The top advertiser changed with Unilever taking over from Shoprite who had been dominant in previous years although Unilever has been steadily increasing their spend over the past three years. This shows the resilience of the FMCG category during the lockdowns especially since we were all at home more and sanitizing everything in sight. This result is also not surprising considering the toilet paper shortages in the initial lockdowns…

The question becomes whether we will see this carry over to 2022 and onwards or if we’ll experience more dramatic shifts in advertising media spend patterns across media platforms?

We at The MediaShop are definitely keeping our eyes on all development.

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Programmatic Digital out of Home has arrived…Ifikile EMzansi!

By Lukanyo Bushwana, Strategist at The MediaShop

Covid-19 has undeniably acted as a catalyst to speed up digital adoption and introduce new trends at a rate that few could have predicted. As a result, the vast majority of marketers have refocused their digital efforts and rightfully so; you fish where the fish are.

Every impression is an opportunity. As consumers begin what is now called “revenge spending”, brands need to be more discoverable than ever before. Increased ease of movement and what people can do provide opportunities to influence consumers, where every impression is an opportunity to connect. To make use of this, marketers should use dynamic creative information, choose inventory near points of interest and understand the mobility patterns of their granular audiences.

In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about Programmatic Digital out of Home (pDOOH) and how it will revolutionize the OOH industry and change the way marketers and brands buy media space and how media owners sell OOH. Obviously, pDOOH has already been in existence in some of the biggest markets or the so called ‘first world countries’ but what’s exciting is that a few South African OOH suppliers are investing in this type of media.

So what is Programmatic Digital out of Home?

Programmatic digital out of home, refers to the automated buying, selling, and delivery of out of home advertising or ads on digital billboards and signage. With programmatic DOOH, computers automate the sale and delivery of ad content in a similar way to what you see with most online advertising. Buyers will set conditions under which they want to buy media, and when those conditions are met, ads are then purchased automatically.

Brands can achieve some real benefits when programmatic DOOH is planned and activated within an omni-channel programmatic campaign. Programmatic methods have expanded the traditional perception of OOH purely as a brand-building medium, to incorporate performance driven objectives and, in these unpredictable times, programmatic OOH could be the best advertising weapon for brands.

One of the biggest advantages of this medium is its ability to run hugely impactful ads on premium digital sites with relevance and flexibility. Creative can be adjusted at the click of a button in response to time sensitive information like sports results, breaking news or even the change in weather.

A good example of pDOOH is from an international food delivery brand called foodora. This brand used weather, time of day, and location data to drive a creative campaign effectively within a very relevant programmatic DOOH campaign. Audiences were delivered different messages at lunch and around dinnertime. They were prompted to go for a nice walk to pick up their food if it was sunny, and to treat themselves to delivery when it was raining. The restaurants suggested to them were different depending on where they were located when seeing the ad. All of this was accomplished without any additional input from foodora once the campaign had been set up. See link below to view the foodora case study.

Add to that, digital OOH is 100% fraud-free, safe and transparent due to its broadcast nature, so there’s no risk of ad-blockers, viewers skipping the ad or campaigns appearing in undesirable or unsuitable locations.

As a media strategist myself, I am very excited about this platform and can’t wait to execute brilliant creative ideas that will probably bring me my first media accolade!

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It’s Digital or Die!

By Claire Herman, Media Operations Manager at The MediaShop

For many years we have been hearing this – if you don’t keep up with digital advancements, you will be left behind, and the fall will be rapid and quite brutal! If it hasn’t happened already, how much longer can brands hold on before this becomes a reality? I suspect not much longer – COVID-19 has sped up the world and if you have been ignoring this warning up until now, you and your brand will soon be left in the dust – irrelevant, forgettable and replaceable.

The time has come to develop “phygital” expertise in a digital world.

From a client and brand perspective, you can’t ignore the audience shifts and the levels of engagement that we are seeing in the digital space. In a recent McKinsey survey of global consumer sentiment (April 2021), the COVID-19 pandemic has driven rapid adoption of digital channels across countries and industries, and even as the pandemic eases up and we “return to normal”, digital consumption post-COVID is far higher than pre-COVID by an average of 20%, especially amongst developing countries. In addition, given digital’s borderless nature, once exposed to best-in-class experiences and offerings, consumers won’t settle for less – improved user experience, better offerings, and increased security and privacy need to be a key focus for brands, as well as developing “phygital” expertise, using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world to provide a unique interactive experience for consumers.

Our Media Owner partners have an important role to play here – how do they develop and integrate their offline and online platforms seamlessly and evolve their offerings to accommodate this significant shift in the way people experience brands? They need to be flexible and continually re-evaluate their offerings to remain relevant and at the forefront of technological change. We have all seen what has happened in the print space, with very few publishers surviving the past year – let this be a stark reminder to the Television, Radio and Out Of Home Media Owners that offerings such as live streaming, podcasts, social media and influencer integration, etc. will help keep them relevant in a constantly evolving space.

Digital Integration is no longer a nice-to-have – it is an imperative.

From a media agency perspective, digital integration is critical. The way that people consume media (and experience brands) is much more blurred, with seamless consumer journeys online and offline, and often at the same time. The need to develop hybrid strategists and planners who fully understand the role of digital in the consumer journey and how it needs to work with traditional channels is an imperative. Here we need to ensure that a couple of things happen:

  1. Up-skilling our teams is critical, not only ensuring that “traditional” strategists and planners understand all things digital, but also that the digital teams understand the interplay between online platforms and offline platforms very well.
  2. Facilitate continual learning through mentorship programmes – the more informal training ground that will give practical on-the-job experience, with on-going and current real-life scenarios to “sink your teeth into”, should not be under-estimated.
  3. Actively work on breaking down the silos – I fully appreciate that we still need specialists in the digital space, especially due to the incredibly intense nature of these campaigns and the amount of attention needed to switch on, track and optimise, but the more we separate the disciplines, the more disjointed our campaigns will be, and consumers will notice it.

This last point speaks to a general challenge in our industry as a whole – having separate agencies for different channels. I am always quite shocked to see pitches and tenders that still separate traditional and digital services. That isn’t to say that it can’t be done – we have many accounts that are split between agencies – it just requires a lot more time and energy to pull things together, and at the end of the day, the speed to market will be compromised. Unless of course, deadlines can’t be shifted, which just ends up putting a huge amount of pressure on the agency and client teams to deliver.

I would argue that streamlining service providers is a whole lot more efficient and effective, so in this world of “digital or die” why is this still happening? I am generalising here, but in large part it is because there is a skills shortage, plus our systems and structures just haven’t adapted. If we don’t adapt and speed up our evolution, we will also end up being irrelevant, forgettable and replaceable…

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What’s up with data privacy in South Africa?

By Jarred Mailer-Lyons, Head of Digital at The MediaShop

The paranoia is real and if you’re worried about your devices listening in to your conversations and tracking your every move then it’s time to disable, de-activate and delete…

I was recently interviewed on East Coast Radio (ECR) about our phones tracking every move we make, the conversations we have and actions we take. While we don’t know exactly what data is stored, shared and used by some of the global tech giants – we do know that consumer data is core to their multibillion dollar services they offer to market.

Now when I talk about deactivating and disabling – I’m specifically referring to voice assistants, otherwise you may as well be living back in the arc ages as most of the devices and apps we use today collect some form of data in order to provide their users with the best possible experience. But have you ever noticed relevant ads emerging on sites after mentioning something in a conversation? Like that time you were chatting to your significant other about a quick getaway over the long weekend and then ‘suddenly’ started seeing ads of accommodation, car rentals and cheap flights? Or when you were considering buying a new car and then were immediately bombarded with ads for car enthusiasts and deals on the latest versions? Is it mind boggling and just a coincidence, like when you’ve noticed a car you’re interested in and then suddenly see every second person has one on the road or, are our phones actually listening in on our conversations?

So the real question is, are our phones allowed to be tracking literally everything we say and do?

Firstly, you need to start thinking about more than just your mobile phone collecting your data or listening in on your conversations. If of course if you are concerned, it’s important for you to recognise just how many different kinds of sensors you have allowed into your home and office that are constantly collecting this data and listening in.

By taking a deeper look at Google’s policies and some research and methodologies around data collection, we can start understanding how and why it is collected and of course their policy around sharing this data over to third parties.

We use Google suite of tools so often that it’s almost hard to think of as a set of products and services. According to the 2021 SA Hootsuite report, the Google search service alone was ranked as the top website locally with over 350M visits for the month of December 2020 along with 16.5M unique users accessing the search platform alone - that’s over 43% of all users who have access to the internet in SA. Now that’s a significant portion of the online population with only one month’ worth of data.

For me, Google is a way of life – a tool that is a solution and has a significant impact on nearly all of my daily decisions, from choosing the perfect recipe to cook for dinner, to accessing my personal emails and of course searching for the nearest store that stocks that pair of sneakers I’ve been longing for. Whether it’s the Gmail platform, where I send and receive all my emails, or the Google Maps mobile app, which I am completely dependent on to know where I am, Google has a myriad of ways of collecting our data.

From some of the articles I’ve read and researched over the past couple months, Google certainly collects and stores the most amount of data on their consumers by far. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise as their business model relies so heavily on collecting this data and making it simple enough for you to access on the go - from identifying your precise location when using the Google Maps app to pre-empting your browsing history when typing in the URL address bar. If it’s data, there’s a good chance that Google is collecting it.

So, just how many different types of data sources are they actually collecting?

Well, I’m sure there is infinite list which we’ll most likely never even get sight of but here are a few that you would most likely have already suspected. The data around usage reports are an obvious one to include but is certainly not limited to your IP address, crash reports, system activity, date, time, and referrer URL of your requests along with data about interactions between apps, browser and device type, app usage, carrier name, and last but certainly not least the operating system. There’s probably nothing for you to really be worried about here unless you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing?

But on a more personal level, they’re also collecting data on your name, phone number, payment information if you’ve made any purchases through Google, your email address and a very sensitive, contentious and questionable data source which I always believed was part of their data collection is around content in any of the emails you’ve sent and received. Just when I was writing this, right at the top of my Gmail account, I came across a notification advising me that Google is in fact not collecting my personal email content data for ‘ads purposes’… but the question remains, are they collecting it for other reasons which we’re potentially unaware of?

Well, that’s all that we know of when it comes to the collection of personal consumer data but apart from all that profile they’re building around you as a consumer, they’re also collecting and storing info about your interactions with videos, photo’s, documents and spreadsheets you’ve stored. Of course Google Search is a no brainer especially since it is such a widely used platform globally but they’re also keeping track of the videos you watch across the Google stack and the interactions you make with various pieces of content and ads and, if a third-party site uses Google services, your activity is also tracked on those sites and apps.

Google is not only tracking your browsing history if you use the Chrome browser linked to a Google account but they’re also keeping track of your Google calls including the collection and storing of called and received numbers, forwarding numbers, times and dates, call durations, routing info and the various types of calls. As far as location goes, Google keeps track of you via GPS and information that pings specific device sensors like Wi-Fi access points, cell phone towers, or Bluetooth-enabled devices. Phew…that was a mouthful!

But aside from maintaining your services to the Google stack, they really collect your data to personalise ads and content based on your specific preferences. Google also then uses that data to measure the performance of ads and then shares that data with advertisers so they can create ads that are even more effective through their targeting and tactic opportunities. That’s where our area as digital media experts really comes in.

In the conversation I had with ECR a couple weeks back, I spoke about consumers sometimes (and for me most times) ignoring T’s & C’s. I think a simple question here is when you signed up to Facebook, did you read their T’s & C’s and give your consent for them to share your data across their entire eco-system across the likes of Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp? I’m sure if you use WhatsApp, you would have also recently received the latest notification within the app asking you to read and approve their latest privacy policy? I know I didn’t… I just hit the submit button. I find that they are quite laborious and rather difficult to read with some very high-level legal language. Sometimes we give our uninformed consent without even acknowledging what data is being used and shared across other platforms.

There’s a multitude of sensors tracking your conversations which you’ve most likely provided your consent to do already and that interconnection of sensors and tracking of conversations are key components for these major tech giants. They then use algorithms to pick up on keywords in conversation to better personalise your ad experience.

Now if you’re anything like me and do your research before making a significant purchase, you’re most likely going to consult with your family and friends (WhatsApp chats), ask your local community groups (Facebook groups), search the Google directory and then possibly go in-store before making the purchase (Google Maps). Just think about how many different data cues within each platform that you’ve just provided data to outside of the standard data collection points I spoke to earlier.

But can we stop our devices from knowing everything?

Well it’s definitely possible but it’s certainly not going to be an easy task. You would need to start by looking at all the devices you have in your home – from smart TV’s to Wi-Fi enabled gaming devices and CCTV’s… even your connected doorbell is essentially collecting your data and while you would expect these devices to be used for the intended purposes, they can sometimes be abused. Then you need to go back and read all the T’s & C’s across all devices and apps you’ve ever downloaded. That’s a big task in itself.

Obviously to remain POPI compliant, their T’s & C’s would be updated and should detail what data is being collected and of course what is being shared within their eco-systems and 3rd parties if any. Of course if you get through that long list without having consulted your legal dictionary and you don’t necessarily agree with their T’s & C’s, then don’t forget the three ‘D’ terms I spoke about right upfront…

Disable your location data and voice enabled software across all your devices (Siri, Bixby, Alexa and the like).

De-activate any connections to 3rd party apps or requests for sharing of data.

Delete any apps where you don’t agree with their collection methodologies, use of, and sharing of data.

Yes, it will most likely remind you of living through the early 90’s again but that’s unfortunately the spin off to disconnecting your data linkages to the various tech giants out there. Lastly you need to ask yourself, is the risk of your privacy and safety worth the benefits?

I’m hoping that this blog post helps in guiding your decisions going forward when downloading apps or buying new connected devices, but I speak from personal experience and I am sure you can relate that when you get a new smart device or download an app, you want to have it up and running as quickly as possible. We all crave that instant gratification and so it’s easy to race through the settings and agree to various types of data collection, sharing and storage, without thinking twice about it.

So my suggestion is really to just stop for a minute, read through and digest the T’s & C’s and then click ‘I Agree’ if of course you do…

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