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Brand longevity – a lesson from Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Thuso Mmotlana, Buyer at The MediaShop

With all the noise and clutter in the market, how can a brand illuminate itself to have a long productive life and make a mark in cultural and artistic history?

On Tuesday the 11th February I heard the sad news of Professor Bhekizizwe Joseph Shabalala’s passing. He was the founding member of the Is’cathamiya group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Taken aback by the news I listened further as the ENCA reporter gave a short eulogy. Talking about his early life and origin, she went on to say that Bab’ Shabalala founded the band in 1960 – I paused for a moment and thought “1960? That means this year the group will be celebrating 60 years of existence”, which is an incredible feat for a group of roughly ten band members, touring the world and winning prestigious awards without scandalous reports and ego clashes.

My mind started racing as I asked myself what it takes to build that kind of a brand that is consistent, beyond reproach and stands the test of time such as this amazing group. So out of interest I googled ‘what keeps a brand alive over an extended period of time?’ These were the top tips I found on this matter, aka Marketing 101.

Have a distinct brand identity – this includes the visible elements of a brand like its name, colours, design and logo that distinguish it in consumers’ minds. It’s important for a brand to be bold from the onset about who they are and what they do, this sets them apart from their competitors and carves out a unique journey for the product/service. For Ladysmith Black Mambazo part of their ID is in their name and in the visual presentation of their unique Dashiki shirts, formal pants and bright white shoes, which are/ very visible when dancing and lifting their legs in the air.

Relevance and Resonance – another way to keep a brand alive is by identifying a need in the market and continuing to meet it. A sure fire way of remaining relevant is also by constantly being truthful and authentic in all endeavours taken by the brand. LSBM achieved that in its formative years.

Performing during a difficult time in South Africa and with racial tensions quickly escalating, the groups’ purpose was to bring a message of peace, kindness and hope amongst the people of the world, which is still a relevant message today. They also remained authentic to themselves while using their voices acapella style. 

Have a growth strategy or succession plan – if any brand is to live long after its founders have gone its growth strategy should be to groom young talent for key leadership positions and to impart skills to the younger generation. For Bab’ Shabalala and his team the solution was easy – he and his band members taught and trained their children to sing, so now the younger band members are sons of the original band members with one grandson even joining. Thamsanqa is now the lead singer of the band since his father’s retirement in 2014.

The last but not least important tip to keeping a brand alive is Courage and Self-Belief. The courage to stick to your guns and be consistent in who and what this brand is. In an environment where there are many different influences that could’ve enticed LSBM to change their indigenous sound, they were courageous and took a chance on what was true to them. They believed in themselves and over 60 years later, with more than 50 albums released and five Grammy awards won, the Group has toured worldwide with the likes of Paul Simon and Nelson Mandela. They even sang for Queen Elizabeth III and they’re still going strong.

The brand journey is far from over for this band but I’ll park my thoughts about what makes a brand have longevity and stand the test of time right here. There are a lot more aspects of what makes a brand great but I found these to be the most influential in pushing a brand forward, just as it did for the Legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Rest in Peace Professor Bhekizizwe Joeseph Mshengu Mxoveni BigBoy Shabalala,

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The MediaShop evolves into a fully-fledged IMC, intelligence led agency

Award winning media agency, The MediaShop began its evolution into an integrated marketing and communications (IMC) agency in 2019, and is now ready to make the transition final. The move allows the agency to offer business solutions beyond media that will be informed by data and behavioural economics, says Kgaugelo Maphai, The MediaShop’s Johannesburg MD.

Led by Victor Koaho as the agency’s IMC Head, the company’s new direction is promising great insight driven strategies. “We’re massively excited about our new direction which is already yielding positive results,” he says. “As an IMC agency we’re able to truly look at a business from all angles and address any shortcomings that may exist, beyond the realm of media planning. We’ll be taking a bird’s eye view of each client’s business in its entirety and offering workable solutions.”

Kgaugelo adds: “This is the foundation and investment we have made as a business to ensure that we differentiate ourselves, and that we are able to deliver even better results together with our clients in 2020 and beyond. Our vision is to be pioneers in revolutionary communication solutions for brands to connect with consumers — we can only achieve this by truly being in touch with consumers in this diverse society of ours.”

“With budgets being constrained, some brands are sticking to tried-and-tested methods, and therefore limiting the amount of innovation required to break through the clutter,” he says. “We are not seeing as much creativity as a result, which is unfortunate, because this is when we need it most.”

Backing the agency’s new direction is Tirisano Consulting, the agency’s human intelligence business headed by Isla Prentis that underpins all strategic work on intelligence led consumer insights.

The MediaShop:

The MediaShop is South Africa’s most established, most awarded, most transformed media agency, and member of the Nahana Communications Group of specialist agencies, each with their own independent structures, cultures and management teams, and a desire to work together where synergy exists.

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Are you Offended?

Moti Grauman, Digital Media Strategist at The MediaShop

Perhaps it’s time to stop being so sensitive! Then again, perhaps we are not sensitive enough. It’s a tough nut to crack.

Towards the end of 2019, 702 Afternoon Drive Host, Joanne Joseph, featured two local ads on her show. It was only a five minute segment, but during that time she interviewed the CEO of the ASA to discuss the future of two different ads.

The first was the ‘more than a mouthful’ billboard by Kota Joe (pictured below) and the second was the radio ad for VW Amorak: Shoe Sale Country.

The radio ad depicts a man in a mall who is accompanying his shoe-shopping female partner. The voiceover reports from the scene:

“It’s dusk and you’re in unfamiliar territory, surrounded by predators hunting for fresh prey. And they found it. 50% off all shoes. They attack, lunging mercilessly. As you guard the 12 shopping bags, seated on a bench alongside the other men, you watch the feeding frenzy take place. This is Shoe Sale Country and you don’t belong here, man. This is not your habitat, so go where you belong in the V6 Amarok… Visit your Volkswagen dealership for great Amarok V6 offers today, man.”

Ultimately the podcast of that 702 discussion was entitled: “Gender Stereotyping in advertising”.

To be fair, that’s exactly what Joseph was discussing, and it was certainly claimed that Gender Stereotyping was evident in both pieces of creative.

During the show, the ASA CEO agreed that the Kota Joe ad was sexist, and that it objectified women as nothing more than sexual objects for the gratification of men. But that may be a bit of a stretch.

No doubt, many would agree it’s not a fantastic ad, but extrapolating the entire meaning of women in the minds of all men from one photograph in bad taste, is a bit ambitious.

As it turns out, the VW Amarok Radio ad which ran on 702, was actually banned by the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) on the grounds that it was Gender Stereotyping.

This was widely reported at the time, and recently Professor Goldstein, the original complainant against VW for the Shoe Sale Country Ad, wrote an article defending her position. I recommend reading it in order to understand her motivation and to be able to reach your own conclusions. In her article, Professor Goldstein raises some pretty scary issues prevalent in SA society. There are indeed problems, and we need to be aware of them.

I just struggle with the assertion that a Radio ad causes or perpetuates these problems.

So….

How do we differentiate between communication or products that are truly offensive, or dangerous, and communication or products that are simply lacking in sensitivity toward consumers outside of their intended audience? Right at this moment consumers can buy Auschwitz-Birkenau themed beach towels online, but not a Country Road bag in colours reminiscent of the old SA apartheid flag. The latter having been removed from stores due to pressure by consumers. By that standard, shouldn’t we all be boycotting Visa based on their old logo?

Perhaps we are taking it all just a tad too far?

Additionally…

Where do we draw the line between stereotyping and the holy grail of advertising, the elusive “Human Truth”? That is the insight into our consumers, that’s true while simultaneously being humorous, frightening or exciting, that causes an emotional reaction that makes advertising resonate with us.

Something that isn’t stereotypical would be irrelevant to most consumers.

Is it true, as the VW complaint contends, that the advert demeans women? That it says that “they are like predators, in a feeding frenzy – building into the stereotype that women are superficial and consumerist, relying on men to provide”?

To be honest, I don’t see it? The ad implies that some women like shoe sales. Well, that’s true.

Is pointing that out and exaggerating the enthusiasm a good strategy for selling cars? Perhaps not, but is it really,…..really dangerous?

To quote from Professor Goldstein’s article: “According to the UN Human Rights Office harmful gender stereotypes are one of the “root causes for discrimination, abuse and violence…”

I don’t doubt that for a moment. But is this ad a Harmful Gender Stereotype? Some people think so. Others disagree.

As a society, are we too easily offended by ads that don’t strike the exact right chord in their consumers and begin a witch hunt ultimately causing a storm in a tea cup?

In both cases, the ads got a lot of more coverage from the reaction to them. The VW ad banning was covered by a few media platforms including Business InsiderCar magazine, 2Oceans Vibe and Bizcommunity. These articles were later referenced on chat groups and shared to social media. Had the ads just run, they would both be long gone, but both the Professor and I are still writing about them.

Brands don’t seem to be able to win because you can’t please everyone all the time. In March last year, “@TheMedicalShots” tweeted the following image, with the caption: “This is cute isn’t it”?

I thought so, but the backlash was intense!

One user responded: “How did you tweet this from the year 1950?” Another replied: “Nope. It’s tacky and misogynistic. Delete your account.”

A user demanded that they delete their account because she didn’t like what they said? How self-entitled and sanctimonious is that? Why didn’t she just unfollow?

The problem, of course, is that the girl isn’t the doctor. But had she been, men might have been offended. Why didn’t they make them both doctors? That would have offended Nurses. It’s clear to me that this isn’t a statement of how the world works, or the unlimited capabilities of the female gender. It’s just a cute picture of some toddlers holding hands.

Why can’t it just be that?

A few years ago, I saw an ad that literally knocked the wind out of me. The ad was entitled: “Dad is Leaving”. It shows a teary man hugging his little girl goodbye, with bags packed by the open front door. The catch phrase is: “If there’s no Jacobs, it’s not worth stickin’ around”.

I hated the ad, it truly offended me. How can the brand possibly prioritise coffee over family? But that ridiculous comparison was exactly what made it so funny to the many other consumers who saw it.

In truth, I don’t buy Jacobs Coffee, but I do think of that ad every time I see the brand. Does that make it a good ad or a great ad?

Advertising is an art form.

Can we condemn and punish brands every time they misjudge their audience? Or should we quietly protest bad ads in the most effective way possible: By not buying their products……..

I would never buy an Auschwitz-Birkenau themed beach towel, and I don’t want to associate with anyone who would. In fact I personally think that no one should be able to buy them. As it turns out I have a long list of products that I think no one should be able to buy. So thankfully it’s not up to me.

We really don’t have any standard measure for defining what is truly offensive and harmful. My reaction to the Jacobs Coffee, VW and Kota Joe Ads was personal. Society isn’t bound by my reactions and I shouldn’t be bound by anyone else’s. Unless someone is being physically harmed or denigrated, I feel that ads should be free to run and to face whatever reaction individual consumers have.

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Getting more plenty from #20plenty!

Arisha Saroop, Business Unit Manager at The MediaShop Durban

School fees, extravagant Christmas presents, the family getaway and home maintenance – all this coupled with the usual cellphone, bond and car repayment bills means that after the festive fun and cheer from December, the majority of South Africans are left counting their Rands and cents into the now coined (mind the pun) month of Januworry!

With many still reeling from the unnecessary splurges on Black Friday, we jumped straight into further irrational spending over the festive period – with an estimated R250 million pumped into the economy; leaving many in debt as reported in an article on News24.

The World Bank’s Global Findex Database showed that South Africans are among the top borrowers in the world – with consumer debt totalling nearly R1.7 trillion according to the latest Consumer Default Index. That’s nearly as much as our government’s debt of more than R2 trillion!

The negative effect of consumer debt has carved a gap in the market for Debt Counselling/ Relief as a genre. With marketers capitalizing on the month of “Januworry” to reinforce a positive affinity, competitions to have your unpaid bills settled is a convivial campaign to listen out for within the Debt counselling/Credit Bureaus genre. The advertising spend in this category has reflected an increase of 173% from R54m in 2016 to R148m in 2019; with a 15.5% increase from 2018 to 2019.

In a perfect world, everyone would be debt free but in order to attain a small portion of this aspiration we should start by reducing unnecessary expenses (say no to those “Up to 70% off Sales”) and adopt an attitude of saving.

As 2020 is still new; it’s a great time for a fresh beginning and to attain a positive monetary standing by espousing simple, user friendly resolutions to gain financial freedom from your debt.

Here are five easy steps to being more financial savvy:

  1. Long term goals – as timeworn as it may sound, it is worth it. Start the year with the end in mind. Set goals, prioritize them and save either daily, weekly or monthly. Your goal may be saving towards the vacation of your dreams or a new set of wheels. Whatever it is, work towards it from day one and budget, budget, budget!
  2. Cancel what’s not needed. In 2019 I personally saved R3708 by cancelling a rewards programme on my medical aid. Why? I made no effort to increase my standing within the tiers 10 years after joining, so all I was gaining from the rewards programme was the base peaks. I continued to ‘pay’ for the programme in my savings account – can you say easy money!
  3. Reduced Interest rate – with the recent drop in the interest rate, it’s important to not reduce your monthly repayments because you’ll reap the rewards of paying off your debts sooner than your mortgaged term. As an example, and based on a R1m mortgage over 20 years you could potentially save R165 per month. By maintaining your usual repayment, you could save R76k and knock off a whole year from your total repayment according to finance journalist Maya Fischer-French.
  4. Garage Sale – aside from the positive upliftment and reduction of spousal nag, decluttering your home space saves you money. You can either donate (positive upliftment), recycle (reduce your carbon footprint) or first prize – sell your preloved items either online or through the old school garage sale method. The trick here is to make sure the money earned is put straight into savings.
  5. Make informed choices – especially when you’re looking to purchase big ticket items like household appliances. Search for the best deals, research products online and check the consumer reviews or enquire about after sales service and warranties. These practices will all give you piece of mind that every cent you spend towards your purchase was based on a well informed decision. Do due diligence to your purchases!

After all is said and done, I do hope the tips above will succour to offer the best solutions and encourage those who are keen to save.

There is no better time to save than now – make your #20plenty Plenty.

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Building bridges in 2020 to succeed together

Gareth Grant, Business Unit Manager, The MediaShop

At the end of last year, my wife travelled to New York City for business. In my boredom, I was left aimlessly Googling interesting facts about the city. Did you know for instance, that over 120 years ago five boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island) were consolidated to create the city of New York? Some of these boroughs are islands, like Manhattan and are connected to others by bridges. There are also over 2,000 bridges in New York City with 21 major bridges connecting Manhattan. This was quite interesting to me and piqued my curiosity about bridges – clearly my boredom had hit rock bottom while my wife was away. These thoughts also made me realise the similarities between these giant structures and good business relationships.

I’ve never really given much thought about bridges and the engineering behind them and yet we use them quite often in everyday life. These icons were built to span a physical obstacle in order to provide easy passage and just like linking Manhattan to the rest of New York City – bridges enable connection.

While planning for 2020, the topic of connection is very top of mind for me. No doubt about it, 2019 was a tough year with the state of our economy, load-shedding and the likes and 2020 has arrived with its own challenges. Constant alignment on plans and objectives will be key to succeed in business, and I really want to focus on making sure I am connected with my colleagues, clients, partners and the industry.

Bridges come in all shapes and sizes, just like relationships, but what they all have in common is the engineering aspects that keep them up. Firstly, they have to be built on good, solid foundations on both sides in order to have structural rigidity and withstand some of Mother Nature’s “temper tantrums”. Without solid foundations it would be difficult to construct the centre of the bridge and it would crumble. The same is true for relationships. Both sides need solid structures in place in resources, communication and processes.

Secondly, to keep the bridge in place and prevent collapse, there are several important forces that bridges must withstand. Two of the most important forces are compression and tension. These forces provide the push and pull required to keep these engineering phenomenons standing. Similarly with relationships we need to withstand some forces. There will be times where there is tension, but tension can be good if it’s constructive. After all, tension is part of keeping the bridge up. There will also be times when clients and agency partners push each other. This push is often uncomfortable, but it is in the uncomfortable situations where we grow. So if we wish to grow, be and do better in 2020, then let’s have these two forces at play.

Thirdly, a solid bridge or relationship needs to be able to withstand unforeseen forces, like extreme weather conditions, unexpected events, accidents, and unplanned changes in the industry or economy, which can all create additional stress, but when relationships (and bridges) are built on solid foundations, these can be overcome.

And finally, relationships, just like bridges will require “maintenance” in order to keep it in good standing so that both parties prosper and have a mutually beneficial year. Inspectors and engineers look for signs that indicate when a bridge is stressed and damaged. Similarly in a business relationship, communication is critical to indicate to each other when we are strained.

Personally, I look forward to what 2020 has in store for my relationships and I look forward to the gains, strength and growth that come with the uncomfortable push and pull. We may find ourselves doing things we had never thought of, and unlocking huge opportunities in the process.

I also look forward to the maintenance of my existing relationships as much as I look forward to building some solid new ones.

So let 2020 be the year where we remain strong in tense times and where we drive connection and build bridges.

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On branded weddings and the point of saturation

Andile Qokweni, Business Unit Manager at The MediaShop

On Friday the 8th of November a common man like you and me was spotted proposing to a woman at a KFC. I’m sure when he played this scenario in his head, he had very little idea how this proposal would actually change his life in the short term. The man was recorded on camera and his actions were very quickly shared on social media.

The initial response to this noble action was very negative – one person on Twitter ranted: “SA men are broke they even propose at KFC…They have absolutely no class, I mean who proposes at KFC?? #KFCProposal”. But here was an opportunity for the brand to turn negative sentiment to positive because love is inherently free, it cannot be bought, sold or traded, even though the initial sentiment alluded to the fact that in modern times there’s a value associated to love.

As soon as KFC saw the opportunity to reinforce some of these “love” principles, the video went viral and a nationwide search for the couple began with South African social media going into overdrive to find Nonhlanhla Soldaat and Hector Mkansi, the country’s newest sweethearts. Engagement offers went through the roof as KFC gave consumers incentive to help them find this couple.

McDonalds responded as the brand which “loves things”, offering an all-expenses paid trip to Cape Town for the Toni Braxton concert. Standard Bank offered to clear the couple’s debt – if they are Standard Bank customers. Audi offered the couple luxurious transport to their wedding destination. Puma offered clothing, Huawei gave the couple phones to take pictures on their honeymoon. KroneMCC would also ensure the newly-weds are toasted with some fine sparkling wine and many, many more brands got in on the action.

South Africans were now calling it ‘their wedding’ and by the end of the day 30 brands had come forward to offer an additional experience for what had started as a negative tweet about proposing at KFC. So it’s clear, brands can mobilise and put aside rivalry or competition and do what is seen to be right by consumers and the general public.

This is where I’m going to flip the script a bit – at what point did this reach saturation? Was it after the tenth brand got involved, or was it after the third bank made an offer? Or maybe after the fifth FMCG brand offered the couple food? Don’t get me wrong, I would love the country and all its blue chip brands tripping over themselves to make my wedding a success but as a marketer I did take a step back and ask some tough questions.

If I was a victim of the recent KZN hurricane and storms for example, would I not expect these brands to offer the same level of support for me and why that couple for that matter? Many South Africans will tie the knot as this is wedding season after all, so why are brands not lining up to assist them?

If we refer back to The MediaShop’s Media Landscape series where Maggie Pronto, Isla Prentis and I looked at what type of content works, we touched on the importance of relevance of content produced by brands for consumption and we arrived at five key things, which distinguish great content.

  • Move At The Speed Of Culture
  • Be distinctive
  • Offer an experience
  • Embed your purpose
  • Invest appropriately

KFC, as the brand to really bring all of this together, lived up to the principles above but in my opinion many of the other brands just wanted to jump onto the bandwagon. KFC identified the need to turn this story that begun at one of their stores into a positive legacy. By identifying the opportunity they made it distinctive for their brand, they offered an experience and one could go as far as to say it was embedded into their “Add Hope” initiative even if this was not targeted at kids per say, it still fits into that “bucket”.

At the recent AMASA Awards, one of the judges, Wandisile Nkabinde, mentioned that for brands to be successful it’s not just about arriving, it’s about how you arrive. Julio Rodrigues then went on to say it’s not just about pushing performing metrics all the time, it’s not always about reach, frequency and impressions and this is exactly how I feel about some of the brands that joined the party very late.

It’s not for me to say who those brands are but the only questions that need answering now is “Who is flying me to the wedding and who will pay for my accommodation?”

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The MediaShop wins big at AdFocus Awards!

The MediaShop Johannesburg has been named Network Media Agency of the Year at the 2019 Financial Mail AdFocus Awards. This is the second time in the last three years that the agency has been awarded this accolade.

Kgaugelo Maphai, Managing Director of The MediaShop Johannesburg says that this is an excellent way to end the year: “On the back of a tough but very successful award-winning year, I am immensely grateful to be able to work with and lead such an amazing, passionate group of people who continually strive to pioneer and do better. 2020 will see our agency evolve into a fully integrated marketing and communications agency and we’re extremely excited about the future ahead.”

According to Adfocus 2019, The MediaShop’s increase in billings, new account wins and client retention were a few factors that clinched the deal.

Throughout 2019 the agency has been successful with wins at the MOST awards, Bookmarks, AMASA and recently, Assegai Awards, affirming their position as a leading media agency in South Africa.

For more on The MediaShop visit www.mediashop.co.za, like them on Facebook: The MediaShop, follow them on Twitter @MediaShopZA or LinkedIn.

The MediaShop:

The MediaShop is South Africa’s most established, most awarded, most transformed media agency, and member of the Nahana Communications Group of specialist agencies, each with their own independent structures, cultures and management teams, and a desire to work together where synergy exists. The MediaShop’s employees are communication experts in the business of connecting brands with consumers through revolutionary communication and touchpoint solutions.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution: It’s the end of the world as we know it!

Claire Herman, Media Operations Lead at The MediaShop

4IR… I first heard this buzzword at the BCX Disrupt Conference in 2017, where I was lucky enough to see two phenomenal speakers who tackled the topic.

The first was Richard Mulholland, founder and C-3PO of Missing Link. His topic was “Do we need to fear the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” It’s a term first introduced by Karl Schwabb, a German engineer and economist best known as the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. His book, simply titled: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” was published in 2016. Richard says predictions are that we will reach the point of singularity around 2040/2045 – the point at which machine intelligence will supersede human intellect, and computers or ‘trans-humans’ will take over the world!

The second speaker was Will.i.am, seven-time Grammy award winner, frontman for the Black Eyed Peas, Executive Producer of “Planet of the Apps” and Founder and CEO of i.am+, a company that fuses the worlds of technology, culture, fashion and Artificial Intelligence (AI). When asked what keeps him up at night his answer was this: What will happen when two driverless cars are set for a head-on collision? How will they negotiate with each other on which one will move out of the way first? It will be based on the passengers they are carrying – who is older, who has a genetic marker for cancer, how many dependents does each one have, who is more successful and contributes more to the economy, etc.? And will all of this be detected in a split-second or will we reach a point where cognitive AI will treat all humans equally? It’s quite a terrifying thing to keep you up at night!

But what does this all actually mean for us in 2019/2020?

Let’s first go back in time to the late 1700’s / early 1800’s where the first Industrial Revolution brought us advances in textile manufacturing and the innovation of the steam train. A few decades later into the end of the 18th century, we entered the second Industrial Revolution that introduced steel production, the automobile and electricity. In the 1900’s we experienced the rise of digital technology and computing and the world around us fundamentally changed. Life became much faster with information at our finger tips and communication that was instantaneous.

Is that where we thought it would end? Not a chance! In fact, it is intensifying at a rapid pace. Today we are fully immersed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is all about Intelligence… It is defined as the current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work.

Global borders don’t inhibit when, where and how we work – we are constantly connected. Our knowledge bank seems infinite – we can find out almost anything in a matter of seconds, all we need to do is ‘Google it’. But Big Brother is watching – there is nowhere to hide. As a result, we need to adapt, and at a rapid pace. We are entering a world where our fridges will order our groceries for us, our cars will drive us to work, we will have very little need to physically go shopping, our food will adapt to the nutritional needs of our bodies, and holidays will be to other planets. Why not? The opportunities are endless.

This is all very exciting (read scary), but what are the implications of such a technologically advanced society?

Firstly, the school system as we know it will need to fundamentally change – it’s interesting to note that some schools are already pioneering in this space. For example in 2020 South Africa’s first online high school will be launched (The Valenture Institute). What does our schooling system look like in the future – what and how do teachers teach? Educators will need to be re-trained, based on new subjects that are being introduced.

Several primary schools have acknowledged that they are preparing kids for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. We have been completely taken out of our comfort zone with “out there” concepts such as teaching Grade 1’s philosophical thinking – would you prefer a time machine or a money tree? When I was in Grade 1 I was learning my ABC’s and how to count. Some schools have introduced a no-homework policy, rather focusing on project-based learning in teams during school hours. It is all very “revolutionary”, and us as parents must blindly accept that this is for the benefit of our children. We have bought into this thinking, so we are going with it.

Secondly, what does 4IR mean for current and future employment? The latest Stats SA figures show that our unemployment rate right now is the highest it has been in 11 years at 29.1%, and the doom-sayers predict that it will only get worse.

But as each Revolution unfolded, dire predictions of massive job losses ensued, increasing each time. The first three are over, and those concerns were clearly misplaced. The number of jobs actually increased with each revolution, as did living standards and every other social indicator.

Let’s look at the Banking Sector as an example. The last three banking licenses awarded were for online banks – Tyme Bank, Discovery Bank and Bank Zero. Earlier this year we also saw Standard Bank closing almost 100 branches and retrenching over 1,000 staff members. But I don’t think it is all doom and gloom. We just need to think laterally, learn to apply ourselves differently and adapt. One of the most sought-after human resources in the coming years will be for Cyber Security Specialists, a profession that didn’t exist 30 years ago.

Earlier this year I attended one of the Ads24 Food For Thought sessions where we had to choose Human vs. Robot. Rapelang Rabana, Computer Scientist and Chief Digital Officer of BCX, said that from the 1.8 million jobs lost this year, 2.3 million more jobs will be created by next year. She believes that AI stands for “Accelerated Improvement” and moving forward we will only be, she says, smarter, do more, experience more, see further into the future, and ultimately be better humans. It’s a very positive outlook, which is quite comforting.

And lastly, what does it mean for advertising and media? I keep on thinking of Tom Cruise in The Minority Reportwhere customised ads were popping up in front of him as he walked through a mall (https://youtu.be/7bXJ_obaiYQ). The movie was produced back in 2002, but it had a not-so-unrealistic view on what the future could hold.

The advertising and media landscape is constantly changing, from how we consume media (super-fast, byte-sized chunks, pictures and video over text, second-screening, etc.), to what media we are engaging with (AI, chat bots, instant messaging, social media, etc.), and what creative and messaging we are exposed to (AI generated ads, eg.https://youtu.be/CV5KvMust0Y and AI generated royalty-free models, eg.https://generated.photos/). We also need to be super cognisant of how we engage with consumers, taking into account privacy policies and the industry’s role and responsibilities in this space.Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Google and Apple know us better than we know ourselves.

Their algorithms are tracking everything we buy, where we go, what we read and watch, what we like, every step we take, and every heartbeat in our bodies… I made the mistake of daydreaming online about buying a house in Mauritius – my newsfeeds are now completely taken over by real estate agents in Mauritius trying to sell me houses that I can’t afford. I can keep on dreaming.

So in this fast-paced, ever-changing landscape, that makes us feel largely out of control, is it the end of the world as we know it? I think it is, but we will be fine…

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We need to like you – why client agency relationships matter

Herman Degener, Digital Media Strategist at The MediaShop

The other day I was attending the briefing of a highly sought after account. It’s a piece of business which I’m rather passionate about and have had the privilege of working on before. When the CMO was wrapping up his presentation, he said a few things about relationships and chemistry; “this” he said…”is a marriage!”, and “we need to like you!” he said.

Given that we were all there with fellow shortlisted agencies, it’s fair to assume we all had the necessary skills, access to technology and the experience the client needed, but the emphasis was on the relationship. This got me thinking about client-agency relationships, especially with technology literally eroding the workplace; just how relevant, or valid, is the client-agency relationship these days? Clearly, to this client it‘s super important, which was great to hear!

There’s a saying that Brian Solis coined called digital-Darwinism, it’s when technology and society evolves faster than humans. Scary, I know. But similar to how we all thought cookie-based targeting was the silver bullet to all our marketing challenges, we are starting to realise that perhaps technology doesn’t have all the answers, and that as humans we are still exceptional at the one thing technology cannot do: have an emotional relationship.

It still beggars belief that client-agency contracts are finite; it’s not like when you marry your partner you only commit to a three year term! So why is it different in business? It’s only after a few years of working together (akin to moving in together as a couple) do you really get to know each other, and often just when you’re getting to know each other and establish highly productive ways of working, the partnership ends and the whole process starts again with a new ‘spouse’.

Getting back on point… right, so, to both clients and agencies alike, what are some of the ways we can enjoy our oft-fleeting relationships? I did some research online as well as some old-school human-to-human research, and here’s what I found:

 Communication

It goes without saying, right? But then why are so many relationships strained by a lack of clear and unambiguous communication? We communicate clearly with our friends and family because we feel comfortable enough to ask silly questions without fear of ridicule (well, mostly). Yet in a business relationship, we tend to use fancy terms and TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) to sound knowledgeable and important. Meanwhile we’ve just strained the relationship through miscommunication, and no-one wants to ask the so-called silly question. In his biography, Elon Musk talks about how he banned the use of acronyms in his companies without his written approval, for obvious reasons.

 Check your ego at the door!

No one likes an egomaniac or narcissist, and in the client-agency relationship egos are not exactly scarce. One of the best marketers I had the privilege of working with, Roland Reid who was Marketing Director at Jaguar Land Rover South Africa at the time, used to always remind us that we were there to progress the brand, not our egos. Agencies are not always the guilty party here, but mostly we are. We all want to impress the client so much that our egos usurp the primary reason we’re all there, to solve business problems. When we forget our egos and put energy into solving the business challenges first, relationships foster, and everyone wins.

 Warts ‘n all

With social media being what it is, no agency is going to try and pull a fast one. If they did, the court of public opinion would write the death sentence for them. As agencies, we are in the business of helping our clients reach their business goals, to do great work and to be fairly compensated for it. The best relationships are formed when everyone plays open cards, with no hidden agendas. When the latter prevails, all the energy available on both client and agency side goes into achieving strong business results.

 Honesty

The problem with emotion is that it gets in the way of logic. It’s like the ex-partner: your friends are like “wow, what took you so long?”, as if you were oblivious to your ex-partner’s shortcomings. You weren’t, but because you liked, ahem, loved them, you didn’t have the heart to give them negative feedback. In our industry we often form close, sometimes lifelong bonds with our counterparts, and the best relationships have open, honest and regular feedback at their core. A shortcut to relationship failure is letting things fester; create the means for constructive feedback sessions where concerns can be addressed, but also don’t be shy to celebrate the successes.

In closing: ability, integrity and benevolence are at the heart of each point above. So it’s no surprise these are also foundational elements of building trust, both as individuals and as organisations. None of us are getting out of here alive, so we may as well enjoy it while we can and build relationships that make it all worthwhile. 🙂

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What’s a life without Likes?

Andrew Dabbs, Digital Media Strategist at The MediaShop

In the past few months many people may have read that Instagram and Facebook have been running trials in Canada and Australia respectively to hide the number of Likes, reactions and video views that are made to public posts. The intention is to rethink how users engage with these platforms and to make the social networks less stressful. But this goes against using the main currency that Facebook have used for the past decade, the Like.

This new tactic creates some very interesting questions for marketers because the Like has been the vanity metric that most businesses and individuals have sought for so long. With the rise of influencer marketing over the past few years, how will this influence the influencers and how will these individuals be measured? Will they use the opportunity to see, which will really just be a good guess at best, how they can actually become accountable for sales? In a developing ecommerce environment like South Africa, this will be an interesting challenge.

But maybe we don’t need Likes anymore. With the decrease of organic reach “community managers” are using Likes, reactions, shares and views as their main metrics. It is possible that Facebook and Instagram are onto something. Given lower engagement rates they could be doing themselves a service by dropping these metrics before businesses lose faith or have further questions of their platforms.

As Facebook and Instagram keep growing (this without any third party verification of their actual numbers) and continue to compete with traditional media channels for reach, perhaps this will be the new currency they use. We know that video views are a little sketchy already and there has been the question – What is the value of a Like? This being said, maybe Facebook and

Instagram have outgrown small to medium businesses in favour of chasing large corporate budgets, resulting in a change or approach. In essence change is good and as the largest social networks they need to adapt.

It will be very interesting to see if user engagement changes if those ‘Like’ numbers are removed. Are individuals more attracted to a post or page because it has lot of Likes, or are they truly interested in the content of what is being published?

Engagement has always been the better measurement, and personally I would like to see the measure of ‘Likes’ gone as it really does not mean anything to anyone except maybe our lovely influencers. What would happen to all the models of Instagram and Facebook? Perhaps they’ll need a change in career with no filters!

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