by MarkLives (@marklives) What are the expectations of South Africa’s marketing and advertising leaders for the industry in 2017? We emailed a panel of key industry executives for their take on the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and consumer and any communication trends they’ll be looking out for. Next up are Carolyn White and Sarah Britten of Labstore South Africa.

Carolyn White & Sarah Britten

Carolyn WhiteSarah BrittenLeft: Carolyn White (@Caros_world) is managing director of Labstore South Africa and Africa. With 12 years’ through-the-line agency experience, and seven years in shopper marketing, she (a self-confessed shopaholic) is doing exactly what she is truly passionate about — getting closer to shoppers. Right: Sarah Britten (@Anatinus) is strategy director of Labstore South Africa. She has over 14 years’ worth of experience as a communications strategist in various marketing disciplines. As a blogger, speaker and thought leader, she is regularly sought after for her opinions on marketing and social media topics, for both radio and television.

2017 is going to be a challenging year for agencies — and that’s not a bad thing. A difficult macro environment and client budgets under increasing pressure are going to force agencies to work smarter and more efficiently across all touchpoints. In a nutshell, we’re going to have to continue to do more with less.

Consumers and shoppers

Consumers aren’t going to have lots of cash to spare. Weak economic growth, increasing food prices and a likely increase in income tax are all going to squeeze wallets. While we’ve seen a trend towards dealer-owned brands in FMCG for several years now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that shoppers are always going to trade down — but consumers will demand more value and differentiation from the brands they do buy.

Despite all the negative sentiment around the macro environment, we’re seeing an appetite for clients to bring in global brands to grow market share within a variety of categories. This is attractive for retailers, as you can charge higher price premiums and grow the category. But, to justify the price premium, you need to offer consumers something that existing brands are not delivering.

Brand messaging

An integrated brand story is key. Messaging will be a lot more focused around what messages are relevant in which channel. We’re finding that clients are far more open to tailored messaging in each channel to ensure relevancy, as opposed to broad generic awareness messaging. This also means that each channel has to work a lot harder in delivering the results that clients are looking for.

Shopper marketing and innovation

The rising cost of trade spend means that clients are looking for more innovative out-of-store touchpoints. This will force agencies to be more tactical as they look for innovative solutions to the age-old problem of ensuring that your brand is the one that ends up in the basket.

Digital shopper campaigns are an increasingly important part of the mix. The mobile phone is becoming both an ATL channel and a call to action touchpoint, and there’s a growing need to integrate mobile into these two areas.

Overall, clients are demanding a lot more innovation from agencies. Same-old, same-old will not be good enough in 2017.

Budgets and brand planning

With budgets coming under so much pressure, agencies are having to look at innovative ways to recoup costs on accounts. Agencies are being forced to realign scope of work against ever-changing market dynamics, and to be flexible to engage crossover disciplines where needed.

This means focusing on long-term brand planning initiatives so we understand exactly what’s needed when. More often than not, our clients’ business is seasonal. They plan according to a retail calendar. Increasingly, agencies will need to reflect this, and plan resources around clients’ busiest business periods. Instead of having a permanent team available throughout the year, this might mean hiring teams based on specific projects.

Agency models

Clients are definitely looking for one-stop shops, rather than the boutique model. The ideal agency should have all the specialists a client needs, in order to ensure greater efficiency and faster delivery across multiple touchpoints. Team horizontality and best-in-class working models from global brands will be key for clients assessing potential agency partners during new business pitches.


Clients are demanding better ROI and tracking across all their channels. They’re also investing in touchpoint gap analysis roles within their own departments, looking at whether they really did plan the right mix, and what they can learn in order to inform future campaigns. In a similar vein, we’re seeing that clients are becoming much more interested in test-and-learns, both locally and within our global network. When it comes to projects where they don’t have a lot of budget, they’ll test a new concept with one brand, one retailer or one channel before rolling it out across the board.


2017 won’t be easy for clients or agencies. But we’re going to emerge leaner.


Extra! What the marketer says

Nomsa Chabeli-Mazibuko
Nomsa Chabeli-Mazibuko

Nomsa Chabeli-Mazibuko, general manager marketing, MultiChoice South Africa, foresees the following trends for 2017:

Our view is that, in the short-to-medium term, many businesses will continue to  battle with shrinking margins and the largely negative impact of the declining rand-to-dollar exchange rate. Our hope is that advertising agencies embrace this as an opportunity to extend their offering to beyond mere communication and offer more product-development solutions. The most-exciting consumer trend for us is consumption of TV on the go — traditionally, people have always associated TV viewing with being in front of a big screen TV; the current growing trend is that of people consuming TV on mobile phones, tablets and laptops.


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the ad industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of potential panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.

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