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 is Mike Abel of M&C Saatchi Abel.

Mike Abel

Mike AbelMike Abel (@abelmike) heads the group he and his partners started in 2010: it now comprises M&C Saatchi Abel Johannesburg and Cape Town, M&C Saatchi Africa, CONNECT, Creative Spark and Dalmatian. He has 27 years of industry experience and has built and led major groups in South Africa and Australia. He has been named both Financial Mail and Finweek’s Agency Leader of the Year — and his agency has was also Financial Mail’s Agency of the Year in 2015

One of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking, applied his brainpower to the subject of God — the chief creating force for most of the world. His video, focusing on helping our understanding of the giver and taker of all life, has been watched by only 1.67m people on YouTube in four years. Now consider the following, over a very similar period of time and using only YouTube views as the same source:

  • Snoring Dormer Mouse: 7.38m views
  • Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball: 860m views
  • Discovery Channel I Global Warming: 1.2m views
  • Girl crying about loving cats: 36m views
  • Is WiFI safe for me?: 293 000 views
  • Gangnam Style: 2.68bn views

And now you want to ask what consumers really find useful or interesting?

For about 10 years now, we’ve been talking about creating content and infotainment. For about 15 years, we’ve been talking about moving from interruption to engagement. But maybe the most important lens to look through now is neither that of being in the marketing business nor in the communications business, but being in the entertainment industry.

Entirely customer-focused

We know the companies winning today are entirely customer-focused and, as such, develop disruptive technologies that enhance the way consumers live their lives, be it taking a cab, buying music, watching movies or renting holiday accommodation. Multibillion-dollar-entrenched industries on turned on their heads, overnight, by something new, more convenient, quicker, easier — and not necessarily cheaper. Being customer-centric they focus on what people want as their true north — not what they feel they need to tell them in order for them to buy their product or brand.

As advertisers, we are looking for their interest, their ears, eyeballs and time. In order to achieve this in an overly messaged environment to a cynical and time-starved customer, we need to offer something truly fresh and interesting.

We have to look through an entirely different prism in order to “sell a message”, because it’s not about selling anymore; it’s about all about creating the environment for “buying”.

Backdrop in 2017

The backdrop to all of this for 2017 will be: more social and political uncertainty, domestically and internationally; this scares people and companies into spending less, experimenting less, investing less. Markets will continue to have the jitters — it’s business unusual, after all, as Britain continues to worry about the impact of surprising itself by leaving the EU. America will be ‘fascinated’ by the next decisions of its odd choice in president. South Africa’s opposition parties and civil society will continue to battle corruption and misdirected funds in order to try alleviate the real struggles for the majority of “ordinary citizens” and settle social unrest.

Brave companies will thrive as they’ll continue to seize the opportunity to grow while others batten down the hatches — and shrink. It always happens this way.

As Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

But how bad can it be, considering we’re now all in the entertainment business?

Extra! What the marketer says

Daniel Padiachy
Daniel Padiachy

Daniel Padiachy, chief marketing officer, McDonald’s South Africa, foresees the following trends for 2017:

  • More and more, there is an absolute need to really hear what our customers are asking for.
  • A call to be more insights-driven – the importance of the role of intelligent reporting and agile agencies that can support us in uncovering these insights
  • The shift in the industry over the past few years to a more-authentic storytelling that resonates with audiences… but, not only that, storytelling rooted in content that adds value to the audiences’ lives is what will set us apart.
  • Digital disruption has had a major impact on consumer behaviour and environment. Consumers now consume information at an increasingly rapid rate and are spending more time online, which means that as brands we need to ensure that we are engaging them in this space.
  • A theme that was mentioned at last year’s Loeries was “storydoing”. This is about allowing your target audience to experience your narrative through action. That is what our new campaign #LittleMomentsOfLovin is centred on.


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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