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 Joshin Raghubar of iKineo.

Joshin Raghubar

Joshin RaghubarJoshin Raghubar (@Joshin) is an entrepreneur in the media, marketing, and technology sectors. He is engaged in the evolving role of entrepreneurship, trust and innovation in the ‘good society’: he is the founder of iKineo, a Pan-African customer engagement agency; Sprout, digital media performance firm; and Explore Sideways, an online purveyor of wine tourism experiences. Joshin is chairperson of the Bandwidth Barn and non-executive director of Cape Innovation & Technology Initiative (CITi), Enke, Africa Leadership Initiative (Southern Africa) and African Leadership Network. He is a fellow of 2016 Yale World, ALI, Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Network, US-Southern African Centre for Leadership and Public Values, and a Bertelsmann Foundation’s global Transformation Thinkers programme member.

There are five main trends I will be looking out for and navigating in the work we do:

  1. the increasing engagement of business in the public and social sphere;
  2. the industry impact of the Marketing, Communication, and Advertising (MAC) sector code;
  3. the continued investment in African markets;
  4. the accelerated digitalisation of business; and
  5. the increasing investment flow into digital programmatic media buying.

1. Public and social sphere

In South Africa, companies and their executives, across the board, will have to become more engaged in the public and social sphere. These businesses and their communication agencies will have to become astute practitioners of non-market strategy.

Business exists both within the market and within society (the non-market). This last year, and foreseeably in the future, non-market factors — such as government policy, government and political party leadership decision-making, civil unrest, economic and social inequality, and the functioning of the judicial system — will have a heighted impact: on the size and efficiency of market, on how business can effectively engage with the market, and on how civil society and political actors shape the framework for business.

Communication leaders will need to assist CEOs in learning how to skillfully frame and reframe issues, engage civil and political actors, and exert effective private and public pressure. Non-market strategy is taught in the top business schools in the world as a critical executive performance area. To survive and thrive in the current South African context, companies will need to understand this terrain, and then step out into the sunlight of the public sphere. Their agencies and partners must be equipped to support them.

2. Transformation

Government policy also directly shapes the second trend that will impact marketing service providers and their clients: The BBBEE or Marketing, Communication, and Advertising (MAC) Sector code, gazetted by government and in effect from May 2016, significantly reshapes the pool of marketing service providers that clients may choose from. This impact on procurement decisions will begin to become apparent during the course of 2017.

The weighting for BBBEE verification has moved heavily towards ownership, management control, and enterprise and supplier development. Clients will have to use more black- and black-female owned and controlled agencies. Clients will also have to integrate these agencies into their enterprise and supplier development programmes. This may be shock-therapy for many industry players.

3, African investment

A third trend we expect is the cautious and continued investment of SA companies in other African markets. The McKinsey Global Institute report on Africa — Lions on the Move II, released in October 2016, highlights that, excluding oil exporters and North African countries affected by the Arab spring, African markets grew faster in the last five years than in the preceding 10 years (4.4% vs 4.1%) — “Africa as a whole is projected by the International Monetary Fund to be the world’s second-fastest growing economy to 2020.”

In the growth and stability mapping presented by McKinsey, SA is disappointingly placed in the “Slow growers” category. Countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda and Morocco are placed in the more-attractive constellation of “Stable growers”. SA firms will increasingly look to these new African markets for growth. SA agencies that can develop Pan-African competencies are well-placed to benefit from the African expansion of SA firms, and from growth on the continent in general.

4. Digitalisation

The fourth trend, which we are already experiencing, is that the digitalisation of business will continue to accelerate. This is not just about digital communication but the digitalisation of everything. The Internet of Things (IoT), big data, on-demand fulfilment models, dynamic pricing, and an avalanche of other forces are reshaping the competency and opportunity set for marketing service providers.

In a Contagious Magazine article, journalist Dan Southern noted that “[i]n 2004, the Journal of Marketing published a paper that is now one of its most frequently cited. In ‘Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing’, US academics Robert (Bobby) Lusch and Stephen L. Vargo claim that the objective of marketing is shifting from efficiently delivering tangible goods to market towards creating value through the exchange of intangibles such as knowledge, information, and skills, to the benefit of customers.”

Twelve years later, this identified new logic for marketing has evolved marketing in leading companies from a campaign-dominant activity to a service design-led activity, where even physical products are now a distribution mechanism and, when done best, a platform for services. Companies which control the value points in this exchange of intangibles win. In this new world, where the power has shifted from companies to customers, marketers need to be service and product designers, strategy consultants, data scientists, intangible product owners, and customer community managers.

5. Programmatic

Coupled with the digitalisation trend, the fifth trend that will accelerate in 2017 is the increasing investment flow into digital programmatic media buying. The constrained budget environment will require a tighter focus on a quantifiable return on marketing investment. Most of the marketing budget haircuts happened in 2016, and we don’t foresee too many more companies wanting to reduce marketing investment even further at the risk of permanently damaging their business. However, this will mean that clients will want more measurable returns. Many of the larger digital advertisers in SA have already started moving their digital spend into programmatic. With the deterioration of the public broadcaster, advertisers will also be switching spend to other media channels. We foresee an accelerated investment flow into digital and into programmatic media buying, and are ramping up accordingly.


2017 will see a complex shift in the marketing landscape in SA. It is an uncertain territory for both clients and marketing service providers; and these are five areas we are trying to better understand to build successful businesses and add the value our clients need in these dynamic, challenging times.


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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