by MarkLives (@marklives) What are the expectations for the commercial production industry in 2018? We emailed a panel of key industry executives for their take on the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and any consumer and communication trends they’ll be looking out for. Melina McDonald and Lorraine Smit of Darling give their take.

Melina McDonald & Lorraine Smit

Lorraine Smit and Melina McDonald of DarlingIn 2014, Melina McDonald and Lorraine Smit launched Darling, one of the few female-owned production houses in South Africa. It would be good to say that, after having always been responsible for some big productions, Darling has produced some amazing work, including recently the latest Nando’s spot that has had over 1m views and Bite-Size Ballet, to name but a few.

In 2018, trends within the advertising industry will continue to be altogether affected by the growing multichannel nature of campaigns, the social and economic climates of production hubs, real-time engagement with audiences, and the need for creativity that’s jarring to the consumer yet still hits the mark.

2017 saw many clients hesitant to commit to bigger projects, favouring projects that have been through vigorous research and are cost-effective. Gone are the days of the big production houses — budgets are tight and we all have to run very lean in order to survive in an ever-dwindling market.

Adapting to the multichannel demands of clients

Traditionally, TV has dominated the industry and made up the bulk of our work but digital media is transforming the industry, and has been for some time. Campaigns now almost always feature a digital component of some kind. This will affect business models, pushing the flexibility that comes with managing all the requests and suggestions for new angles and ideas that might come our way. Teams will need to be smaller but more adaptable, hopefully bringing more to the table.

As production houses, we’ll soon be providing our clients with stills, online directors, mainstream TV directors, post facilities, virtual reality and animation—all under one roof using diversely skilled teams. In terms of the economy of scale, that has to be the future. We could be partnering the television ad with its corresponding print execution while producing a dynamic Facebook campaign to drive the message home. This is also beneficial from a marketing point of view because it contributes towards continuity and a single common vision throughout. We are seeing some of this already and, as budgets get tighter, we expect that this trend will increase.

South Africa is growing as a hub for global production

The local commercial production industry is in crisis while South Africa is flirting with junk status, and both agencies and clients alike are starting in-house production houses; it seems as if the industry is diminishing.

On the flipside, during the northern hemisphere’s winter months, there’s an influx of American and European agencies to SA for the production of ads for their markets. From ice cream to insurance company commercials and the myriad of products and services that lie between, our locations have again become the go-to for global advertisers. These international commercial productions import entire teams of directors, producers, DPs and, at times, art departments and — due to the weak rand — there is a false sense of increase in spend.

Multinational clients also tend to find cost-effective production hubs to create advertising for multiple markets, including South Africa, and this certainly seems to be an area of the business our talented director pool could tap into. It makes good economic sense for clients and would help the growth of our industry, too

While Cape Town has always been the location of choice for the European market, Johannesburg has captured the interest of an increasing number of companies and definitely has the potential for growth as an alternate production hub.

Regional African advertising is also looking to SA for both creative and production value, so this is definitely a trend we hope to see more of.

Creativity that’s not stifled by fear of the audience

Unlike traditional media, digital platforms allow consumers to engage with brands and tell them exactly how they feel about them and whether they miss the mark or make an impact. We’ve seen many campaigns fall short and deal with the backlash online. “Black Twitter” is celebrated for speaking out against marketing that doesn’t speak to our diversity — especially if it’s tone-deaf or just plain offensive. Advertisers seem to have retreated into their shells, favouring the more-conservative approach for fear that anything different would be burnt on Twitter’s proverbial stake; however, this should be seen as an opportunity for marketers to understand the needs of their consumers as they now have a direct line to them. Entertainment is king and online media moves quickly. This year, audiences will continue to be vocal and that will hopefully make creativity trend again.

Even in 2018, production houses will have to navigate quick turnarounds, limited budgets, and translating briefs into the best possible work. That’s where the opportunities lie: to help and support how our creative partners adapt and push the bounds of the creative content that clients offer to their consumers… Because now, more than ever, audiences want better… and they’re not afraid to tell you.

#BigQ2018 series

Authors’ bio updated at 11.15am on 17 January 2017.


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key advertising and marketing industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of 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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