Agency Life: Stop pretending to know what digital is
by TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) Blah blah blah social media, blah blah influencers, blah blah blah blah blah banners. That’s how a typical conversation about digital advertising goes out here in these advertising streets. A whole lot of blah blah blah. It’s actually ironic how the majority of a supposedly forward-thinking industry still pretends to know how digital advertising works, when it really doesn’t.
Like, folks, it’s 2018 and there are still people who don’t know what UX means, let alone the function. For some people, the word “coding” has become the go-to jargon (which technically isn’t jargon but just a word) when their ignorance of digital advertising comes to light. If you’ve ever uttered the words “We need to make sure the coding is on strat,” or “Is the SEO copy Linux or Ubuntu,” you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.
While you search the interwebs tryna get the jokes in the previous sentence, here are a few pointers to understand ‘digital’ a bit more.
There’s more to it than social
We all know the three biggest SoMe platforms in the world. But here’s a question: what are the top three websites in the world? Dololo. Which YouTube channel in Mzansi has the biggest reach? Dololo. Is there an opportunity to tap into #papgeld that trends on a Sunday instead of #OPW and #DMF? If you don’t know what any of those are, get onto Black Twitter: the local version. If you don’t know how to do that, harde.
Me, I just wanted to show you that digital advertising has so many opportunities, from reach and engagement to tactical opportunities and building brand equity through relevance. Mara, if you just want to stick to influencers and generic social media platforms, re tla bona ka wena.
It shouldn’t be an afterthought
In most agencies, this is the process to digital output: campaign brief comes in, strat does its magic and directs creative, creatives perform blood transfusions from boulders, a big idea is conceived and, at the moment of idea birth, the digital peeps finally crack an invite to the theatre — only to find out that they’re the substitute midwife and the responsibility of making sure that the idea comes into the world, bright-eyed and exciting, is suddenly on them.
Simply put, if you’ve got a good idea, ‘digital’ won’t magically make it better. Soz. Because ‘digital’ isn’t the midwife of TTL advertising. It’s the twin brother/sister/sibling (guess what’s next on the a-gender…ok, bad pun). Anyway, my point is digital isn’t just an amplification tool to make a campaign TTL; it’s a channel that needs proper thought and strategy, as with any BTL/ATL campaign. Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.
It’s not the same for everyone
“We live in a digital world. Nowadays, everything is connected, from your home appliances to mobile devices, to cars and shopping experiences.” This is one of those points that urrbody loves to make because it makes them feel like they know something. And that time, it’s so 2013.
For example, ja, sure smartphone penetration in South Africa continues to increase, so does that mean we should be doing more long-form content? Well, it depends on who you’re talking to. While most people may have a smartphone, a proportionate number of people are also very selective about what they use their data for. It’s hard enough to get some of my friends to watch a 50MB video that I share on WhatsApp and is hella funny. Imagine trying to convince them to use their data for an ad?
For each person who’s used to whipping out Shazaam to find out the name of that song that actually only sounded nice after a few tequilas, there are four or five people asking the waitron for the playlist because ga gona free WiFi ko teng.
Basically, understanding your audience and how they engage with digital platforms will go a long a way when it comes to getting them to engage with brands.
For realsies, though, digital advertising and marketing is one of those things that we all need to get better at. Why? Because, if we can engage with peeps beyond the generic “like this and you could win a cap”, create better content than a 5” cut down of the TVC because no one thought about pre-rolls until the last minute, or having a microsite designed for high-end users but targets mass market — we’d be going a long way towards making work that people vibe with, while helping them get closer to the brands they love.
TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) is a creative group head at Net#work BBDO. With several years of experience in the advertising industry, he’s more than a writer; he is also a reader, a thinker, and an avid liker of things. He once walked from Joburg to Cape Town in 30 days to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for people in need. #30Days30Wheelchairs. TJ contributes the regular “Agency Life” column, in which he gives career advice for working within the advertising industry, to MarkLives.
— One subscription form, three newsletters: sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including Ramify headlines; The Interlocker, our new monthly comms-focused mailer; and Brands & Branding, launching