by Prakash Patel (@PrakashPatel_1) My expectations for 2019 centre on the theme of transformation — transformation of our industry, our skills, our approach, our consumers, our services and, of course, digital transformation.

The changing landscape

Agencies now have real competition from consultancies, which are most definitely encroaching on what was once owned by agencies. Due to digital transformation and the battle to own the customer experience, we have savvy consumers telling us what they want and even owning the brand’s voice. #WordOfMouth is being replaced by #WordByShares and WordByReviews; we have tech giants that now own the largest advertising budgets; we have one-year-old companies that are successfully challenging one-hundred-year-old businesses and disrupting entire industries; we have technological advancement that allows us to do anything from our mobile phones; we have augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) blending into our daily lives and stimulating our senses; and artificial intelligence (AI) driving customer services and engagement for brands.

The impossible has now become possible. The only limitation is our thinking and mindset.

1. Transformation of our industry

It was quoted by the FT that, for the first time since the 2008 recession that sent the advertising industry, like so many others industries, into a downward spiral, advertising’s biggest agencies — WPP, Publicis, Omnicom and Interpublic Group — have all been stalling. Yet over the years, global consultancies such as Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, PWC, KPMG and McKinsey are aggressively growing their share of advertising-wallet and adland by buying up agencies and transforming our industry and the marketing world as we know it.

One of the driving forces is that we had two very different offerings by agencies and consultancies, now colliding in the corridor of C-suite executive offices. This has been motivated by the needs of clients which are now seeking more of an holistic solution around digital disruption and transformation that includes customer centricity and customer experience (CX) at the heart of the solution. This is the ultimate prize both agencies and consultancies want to own.

I think we will see more acquisition — will we even see in 2019 one of the big consultancies not just buying up smaller agencies to bolster its services but an entire global network agency?

2. Transforming from mad men to humble persons

Once the undisputed heroes of marketing and branding from the heydays of mad men pushing one-way messaging, the industry has transformed with the explosion of digital marketing, social media platforms, informed and opinionated consumers with voices; we’re no longer the ones who own the brand or marketing. Consumers do!

Our agency role is to become meaningful again, and business-focused like our consultancy counterparts.

We need to become trusted and valued business transformation partners to our clients in today’s complex digital world. — Prakash Patel

We need to also become more skilled beyond advertising and creativity, and be humbled by the opportunity that lies ahead, to become valued and trusted business partners and experts in the digital age — experts in ensuring that our clients can embrace, innovate, navigate, and transform their business models, products, services and customer experience to become digital-first and not simply their creative advertising or digital marketing partners.

3. Skills

These skills include everything, from digital transformation (from a business perspective), customer experience (nothing is more valuable), through to data (big or small), analytics (insights), enterprise and apps (today’s consumers on the go), product development (think Apple and Uber), technology stacks (think Cloud) and internet of things (IoT — think Amazon), to ensure that our clients can keep up with the evolving digital world and allow them to communicate with today’s consumers in real-time, in the now-moments, who use multiple devices, from anywhere and operate in an omnichannel world that has no lines.

4. Driving innovation

As a member of the advisory board for SWSX Interactive Innovations Awards, I’ve seen examples of innovation and digital disruption in its truest and most-genius of senses, customer experiences that would literally blow your mind — from new products and services solving decades-old problems and educational usage of AI to help Alzheimer’s sufferers through to medical breakthroughs in health and care using AR, or VR to stimulate our senses for travel, and some of the most-advanced AI bots, products and services solving customer experiences at every conceivable level.

None of these is what we would call advertising or marketing. They are innovative solutions to business problems, disrupting an industry by using tech and digital at the heart of the solution. All have with one view: the addition of value to consumers in the new technically enabled, hyper-connected world we live.

5. New approach in the digital age

The truth is, while the world around us is changing at an unprecedented rate, most businesses and agencies are still struggling to keep pace with it, from the inability to change their agency/business model fast enough, legacy processes and measurements on ROI, or misalignment of their services to meet the needs of today’s clients/consumers.

I believe we all should have a disruptor’s mindset and ask ourselves: If we were to start afresh today, with all our learning, with a blank canvas, with no legacy shackles, what would our business or client’s business look like at every level? For me, that is the starting point of the new era in the digital age and the opening question for digital transformation.

It’s not about digital transformation, it’s about business transformation and effectiveness in an ever-changing digital world. — Prakash Patel

We all need to understand and invest in digital transformation, a term that has been used by many to describe anything from digital marketing, ecommerce, go-to-market social media strategy, or a responsive website or app. But these are just by-products and one of many inputs and outputs of digital transformation for a business to become digital-first. That being said, like many terms that are coined, I believe this term should be replaced with “business transformation”, as it’s a business imperative and affects the entire business, internally and externally, from the front office to the back office — sales, IT, HR, people, processes and marketing — see my strategic framework below.

Prakash Patel's #BigQ2019 strategic framework diagrammeSo, let’s expect continued change in our industry, in the value we add, in our approach and mindset, and become more relevant in solving business problems (strategically, creatively and digitally) by creating everlasting customer experiences in today’s digital age, and by looking for ways to define tomorrow today.

The future is bright.
The future is digital-first.

See also


MarkLives logo What are the industry expectations for the marketing and advertising industry in 2019? Kicking off our “Big Q” column for the year, a panel of key agency and marketing executives discusses the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and any consumer and communication trends they’ll be looking out for in the year ahead.

Prakash Patel (@PrakashPatel_1), a seasoned strategist and data-driven digital marketer, is managing director of Fogg Cape Town. Previously, he was CEO of Prezence and chief digital officer of FCB/Mesh. Prior to moving to SA, Prakash spent over 18 years at some of the world’s largest and independent data and digital agencies in the UK. Now he is trying to keep up with tomorrow today and helping brands add value in the #TraDigital era.

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