by Bongani Chinkanda (@bonchiachanza) We all agree that 2016 was a tough year. Having reassured ourselves, and our clients, that 2017 is the promised land, we’ve started January on a high. We’re walking tall, eating better and even making use of that R570 gym debit order. Agency executives have promised themselves they won’t make the same mistakes as they did in 2016. In short, they have heeded the learnings and left the heartache behind.

Great! But what does the future hold for Adland SA?

We will be faced with new opportunities, which will make our hearts race like the first time we fell in love. However, with each new year, we bring along the baggage from previous relationships. 2017 will be no different. The baggage of slow growth is the new norm and with it, unfortunately, come budget cuts and the domino effect of retrenchments.

But there is hope.

The growth of digital brings new opportunities for consumers, clients and agencies. Our population is still growing and, unlike Japan, ours is young and vibrant. So how do we keep the spirits of our youth high and their appetites hungry, even in the face of #feesmustfall and high unemployment? In tough times, the winner is always the one with the innovative ideas — just think of M-PESA in Kenya. Its growth has been explosive and even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg flew into the Rift Valley from Silicon Valley to learn more about mobile money.

So what are the key themes for the year of promise that is 2017?

Africa’s promise — don’t be too quick to pack your bags; just ask Tiger Brands and MTN

So billings are down and you get the call, “Can you execute a campaign for us in Kenya, Angola, DRC and Nigeria?” With dollar signs in your head you, answer, “Sure! We have partners on the ground. Should be a walk in the park.” And then comes the afterthought “What have I committed to??”

Many an agency executive has dreamt of having offices in Nairobi, Lagos and all sorts of ‘exotic’ capitals on the African continent. The harsh reality is that African countries are not like South African provinces. We already battle to understand that Limpopo is not KwaZulu-Natal when executing campaigns, and now you want to cross the border?

As much as Africa is the next growth frontier (which it has been for almost a decade), the danger is the assumptions we make about her. Yes, there is opportunity — especially if you look at what is happening in East Africa, specifically Kenya and Rwanda. However, there are also pockets of trouble, due to the drop in commodity prices and unmanageable sovereign debt — think Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique.

So, before you invest heavily in that African team, spend a good R50k or so. Visit the markets and understand the on-the-ground dynamics; it will be a great investment. If anything, you will come back with great insights to share with your creative team on how to win with the base of the pyramid consumers back home.

We also do digital — what does that mean?

The big idea has been sold and you can practically see the purchase order being issued by procurement. Then the CMO says, “What’s lacking is the digital execution. Maybe we should get a digital agency to come through?”

The fear of another 2016 hits you and you say, “Oh, we also do digital” First mistake — that is, if you don’t have it as an offering within your agency.

Digital is not an ‘oh, by the way’ offering anymore. There is now a whole industry that is changing how we consume media, products and services. If you think digital is just a few Facebook posts and tweets, you have another think coming.

The digital growth figures are out and we see how it has changed industries. Even businesses such as MultiChoice are fighting to stay ahead of the change it brings. Digital has no respect for borders — think Uber and Netflix. We can run to trade and industry minister, Rob Davies, as often as we want for protection, but it won’t help. The baby was thrown out with the WWW and the rest is history.

What’s key for us as agency executives is to understand what the growth of digital means for our clients and their customers, and also how we may change our business models to suit this trend. Understand what you are talking about before you are asked whether UGC is a good fit for the big idea.

No. 1 says its 2.9%, IMF 0.8% & SARB 1.7% —they are all right

The era of CEs and POs coming through within 24 hours has ended. We now have the budget and CE police, aka ‘procurement’. These people don’t care about how aspirational your idea is and how it will induce trial. The question that causes any account director to pause is “what is the CPC?” Yes, clients want to know what the “cost per contact” is and rightfully so.

Just like them, I am tired of ideas that cannot be measured (though subjective) in some way. Enough of the pretty promoters that come at a premium and spend half their time on social media at an event. And the hashtags that are supposed to trend, but then what?

We are in a slow growth cycle. Just as you now think twice about going to Woollies for your monthly shop, our clients are in a similar position. So, when you present ideas in 2017, don’t force their hand to shop around. Be bold and quantify your ideas. Agree and define what the ROI is. They will love you for it. Besides, no one likes ‘we need to do a recon as we are not seeing value in the campaign’. You’ll think ‘but you approved the idea’. The proof is in the eating, not what is says on the menu.

Happy hunting!


Bongani ChinkandaBongani Chinkanda (@bonchiachanza) is business director at communications agency, Stretch.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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