by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Claudelle Naidoo, who was promoted to managing director of MediaCom South Africa earlier this year, taps into her 20-plus years of experience in the industry to share insights into consumer trends, media buying and the d-word.

Q5: First, could you tell us a bit about your role — what are your goals?
Claudelle Naidoo: In May this year, I was appointed as MediaCom SA’s new managing director. In this role, I am responsible for driving the client-experience portfolio. My core function is to lead client-engagement programmes and develop strategic business approaches and models to achieve this.

The industry is constantly evolving. More than ever before, our clients require expert opinions and advice in order to achieve performance levels and business goals. My goal is to take our clients’ businesses to the next level, unlock opportunities and, most importantly, enable them to make the right business decisions through our partnership.

Q5: What trends do you expect to see among South African consumers in the next 3–5 years, and how can brands tap into them?
CN: I believe that the tighter the South African economy becomes, the more South African consumers will look for value from brands. If we look at the latest Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) [at the time of the interview — ed-at-large], consumers are showing a fairly positive outlook in South Africa at the moment. This makes the climate for brands to operate in even more challenging, because they now need to convert several consumer psychographics in order to trigger a single purchase, ie brand loyalty, price consciousness, and formal/informal trade purchasing, to name a few.

All of the above culminates into one major opportunity: the ability for brands to tap into consumer headspace to demonstrate value even through tough economic times. Currently, many brands are moving forward to utilising the best and most-innovative technologies to embrace consumer evolution and behaviours. That works for execution and research but, when we are talking about the consumer and how to understand trends in the future, I see something truly simplistic going forward, especially in SA. I see South Africans wanting to be a part of stories more than ever before: stories that are about them, stories that affect them, and stories that have true meaning to who they are. This will trigger purchase for brands.

If we put the consumer at the heart of what we do, brands should be focusing on how to excite and uplift them by showcasing benefits and creating movements through real stories and not just campaigns.

A good example of how this was done recently is the #GogoNozizwe campaign by P&G [full disclosure: MediaCom SA worked on this campaign]. P&G Gillette launched a film on Women’s Day that celebrated the many single women households who are raising the next generation of South African men, using the real story of Akhona, a young boy from Langa who was raised by Gogo Nozizwe. The story was picked up by president Cyril Ramaphosa on Women’s Day in his speech to the nation and got a lot of people talking, not just about Gogo Nozizwe but also about the difference that Gillette was making in South Africa. This is a demonstration of how powerful stories can be, and how brands can tap into a consumer mindset to make a difference and create movements in the future.

Q5: How has media buying changed over the last decade, and what further changes do you anticipate in the coming years?
CN: Looking at the trends in media investment and buying across most sectors correlated to consumer disposable income and spending patterns, we see that media budgets are the first to get cut when the economy is on a downturn. This has, unfortunately, been the trend over the last few years in SA; as the economy fluctuates, so does media buying and, in essence, media budgets.

Given the above context, it is fairly difficult to anticipate how media buying will evolve as the trend has remained the same. I do believe, though, that agencies will look to overlay artificial intelligence (AI)and other smart technologies to make more informed media-buying decisions.

At MediaCom, we are already delivering on this and are now utilising strategic tools such as The System to ensure that our brands are a step ahead in the marketplace. The System allows us to make strategic budget allocation decisions aligned to consumer behaviour and focus on purchasing audiences and not just media channels.

Q5: There’s a lot of talk about data but not all businesses know how to use it effectively yet. What would you say is key to getting value out of consumer data?
CN: I believe that businesses need to have the right questions in mind in order to extract the best value out of data. This comes from really understanding what it is that you are trying to achieve. Once this is done, you can then look at the cost, accuracy, and quality of the data. I often find that the “asking the right question” step is skipped completely and companies tend to invest in layers of consumer data that is often not valuable to their business.

Q5: Fill in the blanks for us. The secret to success in advertising, as a brand, is___
CN: To balance consumer art and science, and to tell stories that resonate with your target market in order to remain relevant and evolve with the marketplace.


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diversive fields.

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