by MarkLives (@marklives) What are the industry expectations for the marketing and advertising industry in 2020? A panel of key agency and marketing execs 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. Last up is ForKeep’s Prakash Patel.

Prakash Patel

Prakash PatelPrakash Patel (@PrakashPatel_1), a seasoned marketing and brand strategist and data-driven digital marketer, is now an executive director for a new innovative platform, ForKeeps — keeping memories forever. Previously, he was MD and chief strategist for Fogg Agency, CEO of Prezence digital and chief digital officer of FCB/Mesh. Prior to moving to South Africa, he spent over 18 years at some of the world’s largest data and digital agencies in the UK. An active judge both locally and internationally and part of the SXSW Innovation Advisory Board, Prakash is now trying to keep up with tomorrow today and helping brands add value in our brave new digital world.

With the dawn of a new decade, I’m not just thinking about the usual trends in our industry specifically but also about what’s going on currently at an economic, global and local level. There’s much uncertainty in South Africa at the moment, with the recent announcements of retrenchments by Telkom and the potential closure of 34 Massmart stores (one of SA’s largest retailers including well known retail chains Dion Wired, Game, Builders Warehouse and Makro), and ongoing troubles experienced by our current and former parastatals — in particular our main energy provider Eskom, South African Airways (SAA) and ArceloMittel trying to sell some of their assets to offset debts. This — coupled with our horrendous unemployment level and the small number of taxpayers who are trying to uphold up our economy along with environmental challenges such as water shortages in the Eastern Cape — are all signs of a tough year ahead.

But, as Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

This isn’t the first time we in SA have faced uncertainties, nor will it be our last. But one thing the past has taught us is that we’re resilient, nothing is permanent, and challenging the status quo is the ‘exciting’ way forward. It drives us to think differently. I believe our industry (and all industries) and brands need to buckle up and start the year by riding the new waves once again. Let’s get focused by knowing where we want to be in a year’s time — by being more purposeful and committed to becoming greater visionaries, innovators, disruptors and thinkers. Let’s be the marketers, advertisers and consultants who genuinely add value to our clients’ business challenges. It’s a time to be more equipped, understanding our own purpose and the changing world around us. Consumers aren’t only fickle and smarter but won’t tolerate false claims and broken promises. Consumers are in charge and, as such, are continually evolving naturally in how they behave, buy and consume media across all our marketing channels, when they want to and how they want to. We have their attention for a nanosecond, and that means that we’ve one genuine chance to win them over.

In today’s digital world, not having an online presence, or being able to buy a product online is the first sign of a business with an end date.


I know many businesses that still don’t have an online presence. Why? Any business of any size may set up an online presence in minutes, from Facebook Pages to Shopify, or create an enterprise website; there’s no excuse. Statista recently reported that, in 2020, year-on-year online sales will grow at 15% and user growth by 6.9% (32m users). These are incredible opportunities and percentage growths that are more promising than any other sector growths in our economy. But, in SA, we still continue to grow well behind the global market. For example, in the UK, online retail sales account for approximately 18% of the total retail market, vs 1% in SA. To me, this isn’t bad news but great news, as we’re only scratching the surface of the potential. However, with these opportunities lie challenges — around the reduction of basket or cart abandonment (reported to be around 75%) and brand engagement — that may be achieved through better loyalty and greater mobile and desktop user experience (UX) or omnichannel architecture, as our consumers start their research in one place or device and complete it elsewhere.

Innovative thinking

We also need to further master the tools and media platforms at our disposal with greater insight, data, creativity and innovation, and not the same old thinking. I can’t wait to see some new innovative campaigns, or ones that use existing platforms or channels and do something never seen before with them. A simple but small brilliant example for me was an innovative campaign I judged last year by Joe Public, the 2018 Anglo-American South Africa Instamine campaign, which used the existing platform of Instagram and applied creativity in execution that was innovative, engaging and exceptional.

You have my attention for 1.5 seconds. Now make it count!

Mass production vs real-time personalisation

We now live in a world of instant gratification. Once it was thought that it was the first 7.5s that grabbed the attention of our consumers; now it’s estimated that this window is less than 1.5s — the speed we swipe, click, flick, and glance through media, from posts and popups to programmatic ads, is breath-taking. So, our job today has never been so difficult or scientific and technically enabled. Otherwise, we’re all gone in 60 seconds.

The challenge we have is that the traditional generic approach of aiming mass communications at everyone and anyone is now being replaced by personalisation at scale like never seen before, based on smart tracking of consumer behaviour and serving real-time, relevant ads at the right time based on your preferences and searches. This type of personalisation, based on data, analytics, algorithms and programmatic, is becoming more and more sophisticated. One day soon, even just thinking about a product will result in relevant ads being served and purchased with a blink of an eyelid (why not?).

‘85% of jobs in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.’

New consumers

Generation Z (described as anyone born between 1997 and 2011 and whose ages span between 7 and 22 in 2019) are no longer young. This generation inherited digital; they would rather Uber than buy a car, and value experiences above anything else in their possessions. They’re now giving rise to the next generation: Generation Alpha (born after 2011), who’ve been described by Henry Rose Lee as “millennials on steroids”. I’m fortunate to be a father to three alpha girls who are most definitely on a curious quest for knowledge, saving the planet, and being influencers about everything we buy and where we buy them, from groceries to clothes.

This is a generation where digital is simply part of their DNA and the norm and they don’t see it as disruption or transformation. Their world is one where instant gratification is everything, content snacking is favoured above heavy ads, followers are their peers and where they have more admiration and respect for a 17-year-old activist than the presidents of the most-powerful countries in the world. They’re growing up in an environment where, by the time they are ready to work, over 85% of the jobs they’ll hold haven’t even been invented yet.

What’s your purpose?

The opportunity at the heart of all this, I believe, is about being more purposeful — first and foremost to ourselves and our families, in the role we do, the people we work with and the brands or businesses we serve! Purpose for me is one reason for being excited every day — excited about the business wins, the briefs we get or the opportunities we create. It’s about doing something that truly inspires us to go the extra mile, and the passion we inject into our lives. What then transpires isn’t ordinary but extraordinary in a brave new world of uncertainties.

See also


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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