by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) The January 2020 marketers’ masterclass was a panel-led discussion with five leading marketers and 43 representatives from 22 different agencies. I facilitated the discussion with a selection of prepared questions while also inviting queries from the audience.

The panel comprised:

  • Khensani Nobanda, Nedbank group executive: marketing and corporate affairs
  • Lance Coertzen, Twizza group marketing manager
  • Meredith Kelly, Volkswagen South Africa head of marketing
  • Katleho Mahapa, Hyundai marketing manager
  • Carla de Quintal, Macsteel acting group marketing executive


Before we looked forward, we reviewed the big changes of the last decade, which were:


Then we looked ahead to the new decade and the role of marketing and the marketers themselves within the organisation:

  • Building trust and credibility of marketing within the C-suite
  • Marketers want to be able to rely on their agencies more as their agencies help them and their companies to look outwards
  • Agency leadership must be available and open to discussion with marketers


Should we be measuring everything now that we can? How quickly should measurement take place and which measurements really count, sales or brand equity? Sales may be measured overnight while brand strength may only be measured over time.

Brand reputation

Brand reputation has become much more important. Belief in a brand is now critical in terms of being relevant in today’s society and market — brands need to have roots. Agency support in this area is vital.


Marketing budgets have not declined. But there has been a shift in spend: there’s much more media spend so that consumers are reached and less on production. This has an impact on creative agencies and their production partners.

More is going in-house as clients build their own in-house teams for more basic production work, digital and even media.

Agency-costing models ie resource- and time-based have to change as they’re no longer useful. Moving to output-based is more reliable for marketers and easier to justify within procurement and C-suite structures


Proactive thinking by agencies is great to have and marketers welcome it but agencies must ensure it’s relevant. They also need to be nimble in that thinking


Sponsorships have to be strategically valuable to the brand or business. Is the role of sponsorship building the brand or creating sales? Is it locally relevant? Does the marketer have naming rights ?


Procurement is not only about price but also about payment terms. Procurement is very influential so agencies must do their best to help marketing and procurement — three-way win!


What is long-term planning in this day and age? Generally, plans are made for five years and budgets are planned over 12 months. Agility is, therefore, essential — stick to the plans but remain flexible — being able to respond to new market entrants is essential for marketers.

The auto-industry plans 10 years ahead but also has to build in flexibility.

Tips for agencies

And, finally, there were some tips for agencies, one from each marketer:

  • Make sure that you understand the client’s business — really! Don’t fake it
  • Understand the local market dynamics: be at the cutting edge of transformation
  • Be on the journey together with your client: marketers don’t want to feel or be alone
  • Creativity drives business results: don’t be afraid to push that and prove it
  • Be a real business partner with your client: help the marketer ‘sell’ the marketing/advertising solution to his/her board.
  • Focus on changing the agency-costing model: it’s obsolete and a hindrance to real growth.

See also

For more


Johanna McDowell and César VacchianoJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Johanna is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. She also runs the IAS Marketers Masterclass, a programme consisting of 10 masterclasses (up from eight) held in Johannesburg (now at GIBS). Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits. She contributes the regular column, Masterclass Notes, which aims to help marketers and their agencies, to

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