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Louise Marsland

Louise Marsland
Louise Marsland is an editor, journalist and columnist in the media and marketing communications industry in South Africa, who has been writing about the industry for over two decades as a former editor of publications: AdVantage, Marketing Mix and Bizcommunity.com. She currently writes extensively about industry trends and consumer insight.

Design Indaba 2018 puts Afrofuturism on the map

Afrofuturism. It’s a word you will be hearing about a lot in connection with the economic rise of the continent of Africa, Africa’s increasing cultural impact on the world, and the new generation of political leaders that are bringing hope to the continent of lasting peace and economic prosperity.

At Design Indaba this year, speakers from the African continent and South Africa spoke about the hope that Afrofuturism is bringing to countries across Africa, as well as the Diaspora – the millions of Africans living outside of Africa, either as economic or political refugees.

Design Indaba, now at Artscape in Cape Town, has created a very successful platform over more than two decades, to harness creativity for meaningful social change across the world. Speakers from all disciplines: architecture, design, film, fashion, graphic design, advertising and branding, grace the stage, showcasing their body of work and projects that have literally changed the world. Technology has also been playing a strong role as an activator for change, in recent years.

Smashing stereotypes

Key factors contributing to the rise of Afrofuturism, are brands and films, which are having a massive impact on the way Africans and people outside of Africa, view the continent. The movie Black Panther was cited several times by speakers for its empowering message and strong characters. The #BeAbsolut brand campaign featuring Khuli Chana, which won big at Cannes last year, also featured as an example of how to smash stereotypes and imagine another future for Africa.

Zimbabwean filmmaker and commercials director, Sunu Gonera, who directed the Absolut campaigns, gave an emotional speech about his journey to success, with all its highs and lows, from being feted in Hollywood, to losing everything and ending up back in South Africa, living in one room with his family, before rebuilding his career in film.

His talk was on Afrofuturism and he described it as Africa’s moment to shine, to change perceptions about Africa, to tell African stories: “Embrace Africa with all its brokenness and you can be creative out of that. Africa is not a jungle. It is a continent of intelligent, progressive, smart, but also innovative people. Africans are innovative because we use what we find. Our voice matters. We love hard because of our proximity to death in Africa.”

“For me, I think carpe diem, this is our moment. Tell your story, exactly the way you want to do it. Don’t be afraid to show where you come from, a shack or a mansion. Show it without apology.”

Telling African stories

Gonera said movies like Black Panther “normalised” Africa, showing imagery and telling stories that were radically different from the ‘poverty porn’ usually peddled out there in the news media in relation to Africa.

Human centred designer Mark Kamau, who is bringing free Wi-Fi to rural areas in Kenya and Rwanda, as well as rolling out digital classrooms in rural schools in Africa and in other parts of the globe, sees Afrofuturism as a chance for Africa to solve global problems with its unique approach to solving problems by coming up with solutions.

With his company BRCK, he freely admits he is disrupting the internet in Africa, building technology which provides free Wi-fi and school materials in rural areas, as well as creating servers in villages. “It is amazing to see African built technology making such a difference. It is time for Africa to claim thought leadership in this space. That is Afrofuturism in my opinion. The Africa of the future does not sit back.”

Most beautiful object

Another beautiful work from Africa is Thabiso Mjo’s tutu 2.0 light, voted as the winner of the Design Indaba’s annual Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) award. Mjo’s functional lamp is a reimagining of the ballerina tutu, says the designer, who drew inspiration from both Western and African fashion styles to make this unique chandelier.

The light, more of an artwork, is “an evolution of the iconic ballet outfit mingled with hallmarks of an African counterpart, the Xibelani skirt”, according to Mjo. The Xibelani skirt is worn by Tsonga women and is known for its structural, tiered layers and colourful vertical pleats.

“My primary target market is always those whose cultures are represented in my designs. It’s always so incredible when someone recognises themselves in one of my objects,” she said.

This is Afrofuturism at work.


Advertising trends for 2018: It’s a virtual world

In recent years, writing about trends for the media and marketing communications industry can feel as if you are in a dystopian sci-fi novel, as augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics and artificial intelligence all become more of a reality. And this year, 2018, will see more immersion by marketers in the virtual world.

Artificial intelligence has arrived

Self-driving cars, CRM bots and other customer service programmes are already using artificial intelligence and, according to Gartner, 85 per cent of bots will power all customer service interactions in a couple of years. Machine learning is very much here.


Augmented and virtual reality

For the last couple of years, marketers have been coming up with innovative AR to thrill customers and amplify chatter on social media. AR and VR are about to go mainstream in everything from trade shows to print campaigns and movies. It presents a wonderful opportunity for marketers and advertising agencies to push the boundaries of customer experience. Gartner, in its raft of 2020 predictions, posits that by next year, 20 per cent of business will be investigating or adopting augmented, virtual and mixed realities (AR, VR and MR); and that in two years’ time, 100 million consumers will be shopping using AR applications.

Embrace video content

In a world where 90 per cent of all internet traffic will be video-based by next year and 92 per cent of mobile viewers already share videos, South African brands and media owners still have to fully embrace video. Less than 1 per cent of press releases are sent to media including a video link to include as part of the content, unless it is of course, obviously, a new television or film or television commercial or movie trailer. Brands and public relations professionals need to start thinking about including video shorts and interview snippets as part of any press release and marketing release, as video content is amplified on social media. Brands need to include video as a priority in all messaging from herein out.

Streaming video pushes connected TV

According to eMarketer, the number of households in the United States with traditional television packages, will decline by 4 million by 2020, as consumers go for connected TVs as the demand for streaming, on-demand video content grows. At AfricaCom in Cape Town, November 2017, the focus was squarely on VOD (video on-demand) services for Africa, with packages ranging from a few hours of video to per day and per month packages. The good news is that the focus is on brand advertising to fund these services across Africa, in the hope that content and data will eventually be provided for free.

New strategic model for agencies

Locally and internationally, ad agencies and business consultancies are going head to head to service brands as data insight and business solutions become the key to building brand innovation. The result is that business consultancies are buying ad agencies and ad agencies are transforming into strategic partners to brands. It will be an interesting time of new agency models and consolidation.

Agency heads in South Africa are careful to point out that they “own” creativity and no one can do it better as storytelling sits at the heart of all campaigns.

Content Marketing remains a key trend

Content marketing remains a key trend globally and brands are increasingly creating and owning their own media properties as advertising agencies boost their content and digital teams with professional writers/journalists and social media experts. With social commentary by brands rising, coupled with purpose-driven branding that makes a measureable difference in communities, brands will begin to influence society as much as media currently does, as the lines blur in a digital world.

The rise of independent media

The “fake news” phenomenon and rise of nationalist politics across the globe, driven largely by the incoherent Trump era in the US, has had a positive spin for independently and crowd-funded investigative journalism, both in the States and here in South Africa. It has often been the independent press that has uncovered massive political and business scandals, and that era is returning and growing in the total onslaught against the media by unscrupulous politicians decrying: fake news; as well as the fake news spread by bots manipulating social media algorithms

No more digital

Segmenting digital as a separate channel or service has ended as digital is integrated into everything we do. And if you are still featuring “digital” or “social media” as separate plans in any strategy, you need to find a new job. The only relevant question is “which platform”. It follows that anything a brand does will be featured on or seeded through social media and all the digital real estate owned or targeted by the brand.

The generation to save us from ourselves

Generation Z is overtaking millennials in influencing brand decisions. They are an entirely new breed of youngster, purpose-driven, with a deep concern for the planet and all who live in it. They want to fix what their parents broke, but they don’t want to struggle like their millennial older siblings are, trying to cope in a brand conscious world which has had more than its fair share of economic and political crises. Generation Z are often anti-brand, they want authenticity and real stories, nothing fake. They will create their own world and they may allow brands to help if they demonstrate they really care enough to tackle global problems too. And watch out for Generation Alpha – the children of the millennials (born after 2011) – who are shaped by digital technology: “They are born into a landscape in which devices are intelligent, everything is connected and physical and digital environments merge into one,” according to Wired magazine’s recent special report. Their brains may, in fact, be wired differently due to the impact of technology. Start studying them now – they will change marketing forever and the rest of the world.

The evolution of the television market

Rapid technology innovation and development is spawning new business models in the television content arena, particularly in Africa as mobile becomes a preferred device and new content packages are created. However, the high cost of data remains a challenge for television and video content providers. This emerged at the AfricaCom conference and expo which took place at the end of last year.

The 2017 November event marked the 20th anniversary of AfricaCom on the African continent. With 18 different conference streams running simultaneously and two exhibition floors spanning the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC), including a Technology Arena in the newly opened CTICC extension, AfricaCom is one of the largest events in Africa.

The event organisers bring the entire media and technology ecosystem on the continent together under one roof to discuss innovation, new products, new systems, regulations and trends for the coming year.

In the TV Connect Africa stream, the business of broadcasting in Africa was discussed by keynote speakers and several panels. Channels Media Group chairman and CEO, John Momoh, warned that the industry was faced by radical change and disruption and the “disarranging of the way we do our business”.

“Suddenly new markets are created with new sets of values that threaten existing markets. Streaming is changing every single relationship in the entire value chain,” Momoh pointed out.

Momoh spoke of a new business model for screen content as OTT (Over-The-Top content delivered direct via a set top box and/or direct through the internet) is expected to grow by 20 per cent globally in the coming year, with “digital predators” like Amazon and Netflix now competing for rights to major sporting and entertainment events along with global broadcasters.

A strong theme was the growth of the content industry across Africa as more mobile subscribers come online and consumers demand local content and commentary in their own languages. A massive hurdle to growth, however, remains the cost of data and the network providers were taken to task by many speakers for their delay in looking at free data models, particularly as content producers are looking at free content models.

The pay-TV market in Africa has gone up by 22 per cent and will get to 31 per cent by 2031. And with mobile broadband connections of over a billion in 2022, and the increasing affordability of smartphones, it opens up huge opportunities in the mobile content space, said Charles Dawes, Tivo senior director, International Marketing.

Among the most significant trends discussed in the television and film industry in Africa, were:

  1. The rise of Netflix and Video on Demand (VOD) is a threat to revenue in the television broadcasting sector.
  2. The majority of content viewed is now through a connected device, half of it on mobile.
  3. New business models are being developed in the industry as customers want instant gratification and technology fills the gap. “Technology needs to enable, and operations need to adapt,” urged Julian Ankiah, GM of Media Technology at DStv.
  4. Consumers expect total coverage in their homes: with all devices connected everywhere.
  5. Consumers want ease of use: easy to install, easy to connect, everything just works and connects to multiple devices, including home networks.
  6. Bandwidth is the new global currency for consumers and new technologies continue to drive demand performance and massive investment in Wi-Fi networks.
  7. New subscription-based models that allow cost breakdown with any number of channels for choice, are emerging in Africa. “We try to create as many templates as possible, so everyone has a choice; and we try to create the same experience on any device, from smart TV to tablet,” said Cees van Versendaal, executive sales manager, Mware Solutions.
  8. Bring African content to the world – Africa needs to create its own content for its local audiences, as well as for export, as opposed to only importing international content for broadcast. The time is right as more players pop up on the continent to serve an audience hungry for local content in indigenous languages.
  9. Fake news content is now reported to generate more user interaction than real journalism, which threatens the credibility of global media and broadcasters.
  10. The scourge of copyright remains an issue and needs to be combatted vigorously as it impacts on the quality of content shared.
  11. Service is king, not content. “There is a new scramble for Africa… this time for content,” said Momoh. “Drop that ‘For Sale’ mentality, we must now own and produce our own content.”
  12. Operators are looking at Android as a platform for building compelling television services due to the access to apps and content on the big screen; as well as enriching user engagement. “Most importantly, we need to bring devices to the consumer that enables consumer access to all service that they want, when they want it, so the subscriber does not have to switch to another device,” said Tor Helge Kristiansen, EVP principal architect, Conax.
  13. Changes in technology will allow more niche channels at a lower cost across Africa – again feeding the demand for local content and programming.
  14. Data is the future of the monetisation of content, according to Tivo’s Dawes.
  15. And, what will the consumer want next? More devices! This is according to Phil Cardy, regional VP sales, Arris.

As Momoh said: “Local has become global. The responsibility of the broadcaster has increased immensely. We must be very proactive to re-examine our methods and explore new ways of doing business.

“We hope Africa will take centre stage. Arica needs a clear development agenda with practical solutions for the development of its broadcast architecture and systems. The media in Africa holds great potency to change the current narrative of the continent.”

Written by Louise Marsland




The global ‘movements’ to be aware of in 2018

From the weed economy, to the “wokeness’ of new entertainment models and advertisers; brands are scrambling to meet the demands of new movements sweeping the globe.

In his last global trends presentation for 2017, entitled Zeitgeist 2018 – From Woke to Wide Awake, trend analyst and guru, Dion Chang, looked at the mood of 2018 where business and culture intersects.

He and his team have tracked various global movements that will impact on business and society in 2018. When it’s more than a trend, it’s a movement.
This is what advertising agencies and anyone else tracking culture and the impact of global trends on their business, needs to keep top of mind in 2018:

Advertisers and film makers take note: the new wave of gender neutrality and political correctness is driven by the new, young generations who don’t discriminate against gender and believe the objectification of women has to stop. This is a culture shift and slowly advertisers are catching up, with the Cannes Lions advertising festival banning all advertising that objectifies women. This movement aims to sanitise those traditional gender stereo-types personified and encouraged by much advertising today. The gender debate has also gone a step further, with some brands producing gender neutral clothing for boys and girls, such as John Lewis which won’t include any binary labelling in children’s clothing; or the brands launching gender neutral underwear. Transgender models are appearing more and more on magazine covers and as brand spokespeople.


The focus has all been on millennials in the last decade (18-35 years), shifting to Generation Z (teenagers) in the last couple of years. But Chang says, where do you go after Generation Z? Make sure you start listening to the conversation emerging around Generation Alpha – our youngsters of 10 years and younger who are integrating devices into their lives. Chang says India and China will become the centre of gravity for Generation Alpha. Colleges in the United States are already preparing for Generation Alpha, hosting summer camps at Stanford University, for example, for children as young as six years to teach them coding. Advertising is already focusing on them with high-tech baby products and services. In Africa, we will have our “Generation Alpha moment’ towards mid-century when 2 billion babies will be born in Africa, says Chang.


The wellness industry is booming and there is a new model of retail in this space. “Bodyism’ is driving this trend says Chang: new spaces are being created that bring together food, fitness and wellness. “The aim is to change people’s lives. They offer what people need. Wellness is more than a trend, it is a movement, part of the fabric of people’s lives.’

There is also a new way of doing retail and looking at retail. Retail has become about creating experiences for consumers and letting them experience the products or services that they will then buy online. Amazon’s move into bricks and mortar bookshops and the built-in reading experience, is part of that.


Food also features in this underground movement, where you have pop-up restaurant kitchens in parking lots and random areas to distribute to customers. This is a dark kitchen: a kitchen set up in a parking lot with couriers waiting to deliver to customers. They are not designed for sit down meals. The same goes for quick fulfilment centres or warehouses to distribute from your “dark stores’.


The meat-free movement is spreading across the world and the number of people who define themselves as vegan is up by over 300 per cent. Alcohol brands are creating non-alcoholic drinks, which is spawning a wave of non-alcoholic cocktail bars. Pret a Manger now has green logo vegan options. One brand of almond milk saw its sales go up by 2300 per cent in two years.


The voice of the socio-political narrative is coming through into entertainment. Many movie roles are being flipped in remakes, with key roles in Ghostbusters, Oceans 11, Lord of the Flies and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, now featuring women. The reverse is also true, with talk of Channing Tatum being cast as a merman in a remake of Splash.


The grooming activist trend is being reflected across the board, says Chang, in pop-culture and marketing and branding. South Africa has the natural hair movement and this is being reflected in pop culture. Chang referenced singer Solange with her “don’t touch my hair’ lyrics and philosophy, and the Cape Town mother who created swimming caps to fit natural hair styles. In the United States, a brand called Hammer and Nails provides mani-cures and pedicures for men in a safe space. There is a return to barbers for men only.

Marijuana is being rebranded for the 21st century and an entire economy worth billions is being built around it by the “ganjapreneurs’ investing in weed couture – from coffee infused weed to an entire weed town experience in a prime-marijuana growing area in the United States. Even Netflix has introduced a range of products with variants for various movie genres.

Data is the ‘oil of consumer marketing’

When a global brand behemoth focuses on an agile marketing strategy to unlock the value in its consumer data for its own insights and that of all its strategic partners, including its advertising agencies, the industry listens.

In an engaging presentation at the annual Pan African Market Research Organisation (PAMRO) conference, held in Cape Town in August, Leana Less, vice president: global consumer connections and media at Coca-Cola, spoke on agile marketing and how Coke has amplified its strategy to reach a consumer increasingly inundated with content and who spends 58 per cent of media time on the internet and mobile devices – more than TV radio and print combined.

Coca-Cola is a company of 21 billion dollar brands. The changing landscape of both consumer expectations and new media channels has driven the brand to embrace agile marketing to unlock value in the business.

It is insane to think that 6 billion people on earth have a mobile phone when only 4.5 billion people have access to a toilet, Less pointed out in a slide showing how technology is reshaping the consumer communications landscape. This is broken down into increased accessibility via mobile phones, the rise of social, geo targeting through GPS and building knowledge through search.

“Technology and culture are driving rapid change in how we consume media and make purchases, she said, citing the following significant stats:

  • Google and Facebook bring in one-fifth of global ad revenue.
  • There are 2.6 billion gamers worldwide now, versus 100 million in 1995.
  • In China, Alibaba’s singles day sales raked in $18 billion – more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
  • Desktop and mobile ad revenue has surpassed TV for the first time.
  • The end of typing has been predicted, as the next billion mobile users are expected to relay messages on voice and video.
  • Netflix went from near zero to 30 per cent of the US home entertainment market in only 10 years.
  • One in every five Facebook videos is a Live broadcast.
  • 58 per cent of media time is spent on the internet and mobile devices – more than TV radio and print combined.
  • Younger viewers watch 2.5 times more internet video than TV.
  • Facebook video already encompasses 100 million hours per day.

Less sums up: “Each of us now leave a digital fingerprint, an infinite stream of phone records, tests, browser histories, GPS data and other information. More data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race. Enterprises can now store 80 per cent of all data, yet only 0.5 per cent of that data is ever analysed.”

Despite this, data is becoming the “oil of consumer marketing”, emphasised Less.

The challenge, Less said, was to explode complexity when it came to all the data out there. Data that has influenced Coke’s decision to go the agile marketing route. The business results of using marketing analytics correctly and with insight, has been astounding according to the various studies out there, as reported by Less.

This is why Coca-Cola redefined its model to unlock the value in those hidden insights in the data being provided by consumers. To do this, they focused on getting in the right tools and technology, harvesting talent and curating the proper techniques.

Their internal challenge was the lack of integration between various silos within the brand giant. They had invested in the right tools, but were slow in making the most of, and understanding, the insights delivered.

“The challenge lay in becoming a data driven team that encompasses more than just building tools and investing in technology,” said Less. They needed to choose the right data; develop data strategy and build intuitive tools and interfaces; while also adjusting culture and mindsets.

They did this by:

  1. Increasing transparency and empowering people to take better decisions.
  2. Improved resource allocation for content and connections.
  3. Increased data ownership to more effectively target consumers and shoppers.

Less said they were lucky to also be able to harvest the early learnings of others in the industry as data-driven marketing is being rolled out. Programmatic advertising buying, which delivers double the ROI (return on investment) than media bought in traditional ways, is increasing, but is still only just over half of digital media spend. Less sees this changing in the near future as programmatically purchased ad spend rises.

She also addressed the “content trap”, pointing out that “more content doesn’t always translate into better results”. The right KPI (key performance indicator) for content creation is not the number of pieces produced, but consumer reach, engagement, brand metrics and business impact, she emphasised.

“It’s harder to keep quality high with high volumes being produced. Content production growth is far outpacing media investment growth. Machine learning and content stacks should not just be built to reach various target audiences or tribes, the brilliant basics remain essential.”

She said brand-generated content volume is up 300 per cent year-over-year, but total engagement by consumers with that content is flat. “Just 5 per cent of branded content garners 90 per cent of total consumer engagement.”

She concluded: “Ultimately our goal is to ensure we can translate connected intelligence into competitive advantage across the entire system to ensure growth. This includes impression level data across all media, as well as publisher costs; all commercial data; and productivity targets.

“Creating a single source of data, fuelled by the right first, second and third party data (technology); open-sourced to ensure even our strategic partners can leverage the data; and ultimately resulting in improved analytics… providing robust insights and foresight to create value for our business.”

How brands should deal with becoming targets of fake news

One of the major marketing communications trends for 2016/2017 is that consumers
expect brands today to take a stand on important issues, be socially responsible and
comment on current events. Advertising agencies have social media newsrooms and
brands have social media war rooms so that they can position themselves in the
conversation. But what if that conversation is fake? What if brands become the target
of fake news? How do their marketing teams and ad agencies respond?

As a quote most often attributed to Mark Twain, states: “A lie can travel halfway
around the world before the truth gets its boots on.’

Fake news cannot be anticipated, controlled and often goes viral with its click bait
headlines and inflammatory content. Earlier this year, AdWeek in the US put it bluntly:
“Brands should prepare to be the next collateral damage’. They go as far as accusing
unscrupulous advertisers of practically inventing fake news: “When consumers begin
to question the legitimacy of ads, the result is a depreciating effect for brands.’

As the founder and CEO of advertising agency, M&C Saatchi, Mike Abel, explains:
“People want to believe the worst, people are not discerning enough. Sensationalism
sells and fake news has fertile ground to propagate on with social media.’

Abel agrees that as an advertising agency, they need to have far more “deep and
meaningful conversations’ with their clients about fake news, reputational damage
and about having well defined strategies in place if they are caught up in the fake
news maelstrom.

It is also the fault of some brands that people want to believe the worst, as Abel
points out, citing the example of the “abominable handling’ by Ford of the Ford Kuga
car fires. “It allows a conversation that may not be factual to follow that conversation
and becomes one of many examples of where people can attach their own stories to

Branding in a “post-truth’ era

Abel advises brands to be explicit, meaningful and concise in their conversations with
customers. “Brands need to be incredibly prepared in terms of their values, who they
associate themselves with. This notion of “post-truth’ shows us that facts are less
important in shaping opinion and personal attitude is driving “facts’, rather than actual
facts driving facts.’

This is no more apparent than in the rise and rise of social media. Says Abel: “With
social media being what it is today, and every consumer in the world literally having a
soapbox in their hands in terms of their mobile phones, how do you manage your own
narrative, how do you extricate yourself, and create a platform for robust

Nando’s does it very well, Abel says, becoming South Africa’s moral compass through
humour and satire, “speaking truth to power’. But where are the other brands, he
asks? Where is the conversation about brands spending money with discredited
media? Brands also have a responsibility to be authentic and real in everything they
do these days.

In the best brand example recently, MiWay insurance was the target of a fake email
campaign generated by a disgruntled customer. The email was racist in nature and
generated an outcry on Twitter when it surfaced, with many customers of the brand
saying they would move their business elsewhere.

The insurance company responded swiftly, denying the email came from them and
clarifying that it was fake and generated by an unhappy customer. “We are tracing the
source of this fake content on social media and will take strong and appropriate action
against anyone using our brand to disseminate offensive and derogatory comments,’
the company said in a statement at the time.

The email, which also named two MiWay employees, had, however, already gone viral
under the hashtag #miwayracism and generated massive negative publicity for the
brand and for the insurance industry in general. The disgruntled client, who was
traced and found to have had his claim rejected, met with and apologised to the
insurance company subsequently. MiWay in turn acknowledged that its communication
with the client could have been better and they gave the client the option to make the
public apology to MiWay and the two employees implicated in the fake email, or face
legal action.

In terms of the agreement, the perpetrator also agreed to give talks at MiWay’s CSI
initiatives about the dangers of social media, which was a savvy move by the brand
after having its name tarnished unfairly. And they took the moral high ground in not
laying charges against him in

Crisis communications strategy

Not all brands are fortunate in having damaging fake news so publically resolved and
for many, real damage is done to the bottom line and brand loyalty. Brands need to
have a strategy in place:

  1. 1. A fake news strategy should be part of every crisis communications plan and
    brand reputation management. And everyone responsible for a brand should
    understand how fake news arises and how to deal with it when you are targeted.
  2. Develop a sense for fake news and urban legends and hoaxes circulating on
    social media and understand how they emerge, whether around key events or trends
    or memes.
  3. Brands also need to work with platform owners and key influential media owners
    to verify and debunk fake news across platforms.
  4. Nothing on the internet ever dies. Be prepared for fake news to rise from the
    dead like zombies. Given how politicised social media is becoming and how trolls use
    it for fun to destroy people and brands, always be prepared to become part of the
    story, real or fake.
  5. Brand newsrooms which drive engagement with quality content and content that
    is sharable, should be the goal of every brand and their communications partners.
    Companies like GE, Reebok and NASA are cited by NewsWhip.com as being great
    examples of brands doing just that.
  6. When something goes wrong, don’t blame a junior employee. No one respects
    senior managers or CEOs who do not take responsibility for what happens in their
    organisation. It erodes brand trust internally and externally.
  7. A trusted brand can bank that trust in the good times and rely on it to some
    extent during times of crisis. Always be authentic and sincere in communication, have
    values that the consumer knows about, it may be enough to generate goodwill if a
    fake news scandal blows up your brand.
  8. Don’t support untrustworthy sites and discredited media sources. Why add fuel
    to the fake news fire? Marketers are also responsible for creating trusted
    communication and content.

– Louise Marsland

Key advertising trends from Cannes Lions 2017

Artificial intelligence is currently the dominant industry trend and research presented at the 64th International Festival of Creativity (17 to 24 June 2017), has revealed that companies which are consistently creative have better business performance.

Industry veteran, Ann Nurock, a former CEO of Grey South Africa and president/CEO of Grey Canada, now the Africa Partner of Relationship Audits and Management, a global consultancy specialising in the measurement, risk mitigation and optimisation of B2B relationships, attended Cannes and reported back on the key trends in a presentation sponsored by Bizcommunity.com and Ster Kinekor/Cinemark.

At the presentation, Nurock was joined by creative directors who attended Cannes or were also judges, in curating the key advertising communications trends apparent at Cannes from the award winning work; as well as the high profile talks by business leaders and celebrities like David Droga, chairman of Droga5; David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker; actress Helen Mirren; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; and punk rock activists, Pussy Riot.

Joining Nurock in Cape Town in analysing the trends from Cannes, were: design juror Jenny Ehlers, ECD, King James Group; mobile juror Camilla Clerke, creative director, Hellocomputer; promo & activation juror Michael Lees-Rolfe, creative director, FoxP2; and Ryan McManus, ECD, Native VML, who attended Cannes.

Top trends

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) dominated the conversation: Nurock said AI came up in all the specialist and celebrity talks at Cannes this year. The suite of technologies such as Siri, Alexa, Google Home, bots… these invisible deep learning machines powered by AI, have the ability to take over the cognitive tasks which used to require human intelligence and will change the world like the internet did, reported Nurock. “It will radically change the nature of marketing and communications,” she predicted. The implications for creatives is that they have to partner with technology.


  1. Brand purpose is more important than ever: Advertising can change societal norms, people and often save lives, Nurock said, quoting Unilever, which says “Purpose leads to purchase”. Nurock added: “Millennials in particular need to see brands as having a purpose, and going beyond functional purpose. For brands to break through the clutter is to get people to care about them.” She referenced an example of Unilever’s Savlon campaign in India which won gold at Cannes this year, where special chalk sticks infused with soap were created and distributed to schools in India, where children still use chalk boards and chalk to write with in the classroom. There is a lack of soap and mainly water is used to rinse hands before eating. In this case, the chalk turned to soap when children put their hands in water. The campaign was so successful it has been rolled out to more than a million children in India. Ehlers said much of the winning work at Cannes this year addressed a social issue and that it was wonderful to see brands making a meaningful contribution to something other than themselves.


  1. Clients want more craft: Nurock quoted P&G CMO, Marc Pritchard, who said the industry needs to produce “Less crap, more craft”. Clients want better content, more measurement of digital and for ad agencies to eliminate waste and focus on growth and innovation. Insights are key and both clients and agencies need to focus on the users, the consumer, at all times. And clients need to talk to agencies and treat them like partners.


  1. Embrace diversity, kill gender stereotypes: Gender stereotyping adverts have effectively been banned from Cannes from this year, after a powerful movement, the #unstereotypealliance, was introduced at Cannes last year. Unstereotypical ads have also been shown to be 25 per cent more effective, reported Nurock. The Nike campaign You’re Made of What You Do, won gold this year in showing how not to stereotype young girls.


  1. Be a more effective client: Agencies are also looking to clients to have a deep understanding of their own brands: understand their differences in the market and know their own value, in order to create tight briefs. Nurock said it emerged that the biggest issue that agencies have is the quality of the briefs they get from clients. Another is that clients are risk-adverse. “The biggest risk of all is not taking risks… Don’t be a client, be a partner.”


  1. It’s still all about the big idea: Rapidly evolving technology is putting pressure on agencies, but they still need the big idea, Nurock said. The Fearless Girl statue which has faced down the Wall Street Bull, as part of a campaign by State Street Global Investors to encourage investors to invest in companies which empowered women, has since become a global symbol of women empowerment.


  1. Stop making ads: McManus said brands need to start existing in the content people want to watch. And creatives need to create cultural capital on behalf of brands. He quoted David Droga telling the audience to care about what they were doing and ask themselves the question: ‘if they would do it if it was their money?’ Advertising is not the goal, advertising needs to open people up to new ideas and connect brands to people, McManus said.


  1. Storytellers will unlock the value of technology: McManus urged the industry to overcome the disconnect between platforms and people, saying that the success of technology and the platforms is in the hands of the storytellers. All the platforms we now consume are just vehicles for the stories that we have been telling all along. “Stop interrupting and start adding value as much as we can as marketers… and start thinking about what we are adding to the world.”


  1. Mobile is misunderstood: Clerke added that we are living in a mobilecentric world, but the story still sits in the centre. “It is how you build on that story… Make sure mobile is at the heart of the idea. Mobile needs to be the vehicle to share the story. Mobile has the potential to connect people in an intimate way.”


Nurock also reported on industry laments about how expensive Cannes has become – from ticket prices for the priceless talks (R45 000 for a delegate pass) to entries (R10 000 each entry), which is what prompted one of the world’s largest agency networks, Publicis, to pull out of all global and local awards for a year. Locally, this affects Saatchi and Leo Burnett.

But, as she emphasised, it is the only festival that brings together the communications agencies from around the world, with the companies that are shaping our future: Google, Facebook, Alibaba, and so on.

“The work that wins the Grand Prix is as much about culture, as advertising,” Nurock emphasised.

Preparing the creative industry for the future of work

How do you prepare the current generation of advertising and marketing students for a world in which artificial intelligence and robots threaten their future careers and jobs? By teaching them to be more human.

Every industry is facing disruption – from the financial industry with blockchain, to travel with Airbnb and transport with Uber and self-driving cars. Forecasters predict that everyone from actuaries to journalists will be made redundant or partially so, with artificial intelligence and bots. The speed at which disruptor brands and new technologies are upending the status quo and destroying or denting established brands and industries is mind blowing.

Future proofing jobs and careers is something everyone should be concerned about. To this end the Red & Yellow School of Logic and Magic, an institution in Cape Town’s advertising industry having been founded 23 years ago by industry icons Brian Searle-Tripp and Bob Rightford, is repurposing itself as the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business.

The Red & Yellow School of advertising was bought by Quirk Education, well-known for its digital marketing online courses, in 2013. Quirk digital agency and offshoot Quirk Education were founded by digital entrepreneur Rob Stokes, who is now chairman of Red & Yellow and chairman of Mirum Agency (formerly Quirk).

While the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business, situated in Salt River, Cape Town, will retain its niche positioning in the marketing communications industry with its diplomas, certificates and degree courses in marketing and advertising disciplines, it will add new courses and executive education short courses to transition from the “school of creativity” to the “creative school of business”, officially on 1 July 2017.

Educational activism

The whole reason for this evolutionary transformation is the new thinking needed around education today, says Stokes, who sees what they are doing as ‘educational activism’. In a nutshell, they need to prepare humans for the jobs that robots can’t do in a future that will be fundamentally disrupted by technology, the beginning of which is happening already from new disruptor brands and services, across industries.

“We are now a business school that believes the most important skill of the future is creative thinking. The core skill that we need to teach people is how to think creativity: the pillars of creative thinking. Design thinking is incredible at solving problems, but what about the non-defined problems? We want to teach people to question the world, question the status quo.”

“I want to give people the confidence and self-awareness to know the best way of doing things, the confidence to be the one to make the change needed,” Stokes emphasises.

They want to turn out students that have the skills and logic to do a great job, but then from a more human perspective, are self-aware enough to change the status quo, to have empathy, intuition, and the ability to approach a problem that doesn’t give them the expected solution.

“So many of our business interactions are about presupposing solutions onto people. We need empathy to drive solutions,” Stokes adds.

The new executive leadership programme which has launched already comprises intensive two-day courses run by leaders in the field and expert trainers on everything from robotics to artificial intelligence in business. The unique subject matter has already created interest in the business sector.

Disrupt tradition

The philosophy that Red & Yellow has embraced is to be unique. There will, for example, be no white cups and the usual supermarket shortbread biscuit platters on offer at the workshops during break time. But rather gourmet burgers and colourful cups. It may be a small thing, but it demonstrates the school’s new philosophy in trying to disrupt the traditional mould of education and executive training.

Stokes outlines the kind of student they hope to attract with the brand repositioning: “We want the undergrad that sees the value of being in business, but is also possibly more technology savvy and embraces a world full of technology and wants to take a different path. We are not a business school for normal people. It’s not a normal world.

“The qualification we want students to walk away with is a state of mind that can question things. That curiosity, innovation happens at the coalface. It is where the private sector is weak on teaching.”

While Red & Yellow will still keep its DNA as a marketing and advertising college, marketing will now be in one of four facilities centred on the premise that creative thinking is the most important skill of the future:

  1. Marketing Faculty: will teach marketing in every format – advertising, strategy, innovation, and so on.
  2. Management Studies: it will include leadership, strategy, negotiation, finance, accounting, HR – all the industries being disrupted.
  3. Human Studies: it will be a cross over with Management Studies, but leadership with a different point of view – including intuition, persuasion science, empathy, mindfulness in the workplace. Basically uniquely human abilities that AI and robots are highly unlikely to get right and where humans will still have a role in the future workplace.
  4. Creative/Production: including current courses in copywriting, web development, photography, production – but with the creative thinking thread running through it all.

They are targeting from undergraduates to executives with three delivery formats: short courses, full-time undergraduate courses (degrees and diplomas) on campus, and corporate training off campus. They also have a policy of funding 10 per cent of students who can’t afford to pay, to ensure that talent has equal opportunity.

“I want to create entrepreneurs, I want to create innovators. I want to teach children things that will give them a career. The commercial logic is to grow successful organisations, but more important is the creative magic to set them apart. We need to teach problem solving skills and leadership from a unique point of view. We will see whole courses on empathy and persuasion skills in the future, for example.

“Creative thinking was applied to marketing, now we are applying it to everything, to business,” as Stokes reiterates. “Let’s produce great people and change the world through education!”

The importance of agency culture for creativity 

What role does agency culture play on creativity and the quality of work for clients? This is the question that Halo agency has interrogated over the past two years in its goal to build the best agency in South Africa to work at.

Dean Oelschig, managing director of Halo, this past month unveiled the agency’s new brand vision and brand design with a video showcasing the new agency branding and new website design. Oelschig believes it takes about seven years for an agency to “find itself” and the clients it wants to work with and to attract the right talent in building the right culture to do great work.

Trust and creativity are at the heart of building the right agency culture. They have even written a book on the Halo employee culture. “We did a lot of research and got feedback from everyone in trying to define what our culture is,” says Oelschig, a founder of Halo, who took over as MD in 2015. “Since then, everything I’ve tried to do is around people. I changed the hiring policy to something quite simple: ‘don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to have a beer with’.”

That was a start in defining the culture to creating “the best agency to work at” in South Africa, explains Oelschig. “The job is not complete yet, we are in the process of trying to define an employee experience manager to appoint.”

They have got rid of the human resources position as a result and seeded the administrative tasks that usually fall in the domain of HR, to the finance department. “We are now trying to find the right person to create a great working environment for employees and clients and drive culture on a daily basis.”

Oelschig is adamant that getting agency culture right is the key in creating the kind of agency that does great work, for great clients and attracts the best talent in the industry – that stays.

“We have turned down three pieces of business in the past six months because they didn’t fit our culture and we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do great creative work for those clients.”

The Halo current client portfolio consists of Elliots International, Jacaranda FM, Viva Gym and the largest independent bank in Kenya, CBA (the Commercial Bank of Africa).

There are tangible benefits for the agency, Oelschig explains, by getting the culture fit right:

  1. People don’t leave, they stay. “You get to keep great people. Creativity is a team sport. It very seldom happens in isolation that one person traps an amazing idea and executes it on its own. Collaboration is from within the agency and outside. If you have that cool group of people that get it, perform, get on, and understand the roles in the organisation, they are working for each other, buying into it. Culture is most important within an agency.”
  2. People are more open to say what they think. “I want people to be honest. Too often we worry about people’s feelings. We tiptoe around the stronger personalities in the room and the weaker shut up and get on with it. A fully-formed adult culture is about candour: we are hard on the work, but not the person. That has allowed people who don’t normally speak up, to feel that they can. We’ve seen that ideas can come from anywhere. We ultimately end up with better work.”
  3. Millennials thrive. “Culture is moving target, the job is on going, benefit is long term. People enjoy spending time with each other outside of normal office hours here at Halo. They spend time with each other, instead of being siloed in different departments. Only one staff member has left us in 18 months (for a sabbatical overseas).”
  4. Value of culture. “The reason I started Halo in 2010, was out of hate. And my hate was this (and I fight it every day): I didn’t like the dismissal of the value of creativity. I saw creativity being downgraded – and the value of how it can change things – into something you can buy off the shelf. Nothing breaks through clutter like great ideas. In previous agencies I worked in, creatives were stuck in a room the same as the finance department and the heroes were sales people. I hated that. I wanted to create an agency where I loved going to work and growing the organisation with a whole bunch of people who really like each other and wanted to work with one another. If people like each other and want to do great work, it benefits client experience too. Our view is that if we create amazing culture with a great group of people, showcase all our personalities and ensure our clients know who we are, we will hopefully attract the right kind of clients.”

Halo’s culture journey wasn’t a shotgun approach. They were methodical and worked with culture-led consultant, Strive CBA (Companies Behaving Awesomely) to map “the temperature” of the agency at all levels.

“Everyone bought into it. I think people are really happy to be at the agency. We do culture days where we run a cooking class and so on. I think it’s working. There’s still a lot to be done. We want to become a lot more about knowledge sharing, about training and development, where people do well,” Oelschig says.

“We are a cool agency with great people with amazing talent. I think the work we’ve done in the last 12 months is better than anything we’ve done previously.”

To this end, they have set medium term goals – something they term “three knocks on the door”:

  1. Halo wants amazing talent to be knocking on the door to come work there.
  2. Halo wants to get the right clients who love what they do and want to work with them, knocking on the door of the agency. “We’re not aiming to grow for growth’s sake. We want to get better with the right client base.”
  3. Halo wants to be sellable. “We’re not for sale, but I like the idea that people may want to buy us, because it means we are doing things right,” adds Oelschig.

Advertising communications trends for 2017

The marketing communications landscape globally, has undergone radical change in the last few years, driven by digital marketing, global agency network consolidation and expansion into Africa and other developing regions; as well as the emergence of sci-fi technologies that will challenge the very fabric of communications in the future, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Keeping ahead of the trends is a current job description as the speed of change has never been more frenetic, nor more critical for brands to take advantage of the next big opportunity, rather than be swallowed by the next big thing.

These are the current advertising communications trends that brands need to take note of:

  1. Business consultants: 

Probably the biggest trend for South African agencies is the fact that they have to become business consultants in addition to creative consultants. Agencies also need to help marketers find the opportunities for their brands and reengineer their businesses to meet the future head on. This is what leading agency leadership in South Africa has spent the past few years doing – transforming their business structure to include business strategy. Business strategy and future proofing brands is very much part of the agency domain now.

Omni-channel marketing: Total integration of marketing communications. Because the consumer can interact with brands and services 24/7, wherever they are and wherever you are – bricks and mortar or online – brands need to provide a seamless experience for their customers, from social media to advertising, to experience in store and afterwards, with the product and after sales service. According to AdWeek, 62 per cent of companies have, or plan to have, an omnichannel marketing strategy. Additionally, 70 per cent of businesses say that omnichannel strategies are important, very important, or critical to their success (Source: Ted Vrountas Marketing Trends).

  1. Programmatic advertising: 

Much of online advertising inventory has now been outsourced to specialist digital buying shops to maximise unsold inventory for media clients. While automated buying tools are chasing users around the world wide web, wherever they may go. This of course has led to the growth of ad blockers and opt-in advertising services which reward users for watching or accepting advertising. This is a huge trend – having to reward consumers for watching your ads in return for discounts or free services in the future.

  1. Messenger apps: 

This is still relatively unchartered waters in South Africa and part of the ‘dark web’ as chats can’t be tracked like on Instagram or Facebook. But chatbots can aid brands in reaching the billions of users globally using services such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp. It’s a matter of time before messenger apps relax their rules on advertising to users.

  1. Paid entertainment: 

Like Netflix is leading the charge away from television to paid-for streamed content, thereby displacing traditional broadcast and pay TV channels; so radio is now being threatened by streaming audio programming, according to Forbes: “With Apple, Amazon and Google all entering the market, streaming audio is rapidly displacing real-time radio.”

Artificial intelligence: The currency de jour is data. Everything needs to be measurable and transparent. Artificial intelligence and the internet of things is driving a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour and marketers have never had it so good – provided they have the right data analysis tools to interpret all the data available to them. But with everything connecting to everyone, the lines are blurring between content and advertising as we know and content marketing gains in popularity as other advertising channels available start narrowing.

  1. Brand activism: 

Consumers are looking for brands that will stand up for their rights in a world where basic human rights are being challenged. We expect more of our brands than our politicians because brands have integrated themselves into our lives over the years with promises of friendship, lifestyle aspirations and reward. So brands increasingly need to take a stand on issues their consumers care about. After the American Presidential election, the gold standard of advertising – the Superbowl – saw a host of brands standing up for various human rights after a slew of Trump executive orders challenged those rights. Nando’s is a classic and effective example in South Africa. While not all brands will be comfortable taking a stand on political issues, there are many others such as the environment, poverty and education that need attention in South Africa.

  1. Fake news: 

There’s always a downside and the dark side of the rise of the internet and the freedom of information, has been the rise in fake news and clickbait. We now know the power of fake news to swing elections and influence violence – and it has spawned the rise of dubious and clickbait advertising links too. Authentic advertisers can capitalise on this by upping their game and delivering exceptional advertising and storytelling and services to customers. Much like the ‘real’ media has had to promote journalism excellence to stand head and should above sites peddling fake news.

  1. Transparency: 

Along with authenticity for brands and real storytelling, so too are agencies and media buying shops being urged to be transparent about commissions and where spend is going. This was a major theme in local and international trend pieces this year. As marketer, Chris Hering, of NetSuite explains: “Those transparency demands, as well as pricing pressures, will take the biggest toll on traditional firms that don’t have a differentiated offering. Niche talent will still demand premiums but commoditised work will move to competitive bidding. Holding companies will buy those assets that are delivering unique from the independent agencies. Agencies will likely have to choose whether to transition to more specialised work or prepare to compete on price and volume.”

  1. Death of traditional media: 

Print has all but been laid to rest in the developed world and other traditional channels, like television and radio, are under threat globally from paid entertainment channels. Africa is not immune to these trends if you consider that mobile phone penetration is at 80per cent. The implications for advertisers are huge as advertisers will have to rely more on digital advertising, particularly on social media platforms, to push product. Brands will become content providers, sponsoring original content in these new channels, as well as continuing the content marketing trend of creating unique content to reach and keep loyal consumers.

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