JEREMY MAGGS: Digital ‘land grab’
A new battleground centred on digital capability in brand building has emerged between consultancies and ad agencies, along with a fight for bespoke skills
A new war is being fought on the brand-building front as big global consultancies are now offering competitive high-end digital skills.
But the fightback has started.
King James Digital — part of the Cape-headquartered independent King James Group — believes that while consultancies might have customer analytics taped, it’s in the implementation that the battle will be won.
Chief creative officer Matt Ross says: “A sharp focus on customer experience closes the loop — namely communicating, being part of product-build and understanding, and using optimum platforms and media choices.”
Ross and King James Digital CEO Nimay Parekh say the topography of brand communication is changing daily: those that move rapidly when it comes to interpreting data and are flexible in implementing solutions have the edge.
Ross talks about a “land grab” between digital agencies and business consultancies such as Deloitte and Accenture. He’s at pains to point out, though, that King James Digital is not a consultancy but a services company operating in tandem with the King James Group and its through-the-line advertising and public relations expertise.
The new company, opened only weeks ago, was formed by the group merging its digital agency, Punk, and social media unit, Society, with recent acquisitions Flint & Tinder and SOC. The new agency has close on 100 specialist operatives. Clients include Sanlam, Santam, AB InBev and PicknPay.
The key question is whether King James isn’t coming to the party too late, given that rivals such as Ogilvy, Publicis and FCB have been providing this type of service for a few years, following a series of high-profile acquisitions.
Ross says that while the group has had in-house digital capacity for some time, agencies don’t always build internal capability well. It had been looking for external skills, which it believes it has now found.
A second fight is playing out for bespoke skills to staff the operation. Parekh says: “We are continually looking for new talent and particularly people who are problem solvers and intuitively understand the needs of brands often before they know it themselves. We are hiring software engineers and computer science graduates, something brand agencies might not have done in the past.”
One of the changing dynamics of this new era of brand communication is exactly where the agency-client relationship sits. Traditionally it’s been a linear affiliation with the marketing department.
Not any more, says Ross. “We now need the capacity to work with product design teams, IT departments and even those in logistics.”
A case in point has been the agency’s role in developing a product for a financial services client – a keyring device that prevents remote-control jamming in car parks.
The agency was also instrumental in developing an app that, using Uber ride-hail thinking, enables small items to be collected and delivered, and a mini-soap opera for Sanlam delivered entirely on WhatsApp.