David Uribe. Picture: Supplied
David Uribe. Picture: Supplied

To be sustainable, advertising agencies have to become data centric and should position technology at their core, says David Uribe, regional head of Data at TBWA\ for Africa, the Middle East and Central East European markets.

Uribe recently returned to SA after spending the past year in the UAE to head digital, data and innovation at TBWA\Africa. He offers a wealth of knowledge about all things digital and his expertise is provided across the TBWA\ group. 

Passionate about data, digital and the integration of new technologies in advertising and commerce, Uribe has a master’s degree in digital business, digital communication and media/multimedia from the University of Barcelona. He has spent more than a decade working as a global marketer across four continents.

Media has long cited content as the most important element in its mix, but in advertising today data is king. However, simply owning data is not enough. The real differentiator is how brands manage and use it to personalise their communication in order to deliver targeted, one-to-one messages to consumers at the precise moment in the purchase cycle that the customer is ready to buy it.

As a result, data management platforms (DMPs – software platforms that collect and manage data) are becoming increasingly popular globally, as they allow advertisers to take control of their data and make better buying and planning decisions.

According to Uribe, the digital landscape in Europe and some parts of the Middle East is more advanced than in SA. “There investment in technology and third-party tools is much higher, digital channels are better integrated and data is properly integration and used,” he says.

In contrast, while data is a hot topic in SA most agencies don’t know how to manage it. “Most agencies are simply repackaging data for reporting and hyper-targeting rather than for analysing it to help them deliver more personalised messages and business intelligence,” he says.

Part of the problem is that most clients don’t give their agencies access to their data. “In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal clients are protecting their data very carefully. For the most part, agencies haven’t yet found a way to address this. Despite sending members of our own teams to sit with client teams, we’re often not asking the right questions. As a result, agencies are typically responsible for generating their own data, correlating what consumers are saying on social media and then looking for patterns.”

Recognising the importance of better managing data and more effective use of technology, the TBWA\ group is making a significant investment in DMPs and creative assistants in order to create bespoke solutions. These solutions aim to achieve three outcomes: better cost efficiencies, the ability to differentiate brands better through innovation, and specialisation in order to create more iconic work.

Uribe says the aim is to build tools that will create cost efficiencies and assets at scale and at speed. For differentiation, the intention is to change the narrative by using artificial intelligence and optimising technology. “Technology allows for production at scale and improved performance while at the same time reducing the cost of sales leads and the dependency on analytics,” he says.

Most clients, he says, are hesitant to invest in research and development and would rather buy into a finished product. “TBWA\ is building these bespoke solutions without any financial support from clients. However, we feel strongly that once clients see the benefits of these solutions, including cost efficiencies and how their brands will be better differentiated, they will buy into them.”

The big take-out:

TBWA is focusing on building bespoke technology solutions to reach and connect with consumers better in an increasingly fragmented online world.

Uribe, who requested the transfer to SA, is excited about the opportunities he sees in the local market. “In both Europe and the UAE, because of the relative stability of their markets, companies are hesitant to make significant additional investments in technology and innovation. The state of the economy in SA, however, means that agencies such as TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris are eager to consider ways to boost their innovation and grow their clients in a more cost-effective manner.”

Building these bespoke technology solutions is partly about playing management consultants at their own game and halting the global trend of companies encroaching on turf that has traditionally been the domain of advertising agencies. But more importantly, says Uribe, it’s about having the ability to respond with appropriate tools and services as brands face the challenge of reaching and connecting with consumers in an increasingly fragmented online world.

“Television will continue to be the main channel of investment, taking 50%-60% of the mix, but in years to come a greater investment will go into digital innovation,” he predicts. “We like to point out that TV is not dead – it’s just having babies. Traditional-content platforms will become increasingly more personalised. The Holy Grail in advertising right now is personalisation. To achieve that requires moving away from demographic data and towards more valuable behavioural and perceptual data. No longer will the brand be at the centre of the communication, the consumer will. Brands that understand this evolution will win in the long term.”

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