The owner of a clothes shop prepares to reopen in Melville, Johannesburg in accordance with the stage 4 lockdown regulations. Picture: Luca Sola / AFP
The owner of a clothes shop prepares to reopen in Melville, Johannesburg in accordance with the stage 4 lockdown regulations. Picture: Luca Sola / AFP

Looking back to my first day of work in January 1980, the big news was uMkhonto weSizwe, the military wing of the ANC, demonstrating against the British Lions rugby team visiting SA. My other vivid recollection of that day was the heavy material of the maroon bell-bottoms I had bought for the occasion – my most expensive purchase to date.

It was a time of telex machines, typing and Tipp-ex; not to mention realms of post which comprised a fair amount of junk mail. Television and radio stations (such as LM Radio) and their DJs were the hot topics, as were the launch of Capital Radio 604 and Radio 702. These were seismic events at the time given that before this all radio stations in the country had been owned by the SABC. Drive-time advertising could only be booked with two spots in the morning and two spots in the afternoon, which had to be bought as a package.

There was one television station in 1980. The agency would put forward its annual budget and a few weeks later the contract for 30 spots read throughout the year would arrive in the post. Moreover, if you received the number of posts you asked for you would be happy – there simply was no choice around programmes or flighting.

The big change to hit the retail sector and revolutionise how consumers shopped at this time was the opening of the first Pick n Pay Hypermarket, where both food and general merchandise were sold.

Options in the media world felt as though they were exploding, what with new radio stations and talk of a second television channel starting. Amusing as it may seem today, at the time it was akin to the launch of a new social media platform.

The point is this: I have spent 40 years working in the advertising industry and every year brings with it some fundamental change. From fax machines to digital media, microwaves, barcodes and scanners to social, economic and political shifts, the industry is a rollercoaster where no day is ever the same and the best way to keep up is to stay ahead of the game.

This constant tsunami of events means that as an industry we have been hearing different versions of the same story for some time about decreased budgets and stretched finances in marketing departments.

the big take-out:

Change is inevitable. Survival is reliant on a built-in resilience that forms part of the DNA of a brand or business, and the ability to face challenges and adapt no matter what the landscape may throw in their way.

There is no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic is different and has changed the world in ways we have never seen before. That said, the next big thing is always bigger than the previous thing and in between there are smaller events that allow us to learn and, to some extent, predict behaviour and responses. 

Business, marketing media strategy and planning – the elements of every integrated agency – are successful only because of their abilities to plan ahead, predict the next shift and ensure that clients and brands are well positioned when the change takes place.

It’s about a built-in resilience that forms part of the DNA of a brand or business, the ability to face challenges and adapt no matter what the landscape may throw in their way. As an example, we are currently recording radio spots despite the lockdown, meeting with clients on Zoom and carrying on in spite of it all.

Refining one’s business and planning ahead takes application, consistency, listening more than talking, reading and networking, not to mention always learning and being open.

In this changed environment, it will be as it always has been – the strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker. And bell-bottom pants may even make their way back into fashion one day – but when?

  • Paul Middleton is the MD of Ebony+Ivory.

 

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.