Karabo Songo. Picture: Supplied
Karabo Songo. Picture: Supplied

Ad agencies currently in lockdown and servicing clients remotely are starting to look to the future and how their operating models will be forced to change.

Brave Group CEO Karabo Songo believes that by the time the lockdown is over, consumers’ priorities will have changed radically and the ad industry needs to be in a position to adapt quickly.

He believes brands and their agencies have important issues to consider: "How will the new normal affect income patterns of my customers, and is our business/product adapting … to have a fighting chance against competitors? In addition, is what we perceive to be our sustainable competitive advantage still strong, and if so, will it stay that way?"

In the SA economy, Songo says, many brands and businesses have built empires largely on protected and controlled distribution channels that kill competition. He believes a lot of these businesses will not recover after the crisis and the question ad industry players need to ask is how they fight for the "new golden channels".

"It may seem digital is one simple answer, but I believe it is a million answers in one; if you are to thrive, you need to have a very specific response."

Songo says he expects "group consumer buying" to flourish in a post-coronavirus world. "Perhaps this will ultimately bring us the opportunity to crack the elusive stokvel market."

He says value addition by brands and agencies will become a key issue in the months to come, as will the cost-cutting trend — which will no doubt accelerate. "We will question everything and its ability to deliver. How we rapidly move our work to more accurately measurable platforms will continue to drive accountability of spend, and we’ll need to make sure one’s value-add is relevant in the new phase that clients are in or are about to get into."

Joe Public group CEO Gareth Leck says the pandemic has forced all businesses to change their approach. "The crisis has forced us to rethink how we do almost everything, and we will definitely be doing certain things differently, and better, from now on. The crisis has reinforced the critical importance of our business purpose, and [this] has been the guiding light in almost all our decision-making."

Part of the problem for all companies has been the challenge of staff motivation. Those with positive company cultures seem to have survived better.

Says Leck: "As an organisation that has always been firmly committed to the growth of our people, our approach to this crisis from day one was to put them first. And we have experienced an immediate reciprocal sense of commitment from them. It has been amazing to see how our people have adapted and risen to every challenge. This has happened completely naturally, without us having to force any behavioural changes on anyone."