Picture: 123RF/olegdudko
Picture: 123RF/olegdudko

Increased competition and a challenging business environment mean that the only way the media industry can grow is through new and sustainable business development. More than ever before, a collaborative working relationship is required between brands, agencies and media owners.

During a recent Future of Media digital event, in collaboration with Vodacom, EziAds, Everlytic, Proudly SA, The MediaShop and WAN-Ifra, and moderated by Arye Kellman, co-founder and chief creative officer of Tilt, a panel of experts discussed how those in the industry can support each other and use their respective strengths to complement the strengths of others.

Collaboration in the current environment is not just about growing your business but is an essential element of survival, said Enrico Ferigolli, co-CEO and co-founder of Bottles. His company essentially had no business while alcohol sales were banned. However, as a result of a long-standing partnership with Pick n Pay, the business quickly pivoted to supply essential grocery items.

One of the biggest factors that has contributed to the success of Bottles, he said, is that each component of the multifunctional team has its own roles and responsibilities. The business model works because they trust their partners and don’t tell them how to do their jobs. 

Due to the ever-changing landscape of advertising, the idea of pivoting and collaboration can be challenging, said Koo Govender, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network SA, adding that the advertising industry needs to better understand how it can add value in a rapidly changing consumer landscape as it finds more effective ways of communicating. “Data and insights will play a critical role … given the rapid rate at which consumers are adapting. Brands need to be adapting just as rapidly. Working together will help companies flourish.”

Collaboration has long been a key factor in the success of the 2019 FM AdFocus Partnership of the Year winner, M&C Saatchi Group. Chief creative officer Neo Mashigo said that despite a natural friction which exists between clients, agencies and media owners, all parties need to be focusing on collaboration during this time.

Synchronicity is so important to the success of a campaign, but unfortunately there are often cases where teams are not on the same page, which has an effect on the speed at which decision-making processes are made, said Kellman.

In reality, partnerships and collaboration are not always easily achieved as each party guards its own perceived territory, said Riaan Wolmarans, head of digital: media at Arena Holdings. This can be compounded by a lack of skills. However, given the extremely constrained environment coupled with a new consumer landscape, unless all parties work more closely together their opportunities to succeed will be diminished, he said. “A trusting partnership and effective collaboration efforts can avoid this challenge because whether you are a publisher, agency or brand you need to acknowledge each other’s strengths and expertise.”

If the economic rate of recovery is too slow, Wolmarans said the demise of more media brands was a very definite possibility. “The only way for media brands to survive in the current environment is to be agile and adaptable – and to collaborate – for a future which is hard to predict.” 

At the end of the day, media owners and agencies are trying to find the new normal. It is clear that business is feeling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As Wolmarans pointed out, “the term ‘survival of the fittest’ is a touchy subject in media right now. Even when going into recovery mode, it needs to be understood as a long term goal. Working together with partners, offering good campaigns and adapting with speed will help. We can’t do it alone.”

If there’s something positive that’s come from the Covid-19 crisis and the national lockdown, it’s an opportunity to revisit business models and to build something stronger, reiterated Ferigolli. “We can now really do things that matter. It’s stressful but can be an exciting opportunity.”

The big take-out:

 As media owners, agencies and brands grapple with the new normal, is it perhaps time for them to re-evaluate how they work together?

Asked what advice she would give to the marketing industry right now, Govender emphasised that even in these uncertain times, this is a time for opportunity. “We won’t get another chance like this for a while; to reset, reflect and refocus on what is important. Doing your best this moment puts you in the best for your next moment.”

Mashigo said that if he could create a happy ending to a TVC that reflects on our current times, he would not make it an advert but would rather create a feeling and emotion that would give people hope and send a message that life goes on.

The panel agreed that a paucity of trust, coupled with a lack of synchronicity and accountability, is an issue in an industry where stakeholders need to respect each party’s core expertise. At the same time, brands cannot allow the uncertainty to cripple them in terms of decision-making. To be sustainable they need to ensure they remain relevant to consumers.

The next digital event, ‘The Power of Content, Connections & Culture’, will be taking place on June23 2020 at 10am. For more information, or to register, click here.

If you would like to partner and be involved in driving these insightful sessions, contact Cortney Hoyland.

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