Picture: 123RF / RAWPIXEL
Picture: 123RF / RAWPIXEL

If companies are going to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, they, along with their agencies, need to refine their definition of innovation and better integrate brand, experience and strategy. This is the advice of Nick Terry, CEO of TMARC.

AKQA is expanding into two new studios in SA as part of the integration of the local TMARC group. TMARC, along with subsidiaries Platform 5 and Strike Mobile is one of South Africa’s leading performance marketing companies. Platform 5 changed its name to AKQA this month.

Speaking to the FM, Terry says innovation is a journey, not a switch, and should be more than just a slogan trumpeted by the C-suite. “It’s a cultural, deep-seated thinking mechanism that should be pervasive within an organisation. It is about always questioning the status quo. Great innovations came from places least expected, from constant tweaking and testing of the status quo.”

Terry says the Covid-19 pandemic has forced brands to react much quicker in what is a do-or-die situation. “The best-in-class have moved at lightning speed to match the mood of consumers. Don’t always think of innovation as shiny new products, think how you can shift your organisation to suit the present times as well as future times. Not every innovation has to be a blockbuster.”

Terry says analysis of data has become more important since the pandemic erupted. “Data-and evidence-led insights will serve up your next innovation if you apply yourself to the process.”

Nick Terry. Picture: Supplied
Nick Terry. Picture: Supplied

He says the key for brands is to transform themselves from message-pushers into storytellers. “It’s the sensory relationship with the client that allows the brand and the agency to unfold human truths, the deep level of understanding of what is now and what the future could be, leading to a great story well told and not merely a production exercise.”

A good benchmark is the “one-in-five theory”, he says. A good brand story takes five years to build, then 25 years and probably more to tell. Terry says brands have to use the inherent properties of digital and not be “linear” — the default position for most brands, which are risk-averse and err on the side of caution.

“The problem exists on both sides, client and agency. Brands respond emotionally to slight shifts by either competitors or customer segments, and agencies don’t build experiences in a robust manner utilising the full power of the spectrum.”

The other problem, says Terry, is perseverance — many brands fail to stay their strategic course. “Now is not the time for ‘ready, aim, fire’. The approach should be ‘ready, fire, aim’. Companies that really use the data quickly are better able to reflect reality and adjust on the fly.

“When one ignores the data, one tends to default back to what you did before. Make mistakes, learn quickly and move fast, honing the learning into the next digital iteration as you go along. Maximising digital is a strategic decision across the business, not just a marketing responsibility.”

Terry thinks developing economies have a digital advantage when it comes to advertising. “Mobile connectivity, across Africa, has achieved penetration levels that are simply incredible. Due to us being less constrained by the past we have become fast adopters of new technologies.

“I think that due to costs and the diversity of communities that we communicate to, we are forced to keep it simple on digital, and simple is good. The simple will always displace the complex. Stay away from digital channels and platforms that cost a lot for the consumer to interact on.

“I am not sure that brands are exploiting and pushing digital exploration as far as they could.”

*This article was updated to reflect the fact that Nick Terry and not Ajaz Ahmed is the TMARC CEO.

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.