Picture: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Picture: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

As a result of reduced consumer spend and a tendency by some clients to cut back on their budgets, the advertising industry is going to need to be a lot smarter about how it markets to consumers, says Sibusiso Sitole, co-founder and chief creative executive at The Odd Number.

“Advertising agencies are having to find ways to be more effective with less money, and in many cases, less staff,” he says.

Consumers, too, have changed in terms of how they consume, what they consume and where they consume, which, says Sitole, necessitates a shift in advertising to move with consumers, as well as shifting patterns of engagement with brands. “We’ve moved from just selling to adding value that builds consumer loyalty and retention. Brands are having to focus on what differentiates them authentically in the spaces they occupy. They need to add value, stand for something and play a role beyond only selling products.”

Advertising, he maintains, continues to have a role to play by keeping brands top of mind and relevant, and by educating, entertaining and uplifting consumers.

As a consequence of the pandemic, he predicts a continued focus on digital marketing to attract and sustain consumers, as well as growth in the online shopping environment which will be coupled with growth in online marketing. “Budgets are going to continue to shift from traditional marketing towards online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, while traditional mediums such as outdoor and print will continue to struggle.”

From a creative perspective, he believes agencies will need to find smart ways to keep their studios stimulated, engaged and inspired to counter the fact that many creatives continue to work in isolation as a result of the pandemic.

Sibusiso Sithole. Picture: Supplied
Sibusiso Sithole. Picture: Supplied

A growing trend in adland is interagency collaboration between traditional advertising agencies, public relations firms and digital creative agencies. “Collaboration ensures that the client receives the best work, and it creates an environment that combines different areas of expertise and fosters innovation,” says Sitole. “When agencies align in terms of goals and desired outcomes, they can find working together creatively benefits the client and helps advance reach, relevance, performance and influence.”

He predicts the continued rise of smaller, independent agencies. Those with the ability to adapt quickly to a volatile, quickly changing marketplace and a willingness to do more with less budget will be in a good position.

“The likes of Netflix are allowing local content to travel further. People are searching for new platforms as well as pushing boundaries through social media. Competitors are no longer only other agencies but also content creators,” he says, adding that this means advertising agencies need to expand beyond their own silos and traditional ways of solving problems.

The Odd Number came third in the Loeries official ranking for individual advertising agencies in 2020, indicating that it is punching well above its weight. The 100% black-owned and -managed advertising agency was the 2019 AdFocus Small Advertising Agency of the Year and was runner-up in the 2020 AdFocus Medium Advertising Agency of the Year. Despite not clinching the Medium Advertising Agency title last year, there is no question that this is an agency to watch.

The big take-out:

Brands are having to focus on what differentiates them authentically in the spaces they occupy.

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