Picture: 123RF/seventyfour74
Picture: 123RF/seventyfour74

As advertising and marketing budgets have shrunk over the past year, many brands — mostly in the fast-moving consumer goods space — hope to reach ears and eyes using high-discount bulk media buying.

In the words of one big agency, they are "trawling for tonnage".

That new operating landscape is putting smaller media agencies under greater pressure to deliver smarter, and bespoke, options for brands with less cash to throw around.

Media agency UM SA MD Kevin Ndinguri tells the FM: "You now have to find the right mix of both qualitative and quantitative strategy to connect with audiences.

"A stronger focus on data, analytics and digital transformation has meant that being able to deal with the volumes of information constantly flowing in from all manner of channels is important, and finding the right data is critical to informing strategy."

Kevin Ndinguri. Picture: Supplied
Kevin Ndinguri. Picture: Supplied

Mediabrand MD Brad Smale says media agencies changed after Covid hit. "Two significant differences we have noticed is in the pace at which clients have shifted their focus to digital and the far greater focus on science-based planning."

Smale says brands seem to be moving away from old-fashioned commodity-based media buying and are looking for partners that can work closely to deliver a more aligned and agile approach to their communication.

RMS Media’s Rob Smuts says: "There has been a seismic shift and a huge reinvention of scale to where … talent and ideas and unrelenting, dedicated client service can outshine and outgun the more predictable offerings of the large, global network agencies. It’s about placing content in the right channel context, making quality consumer contact."

Smale says scale still plays an important part of the media ecosystem but less than it did before.

"The rise of the consultants in the media and advertising space proves this, as smart is beginning to trump big.

"I think the agencies that will get it right are those that sit in what you could call the Goldilocks zone — smart enough to help drive a client’s business forward, but still big enough to ensure that their clients receive great value on the right inventory."

Brad Smale. Picture: Supplied
Brad Smale. Picture: Supplied

Ndinguri says marketers now see media as a significant opportunity to drive personalisation, commerce and growth.

"Marketers are constantly scrutinising the global and local media market for higher levels of accountability, additional performance capabilities and total transparency … beyond just buying power. So nimbler and more consultative media firms that can provide business intelligence, the acumen to apply it and leading technologies will position themselves to deliver the growth brands are looking for."

Smuts says all media agencies will have to evolve.

"They can no longer rely on buying bucketloads of spots at the lowest cost per contact. To survive they will need to swim upstream, becoming trusted partners and consultants — helping clients navigate through the myriad new opportunities as presented by this latest big bang in cyberspace.

Fortunately, he says, there has been an increase in advertising spend since last winter.

"The days of great deals being the exclusive preserve of the biggest network agencies have long gone. Smaller, agile operators grinding hard for their clients have been enjoying great success," he says.

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