Bucks or balls? Why SA’s ad industry needs to figure out what it really wants

FNB and the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) revealed this week in their Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) that sentiment in the market is almost on par with the lowest reading recorded during the 2008/9 recession.

The doom is greater than or equal to the gloom if you so much as open a South African newspaper or tune into any radio or TV news’ broadcast. Electricity – or lack thereof – our fearless leader, and high profile losses to the minnows of respective sporting codes consume discussion around the water(less) coolers of the nation.

The need to clutch at a straw of positivity is strong. Even our local comedians are in need of new material.

As consumer confidence wanes, and recession infiltrates the far corners of society, brands and C-suite executives tend to follow a ‘baton down the hatches’ trend. Marketing budgets are the first to get slashed, more is expected from agencies for less Randelas, and the risk-averse piece of communication is favoured over the dynamic, disruptive narrative. It’s like clock work.

2015 has exposed these lessons. Global budget cuts, large SA agency client losses and subsequent staff retrenchments, and the transformation of left field ideas from wild to the conservatively mundane. We have the responsibility as an industry to partner with our clients to set KPIs that are much closer aligned to business objective supporting communications’ solutions, as opposed to mere awareness drivers.

If brands continue to sell, we continue to have a reason for existence. It’s like that naked guy on the very first season of Survivor. Why did he remain on the island when his approach and lifestyle was controversially different from the other contestants? Because. Fishing.

We must continue on our 3Cs mission. Produce remarkable CONTENT. Use said content to connect with COMMUNITIES (earned, owned, paid). Drive sales – online and off (COMMERCE).

In times of economic downturn – more so than ever – it is imperative for brands to own the hearts and minds of the consumer and this can only be achieved in one of two ways: throw money at the problem and outspend your competitors for your required reach and impact, or you can outwit and outlast your opponent by means of communication disruption.

The former isn’t always possible, and considering ’tis the Season for Festive spend’, let’s slip into a Speedo and see how big your brand kahunas really are.

Do you have the bucks or do you have the balls? You can’t have both.

Image: naddel via Flickr.



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