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#BigQ2018: Ad agencies must keep customers coming back

by MarkLives (@marklives) What are the expectations for the marketing and advertising Industry in 2018? We emailed a panel of key industry executives for their take on the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and any consumer and communication trends they’ll be looking out for. Last up is Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP.

Julia Ahlfeldt

Julia AhlfeldtJulia Ahlfeldt (@JuliaAhlfeldt) is a certified customer experience professional (CCXP). She consults to blue chips and multinationals, and advises them how to retain relevance and increase profits by transitioning from inwardly focused silos to being dynamic and customer-centric. She has worked with Virgin Active, Momentum, Absa, American Express (US), Ross Stores (US) and JP Morgan Chase (US), among others.

Gartner’s 2017/2018 CMO Spend Survey paints a sobering picture of traditional marketing efficacy and underlines the non-negotiable need for CMOs and their teams to deliver a higher ROI than in the past. This is in stark contrast to the ‘50% works, but no one’s sure which 50%’ sentiment which has dominated the ad industry for decades. Thanks to accessible analytics, clients now know what resonates with their customers and drives them to repeat buy.

Industry step-change

The implications are significant. Creative must work harder to bring in the bacon and justify value. Easier said than done. Industry excellence is founded upon the celebration of creativity, not the impact on the bottom line or what the customer wants. But times are changing. Publicis’s announcement last year that it planned to redirect award entry fees into digital development investment was a bold move and one that was widely supported.

Given the weight a Gold Lion brings to an agency’s creds, it will be telling to see how entrants remodel their work to deliver far more than the big idea and if the awards industry restructures to honour it.

Selling lemons

Being realistic is, in my opinion, a necessary step in the right direction. Highly engaging, expertly crafted ads create desire and aspiration among customers, and are easy on the eye, but do they set brands up to fail to deliver?

This isn’t the agency’s fault. Clients must take responsibility and give briefs that can be fulfilled at the till-point. There’s little more frustrating for a customer than being sold a Ferrari and getting a Honda.

In the banking industry, this is a major pain point. Not delivering on promises was the second-highest in volume complaint recorded in the annual 2017 Brandseye Banking Sentiment Index, averaging 24% of all conversation. Beautifully shot 30-second spots don’t hide long queues, faulty apps and poor service. These are a higher determinant of a customer’s satisfaction and likelihood of recommending the experience to friends and family than any impressions from ads.

View creativity through a financial lens

It’s certain that advertising budgets will be reviewed far more prudently going forward, with end-goals of briefs being first and foremost to deliver a viable return. And it’s likely that strategists and creatives who tackle new briefs through the customer’s eyes will have the advantage.

Working closely with data, aligning to sales and getting to grips with a business’s operations and customer experience (CX) strategy are essential for an ad agency to understand, especially now that retention receives double the marketing budget than acquisition (Gartner). But this requires upskilling in-house, educating staff on how to build long-term, profitable relationships with customers, and pursuing work that generates profits, not only positioning.

This will no doubt require a far more ruthless approach by both clients and their agencies as to where budget is allocated, and an account for each and every rand and cent spent. But the outcome will be in everyone’s interest: clients get more sales, agencies retain their income and, most importantly, the customer is happy and keeps coming back. Good for brand; good for business.

#BigQ2018 series

  • Nimay Parekh: #BigQ2018: Brands just need to be smart to reap rewards
  • Masego Motsogi: #BigQ2018: Let’s get back to creating magic again
  • Wayne Naidoo: #BigQ2018: Time to make South African advertising great again
  • Prakash Patel: #BigQ2018: Velocity of change going to be unprecedented & unpredictable
  • Xola Nouse: #BigQ2018: Strained budgets, profit margins to impact in various ways
  • Tara Turkington & Tiffany Turkington-Palmer: #BigQ2018: World of marketing & advertising a sea of complexity
  • Wynand Smit: #BigQ2018: Security at forefront of consumers’ minds
  • Mpange Chapeshamano & Mthunzi Plaatjie: #BigQ2018: The year the ‘new’ independents keep on disrupting
  • Peter Khoury: #BigQ2018: Blend talent diversity, operational transparency to grow
  • Lebogang Rasethaba: #BigQ2018: Brand films are TVCs that aren’t scared to be overly sexy
  • Odette van der Haar: #BigQ2018: Creative effectiveness is channel-agnostic
  • Mike Abel: #BigQ2018: 2018 is not the ad industry’s Kodak moment
  • Johanna McDowell: #BigQ2018: Marketers to take digital in-house at unprecedented rate
  • Ashish Williams: #BigQ2018: Brands adapting comms to be part of consumer journey
  • Melina McDonald & Lorraine Smit: #BigQ2018: Production sees smaller teams, integrated offering
  • Joshin Raghubar: #BigQ2018: Marketing evolves from campaign activity to a service

MarkLives logoLaunched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key advertising and marketing industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.

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#BigQ2018: Ad agencies must keep customers coming back

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