What Global Brands Look For In African Advertising Agencies

What Global Brands Look For In African Advertising Agencies

From BusinessDayLive. Story by David Furlonger.

Global consumer brands are changing their view of sub-Saharan Africa as a mixture of have-and have-not economies and considering it as an important economic bloc, says Josh Dovey, CEO Africa for the Omnicom Media Group.

Dovey is head of U.S.-based Omnicom’s media activities in sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa, Omnicom includes the OMD and Phd media agencies, and digital and out-of-home specialists (which includes shopping malls and billboards).

Dovey co-founded OMD in 1996 with business partner Gary Westwater. It’s South Africa’s biggest media agency with nearly $500 million in annual billings and a client base that includes Standard Bank, Massmart, Distell, Spar, McDonald’s, Nissan, Renault and Beiersdorf.

Typically, media agencies are responsible for their clients’ media strategy, which includes campaign planning, and buying advertising and marketing space. Outlets include radio, TV, print, and out-of-home.

Omnicom’s emphasis on Africa is typical of global media and communications groups, which have extended their interests across many countries in recent years.

Omnicom SA has established a presence in several major markets, and these will be integrated into the global network. Among them is a significant share in a leading Nigerian media agency.

Omnicom may also be eyeing a South African acquisition.

It’s not hard to see why global brands are taking more interest in sub-Saharan Africa. Several of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in the region, and although many are coming off a low base, together they make a formidable market, even if it will be years before the full potential is realized.

Some foreign firms still relegate Africa to super-junior status within their networks. They will probably have a South African office, but the rest of Africa may be run out of Dubai. There is growing recognition that sub-Saharan Africa needs different knowledge and expertise.

Where once European, Asian, and American brands would use several marketing service providers, either regional or country-specific — today most demand a single media agency to handle their activities across the region.

“When the big advertisers come in, they want a plan for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dovey. “If you can’t oblige, you aren’t invited to pitch for their business.”

Anyone who thinks South African advertising and marketing is a microcosm of what happens in the rest of Africa is wrong.

“To say that Africa is a single, homogenous market is like saying all the countries of Europe are the same,” says Dovey. “A lot of marketers in London and New York don’t even begin to understand Africa.”

Although there is some overlap between countries, each has its own characteristics and customs. Some may be cultural, others religious.

Where South African advertising has traditionally been dominated by radio, TV and print, they do not have the same reach in most other African countries, where consumers must be attracted in other ways.

Where South Africa has the edge is in market research. Advertisers want to know whether their campaigns are effective. That requires detailed interaction with consumers.

There have been arguments about the accuracy of some South African research but, compared to what is available in other parts of Africa, where it is little more than guesswork, it really can be seen as rocket science.

“Where research isn’t available or is unreliable, we have to go in and do our own,” says Dovey.

“Although clients want a single media agency to handle their sub-Saharan strategic needs, they shouldn’t expect a single campaign to cover all markets,” he says.

“I don’t think it’s possible to do a single pan-African campaign,” Dovey says.

“My view is that it’s extremely difficult to have a compelling proposition that works across multiple markets. It’s possible to work with one idea, but you have to realign it within individual markets. It must be local.”

Read more at BusinessDayLive.