Communication ninjas

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The new ad industry is alert, nimble and connected

See also: Showcase is an advertising supplement created by Idealog. For information on upcoming Showcases call Vernene Medcalf on 09 360-5700 or 021 628-200 or email vernene@

Like the universe, the online world is expanding and evolving. Social media has completely changed the complexion of the internet, and our lives. It’s given everyone a voice that’s loud enough to cross the globe, put us back in touch with old flames, school friends, extended family and complete strangers. And in doing so, it’s also changed the way we connect with brands, and how advertisers vie for our attention.

But these new digital platforms aren’t the only factor affecting paid advertising. It’s also being eroded by PR, budget cuts, the global recession and other constraints on marketing spend—and all at a time when the need to promote brands and services is greater than ever before.

So where does that leave advertising agencies and their clients?

The future of advertising, among other things, was debated at the International Advertising Association (IAA) World Congress held in Moscow in May and themed around ‘Change: Consequences’. It hoped to bring some clarity to the confusion caused by the global recession, and drew leaders and senior executives from the global advertising industry.

IAA chairman and world president, Alan Rutherford, commented that old ways of doing things simply cannot be used any more.

“It’s literally out with the old and in with the new,” he said. “We need to get back to basics: back to the basic premise of ‘the world begins and ends with the consumer’, but armed with new business models to adapt to the new environment. The industry needs to be more outward-looking, less inwardlooking— to learn what is most valued now by ever-more sophisticated consumers.” While ad agencies have always had to be nimble to survive, the new imperative is to help their clients’ brands really connect with their audience, to be genuine, to truly understand consumers’ needs and move in the same spaces they do.

Also speaking at the IAA World Congress was Rob Norman, CEO of GroupM North America, one of the world’s leading global media investment management companies.

“The lone purpose of advertising has not changed,” he said. “It has always been about distributing messages, and still is; the difference now though is that these messages need to be distributed on multiple platforms.”

So, while the essence of advertising has not and is unlikely to ever change, the messages and channels for broadcasting those messages are now focused more on communicating and connecting in an authentic way with the audience than on traditional advertising models. The successful advertising agency of today and tomorrow now needs to be a storyteller, an idea generator and a communication ninja that will help its customers exploit every possible channel—paid or otherwise.

Ad figures in 2009

Overall advertising spend in 2009 was $2.045 billion, down nearly 12 percent from 2008’s figure of $2.317 billion. The US market experienced a 9 percent drop last year. The advertising industry has experienced significant growth over the last decade, from $1.485 billion in 2000.

— Advertising Standards Authority, Neilson Company

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