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Ad industry must change

There has long been a need for the advertising industry to modernise. Now digital transformation is upon us and change is non-negotiable. At the same time, the industry is facing disruption from new entrants, writes ALISTAIR MOKOENA is CEO of Ogilvy South Africa.

No longer is advertising creation the sole preserve of advertising agencies. Consulting firms are getting into advertising. The platform owners – Google, Facebook and Amazon – now sell and create advertising. Clients are using technology and data to insource marketing services. Brand managers are doing their own community management and social media is shrinking…

These modern marketing challenges require serious introspection on the part of agencies, but they also present vast opportunities to rejuvenate the advertising industry and deliver a broader, more holistic service for our clients.

The customer decision journey has several steps. It involves creating awareness, signing up customers, increasing sales, problem solution, customer retention and deepening relationships. As advertising agencies, we have traditionally been involved in the beginning of the journey – creating demand and sales.

Today, the prospect of becoming involved in other stages of that journey is an attractive one for agencies open to expanding their capabilities and reinventing the way they work. If we can develop the right skill sets, we can play across the entire value chain.

Marketing has changed irrevocably from what it was only a decade ago. Clients now look to agencies to help them win with consumers who are always connected, on multiple channels, and exposed to media streams from innumerable sources. Budgets are tight and clients want rapid innovation.

Delivering in this environment means agencies must embrace the opportunities in digital disruption, and build the skills to work in this space. Once we have those skills, we can use them to help our clients develop strategy. The agency then becomes a digital consultancy instead of just a supplier.

For ad agencies to make this change to a broader professional-services offering, they may have to redesign their entire internal ecosystem.

It is one thing to offer a wider suite of services, crafts and capabilities, but clients want simplified functionality. They want to access all these services from one point of contact. A byzantine corporate structure of a dozen subsidiaries confuses clients, and hampers delivery.

Modern agencies need to ensure they have the most efficient structure, processes and technologies. Agencies must be quick and agile, and customer centric, as they play across a bigger part of the customer decision journey. They can be more relevant to client businesses and have more control over the outcome.

This is uncharted terrain for many agencies, but there is no time to lose. We must adapt our business models, our structure and our offerings – many of which have not changed since the middle of the last century.

We must simplify how we work, and provide a seamless client experience, with a single point of accountability, and a structure that’s nimble and cost efficient. This will enable us to partner more effectively with our clients. It may also mean new compensation models linked to sales or other deliverables, instead of the traditional time- or project-based approach.

The people in these new agency structures must be fully conversant across different capabilities, without any duplication of skills. The agency of the future won’t just provide creative ideas for marketing communications, but ideas to win with the customer and to succeed as a business.

We must now put the customer at the heart of what we do, to consider the entire customer decision journey, and not just create demand.

Brands have multiple stakeholders – the brand owners, the marketers, as well as society and the broader community. Our challenge is to make the brand matter across all those different stakeholder groups, to maximise the potential success of the brand.

Every industry is affected by digital disruption, structural change and greater customer demands – from the motor industry to financial institutions to the media. Every CEO is grappling with digital disruption, fighting to survive, trying to win with the new, multi-connected, always-on consumer.

The agency of today is no different. How we adapt to these challenges and create new ways of approaching business and building brands will determine whether we survive or prosper in the new marketing environment.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as end-of-support looms, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2008.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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