Businesses must think like startups or they’ll be disrupted-Dawn Rowlands

Dawn Rowlands, CEO Dentsu Aegis Network sub-Saharan Africa offers her perspective on what digital disruption means for the media landscape in Africa. She spoke to MARKETING EDGE during the recently held Dentsu Aegis Africa region Innovation Roadshow in Lagos.

By Joseph Ekeng

What inspired this summit, and do you intend to expand this to have more organisations get involved?

Our innovation framework is quite robust; we have developed a very clear roadmap as to how clients should be budgeting for innovation. The advancement in technology today means businesses can be disrupted anytime. We are encouraging our people and clients to think like startups or they would be disrupted.

Globally clients are worried about the problem of media efficiency, how is your agency addressing that issue?

We are honestly spending a huge amount of energy and resources in this. And Amplifier, our global media partnership team, is working with media organisations in various consultative and strategy basis. What we are looking at doing is redefining what measurements are key and critical to the clients to determining return on investment. Previously, we had GRP (Gross Rating Point) on television, which gave us an amount of reach. That system is based on declared behavior by a small group of people. That can’t represent the whole population. That methodology is flawed. From a digital perspective we are looking at impressions, and that methodology is also flawed. So what we are very rapidly moving to is our own data platform called M1, which we have developed globally, in conjunction with Merkle (which is the world’s largest data organisation) and an agency in the US that has over 300million unique IDs. And that should hopefully create a different level of transparency for clients across. The project is still under wraps, but you will definitely see by the end of this year from us, that data platform that will give clients access to real people, so that we can do real people based marketing. And that should hopefully create different level of transparency.

You mention during the summit that 60 percent of your revenue come from digital, what is the implication f that for your network?

Our vision is to be 100 percent digital economy business by 2020. That doesn’t mean that we are going to be investing all of our budget in digital by 2020. What it does mean is that every aspect of our business will be highly automated. We are change-managing the people and the talent within our Organisation, and this summit is part of that; on how to think more disruptively and drive automation in what they do on a daily basis, so the business is going to change automatically and that 60 percent will probably be sitting around 80 percent in the next three years. We are seeing our clients reduce their traditional spend. So we are predicting that in the next two years that traditional budget will decline by 30 percent.

Does that have to do with Dentsu Aegis Network sub-Saharan Africa alone?

Definitely. We are already seeing in all of our markets that print spend has declines by 40 percent each and every single year for the last five years. This is not new, this is a big change. And what we see in market where data prices fall, like Kenya, we have seen an instant overnight change in digital investment.

What now happens to your traditional businesses?

That is a very big question that we have posed to traditional businesses. We have spent a lot of time and energy investing in our own research in these areas. I am sure you have heard about CCS, which is a bespoke research product that we have for the African market at the moment. Basically, they need to reinvent themselves. They need to start thinking about how they engage with consumers, what type of content they create.

In sub-Saharan Africa we have this gap in education, skills and so on and there are a lot of people yet to be connected to the internet, how do you hope to meet your target despite these gaps?

Obviously we have gaps. We have infrastructure issues. But you know what we also have? A huge amount of well-educated young people, amazingly creative people with incredible talent. We’re constantly looking outside of our region for innovation. And part of this summit is about African innovation and actually capitalizing on that. We are seeing the most incredible technology advancement coming out of small countries like Rwanda, Kenya. These technological advancement are going to have a massive impact on global consumers, because in the next short while the majority of consumers are going to come from Africa. So this is an opportunity. Why are we constantly standing back and waiting for somebody from Silicon Valley to solve our problems. I read an article the other day, the five top people who are operating in the technology environment in the US are actually South Africans. So why are we not creating that environment and infrastructure for ourselves.

What would you say to clients that are beginning to hire Media Directors, in a bid to solve the problem of a lack of transparency in media business?

Obviously that is quite a technical thing because there are robots out there pretending to be human beings to try and drive up number of impressions. This is a technology problem and my advice to clients will be don’t panic. My second piece of advice will be, this is not rocket science, it is basically using logic to determine the value of something. So if for example you are looking at video inventory and people are only seeing the first two or three seconds of your ads, think about what the implications are for creators, think about the fact that everything you do should not be horizontal but vertical- televisions are horizontal and phones are vertical. So the way in which we present things needs to be different. Secondly, if we know that the first two seconds are the ones being watched, we have to make sure those first two seconds are the most impactful and that the brand names clearly comes up. So these are the challenges that we are going to need to solve as we move forward, and it’s not beyond our means.



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