We’ve seen the majority of digital agencies in South Africa rise to the occasion over the years, restructuring their offerings and paying close attention to trends and behaviours online to provide increasingly tailored and specialised customer experiences. Some have stayed fiercely independent and locally focused while others have joined global groups, with founders making fortunes by facilitating favourable acquisition deals.
Predictions for the future of digital and how this will translate for agencies differ among pundits, but – if trends as seen overseas are anything to go by – the digital environment is becoming a far more inclusive space for virtually anyone looking to enjoy their piece of the pie.
The birth of the ‘digital agency’
The growth of social media and other digital platforms placed the traditional agency landscape in flux, presenting new ways for them to help clients reach and engage with growing audiences on new platforms at a pace faster than many could keep up with. In addition, the rise of the ubiquitous ‘second screen’ expanded these opportunities, flipping the switch on always-on communication channels accessible outside working hours or away from the TV.
To keep ahead of the curve, agencies tried to scale to match the pace of change and innovation in the digital world, incorporating new service offerings with the aim of providing a one-stop shop for digital solutions.
The democratisation of digital
Acquisition became a major trend in the last decade as traditional agencies and their smaller, digitally-driven counterparts joined to form hybrid entities capable of meeting the demands of clients and consumers in the digital era. While some of these smaller agencies did not have backgrounds and capabilities in traditional advertising, their familiarity with the digital space made for productive relationships and also helped the traditional communications heavy-hitters to maintain relevance.
A far cry from the working conditions associated with the advertising industry, digital agencies have also transformed the process of attracting and retaining talent – where money was once a primary motivator, having the opportunity to contribute creatively within the tech space has opened up a number of career avenues. There is room enough for most industry specialists to make a significant impact – and enough innovation for newcomers to make their mark.
Digital agencies of the future
Understanding the ‘quality over quantity’ maxim as it relates to digital products and services is a major business imperative following the mass agency scramble in the past to scale business to provide as many services as possible. Providing a 360-degree range of services is simply not as efficient as a focused and specialised set of offerings in line with core business functions. The aim going forward, especially for digital agencies, will be to focus on doing a few things well rather than trying to offer it all.
While digital marketing will continue to hold a valuable place in the digital mix, it will no longer be a term used to define digital as a whole.
Platinum Seed identifies ‘digital business transformation’ as helping established brands to develop meaningful relationships with customers, and ‘digital ventures’, support the development of tech-start-ups, as two other key areas of focus as part of its approach to adding value to digital interactions.
With the evolution of the digital era and the growth in the number of people with access to the internet in South Africa, there are more opportunities for businesses to engage profitably with target audiences than ever before.
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