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UM is the best kept agency secret you never knew

Media agency UM had its origin in 1999 with McCann Worldgroup South Africa before it was swooped up with the launch of Mediabrands South Africa two decades later. Now, UM celebrates being crowned the Global Media Agency of the Year by Campaign magazine.

Kevin Ndinguri

UM South Africa’s Managing Director Kevin Ndinguri says that the global accolade is a testament to UM’s resilience and indicative of how its Futureproof proposition is built to deliver now and into the future for the agency’s partners. “Similar to many agencies throughout the pandemic, we’ve had our fair share of turbulence to navigate, but our team, with the backing of Mediabrands has done exceptionally well.”

Over the past 18 months UM has quietly enjoyed some very significant account wins and internal agency growth. Management has also been working hard behind the scenes to structure an agency that is ready to step onto centre stage. Mediabrands’ Managing Director Brad Smale says that UM’s approach to futureproofing its business and that of its clients is one of the many reasons this agency stands out in the industry.

“We like to think of ourselves as a global business that really knows its local markets. We also understand that we are in this business for the long haul and that we cannot operate and continue in the future as we have in the past. We cannot forget what made brands and advertising great right in the very beginning and that is compelling brand stories, which comes from solid and sustainable brand building.

During Covid the agency has focused on strengthening its proprietary media tools and technologies and consolidating its focus in the industry. This, together with UM’s merging into the Mediabrands structure, has provided the runway needed for Kevin and his team to do the great work that has contributed to wins like Campaign’s EMEA Network Agency of the Year in 2019 and in 2021 Campaign Global Media Agency of the Year.

Kevin adds: “Futureproof has been a complete shift in our mindset at UM and the way we work with clients through applying a more consultative approach to communication and media. The essence of Futureproof is that transformative media can be both a business and brand growth driver. By transformative we mean better use of real time data signals and technology, turning insight into action at speed, to deliver a competitive advantage for our clients.

This is achieved through a core set of proprietary tools and technology that optimises client’s media spend against business goals. This is further enhanced by crafting fluid plans designed to win over diverse sets of “high value audiences” - individuals at scale that have the highest business and brand growth opportunity.

By embracing a data-led approach, UM has shown an impressive growth from 15 people, two years ago, to 45 staff that have helped the agency win several blue-chip business accounts including Investec, Multichoice, Mattel, Energizer and Emirates.

Brad Smale

UM also leads Forrester’s Media Agency Wave, released in 2020. The study gave the highest ratings to the agencies that used data platforms to improve both media execution and ad creatives and created a more centralised, integrated experience for their clients. UM placed first in part due to its Kinesso offering, which not only uses that data for typical insights, but the agency is now applying it to develop content for digital ad campaigns, identify audiences and target content to audiences in a precise way, said Forrester principal analyst Jay Pattisall. Also, according to Forrester: “UM envisions the future of media consulting and content at scale. UM is shifting its strategy from purely media services to include marketing consulting. The report also declares UM a good fit for CMO’s looking to strategically unify marketing execution, move beyond conventional media placement and scale original, branded and addressable content.”

Brad says that the Group is operating differently to its competitors because they realise the need to become trusted partners to their clients. “Our client agency relationship is one where we can assist our clients intellectually with solid, tactical and strategic advice that leads to tangible results.

Never before has this been more important than during a pandemic and I honestly believe that contributed to UM being named the Global Media Agency of the Year by Campaign magazine.”

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It’s Digital or Die!

By Claire Herman, Media Operations Manager at The MediaShop

For many years we have been hearing this – if you don’t keep up with digital advancements, you will be left behind, and the fall will be rapid and quite brutal! If it hasn’t happened already, how much longer can brands hold on before this becomes a reality? I suspect not much longer – COVID-19 has sped up the world and if you have been ignoring this warning up until now, you and your brand will soon be left in the dust – irrelevant, forgettable and replaceable.

The time has come to develop “phygital” expertise in a digital world.

From a client and brand perspective, you can’t ignore the audience shifts and the levels of engagement that we are seeing in the digital space. In a recent McKinsey survey of global consumer sentiment (April 2021), the COVID-19 pandemic has driven rapid adoption of digital channels across countries and industries, and even as the pandemic eases up and we “return to normal”, digital consumption post-COVID is far higher than pre-COVID by an average of 20%, especially amongst developing countries. In addition, given digital’s borderless nature, once exposed to best-in-class experiences and offerings, consumers won’t settle for less – improved user experience, better offerings, and increased security and privacy need to be a key focus for brands, as well as developing “phygital” expertise, using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world to provide a unique interactive experience for consumers.

Our Media Owner partners have an important role to play here – how do they develop and integrate their offline and online platforms seamlessly and evolve their offerings to accommodate this significant shift in the way people experience brands? They need to be flexible and continually re-evaluate their offerings to remain relevant and at the forefront of technological change. We have all seen what has happened in the print space, with very few publishers surviving the past year – let this be a stark reminder to the Television, Radio and Out Of Home Media Owners that offerings such as live streaming, podcasts, social media and influencer integration, etc. will help keep them relevant in a constantly evolving space.

Digital Integration is no longer a nice-to-have – it is an imperative.

From a media agency perspective, digital integration is critical. The way that people consume media (and experience brands) is much more blurred, with seamless consumer journeys online and offline, and often at the same time. The need to develop hybrid strategists and planners who fully understand the role of digital in the consumer journey and how it needs to work with traditional channels is an imperative. Here we need to ensure that a couple of things happen:

  1. Up-skilling our teams is critical, not only ensuring that “traditional” strategists and planners understand all things digital, but also that the digital teams understand the interplay between online platforms and offline platforms very well.
  2. Facilitate continual learning through mentorship programmes – the more informal training ground that will give practical on-the-job experience, with on-going and current real-life scenarios to “sink your teeth into”, should not be under-estimated.
  3. Actively work on breaking down the silos – I fully appreciate that we still need specialists in the digital space, especially due to the incredibly intense nature of these campaigns and the amount of attention needed to switch on, track and optimise, but the more we separate the disciplines, the more disjointed our campaigns will be, and consumers will notice it.

This last point speaks to a general challenge in our industry as a whole – having separate agencies for different channels. I am always quite shocked to see pitches and tenders that still separate traditional and digital services. That isn’t to say that it can’t be done – we have many accounts that are split between agencies – it just requires a lot more time and energy to pull things together, and at the end of the day, the speed to market will be compromised. Unless of course, deadlines can’t be shifted, which just ends up putting a huge amount of pressure on the agency and client teams to deliver.

I would argue that streamlining service providers is a whole lot more efficient and effective, so in this world of “digital or die” why is this still happening? I am generalising here, but in large part it is because there is a skills shortage, plus our systems and structures just haven’t adapted. If we don’t adapt and speed up our evolution, we will also end up being irrelevant, forgettable and replaceable…

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RAMS update from the BRC

To keep the marketing, media and advertising industry abreast of information, the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRC), has released a short update on the progress of the new RAMS (Radio Audience Measurement Survey).

“The CATI (Computer Aided Telephonic Interviews) portion of RAMS is currently in field and by the end of June, we will have secured 9 000 interviews which equates to three months’ worth of data representing Q2,” says BRC’s CEO, Gary Whitaker.

“As this does not constitute the full sample size of 36 000 the BRC’s Radio Research Committee will scrutinize the data before its release to ensure that we achieve an adequate sample size per station. Subject to this scrutiny session we will be able to release the RAMS data at the end of July or beginning of August 2021.”

The methodology will be structured into two parts - firstly, 3 000 CATI (Computer Aided Telephonic Interviews) will be conducted monthly (36 000 per year and nationally representative) providing audience measurement in 15-minute segments, along with audience tracking on radio events and roadshows. The programme will cover 280 stations (commercial, African language and community).

Secondly, still to come and to track both linear and non-linear listening, a MediaCell Passive Listening Panel will measure linear broadcast and digital consumption of 4 000 panelists daily, with minute-by-minute tracking of activities.

For more information on the BRC visit

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What’s up with data privacy in South Africa?

By Jarred Mailer-Lyons, Head of Digital at The MediaShop

The paranoia is real and if you’re worried about your devices listening in to your conversations and tracking your every move then it’s time to disable, de-activate and delete…

I was recently interviewed on East Coast Radio (ECR) about our phones tracking every move we make, the conversations we have and actions we take. While we don’t know exactly what data is stored, shared and used by some of the global tech giants – we do know that consumer data is core to their multibillion dollar services they offer to market.

Now when I talk about deactivating and disabling – I’m specifically referring to voice assistants, otherwise you may as well be living back in the arc ages as most of the devices and apps we use today collect some form of data in order to provide their users with the best possible experience. But have you ever noticed relevant ads emerging on sites after mentioning something in a conversation? Like that time you were chatting to your significant other about a quick getaway over the long weekend and then ‘suddenly’ started seeing ads of accommodation, car rentals and cheap flights? Or when you were considering buying a new car and then were immediately bombarded with ads for car enthusiasts and deals on the latest versions? Is it mind boggling and just a coincidence, like when you’ve noticed a car you’re interested in and then suddenly see every second person has one on the road or, are our phones actually listening in on our conversations?

So the real question is, are our phones allowed to be tracking literally everything we say and do?

Firstly, you need to start thinking about more than just your mobile phone collecting your data or listening in on your conversations. If of course if you are concerned, it’s important for you to recognise just how many different kinds of sensors you have allowed into your home and office that are constantly collecting this data and listening in.

By taking a deeper look at Google’s policies and some research and methodologies around data collection, we can start understanding how and why it is collected and of course their policy around sharing this data over to third parties.

We use Google suite of tools so often that it’s almost hard to think of as a set of products and services. According to the 2021 SA Hootsuite report, the Google search service alone was ranked as the top website locally with over 350M visits for the month of December 2020 along with 16.5M unique users accessing the search platform alone - that’s over 43% of all users who have access to the internet in SA. Now that’s a significant portion of the online population with only one month’ worth of data.

For me, Google is a way of life – a tool that is a solution and has a significant impact on nearly all of my daily decisions, from choosing the perfect recipe to cook for dinner, to accessing my personal emails and of course searching for the nearest store that stocks that pair of sneakers I’ve been longing for. Whether it’s the Gmail platform, where I send and receive all my emails, or the Google Maps mobile app, which I am completely dependent on to know where I am, Google has a myriad of ways of collecting our data.

From some of the articles I’ve read and researched over the past couple months, Google certainly collects and stores the most amount of data on their consumers by far. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise as their business model relies so heavily on collecting this data and making it simple enough for you to access on the go - from identifying your precise location when using the Google Maps app to pre-empting your browsing history when typing in the URL address bar. If it’s data, there’s a good chance that Google is collecting it.

So, just how many different types of data sources are they actually collecting?

Well, I’m sure there is infinite list which we’ll most likely never even get sight of but here are a few that you would most likely have already suspected. The data around usage reports are an obvious one to include but is certainly not limited to your IP address, crash reports, system activity, date, time, and referrer URL of your requests along with data about interactions between apps, browser and device type, app usage, carrier name, and last but certainly not least the operating system. There’s probably nothing for you to really be worried about here unless you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing?

But on a more personal level, they’re also collecting data on your name, phone number, payment information if you’ve made any purchases through Google, your email address and a very sensitive, contentious and questionable data source which I always believed was part of their data collection is around content in any of the emails you’ve sent and received. Just when I was writing this, right at the top of my Gmail account, I came across a notification advising me that Google is in fact not collecting my personal email content data for ‘ads purposes’… but the question remains, are they collecting it for other reasons which we’re potentially unaware of?

Well, that’s all that we know of when it comes to the collection of personal consumer data but apart from all that profile they’re building around you as a consumer, they’re also collecting and storing info about your interactions with videos, photo’s, documents and spreadsheets you’ve stored. Of course Google Search is a no brainer especially since it is such a widely used platform globally but they’re also keeping track of the videos you watch across the Google stack and the interactions you make with various pieces of content and ads and, if a third-party site uses Google services, your activity is also tracked on those sites and apps.

Google is not only tracking your browsing history if you use the Chrome browser linked to a Google account but they’re also keeping track of your Google calls including the collection and storing of called and received numbers, forwarding numbers, times and dates, call durations, routing info and the various types of calls. As far as location goes, Google keeps track of you via GPS and information that pings specific device sensors like Wi-Fi access points, cell phone towers, or Bluetooth-enabled devices. Phew…that was a mouthful!

But aside from maintaining your services to the Google stack, they really collect your data to personalise ads and content based on your specific preferences. Google also then uses that data to measure the performance of ads and then shares that data with advertisers so they can create ads that are even more effective through their targeting and tactic opportunities. That’s where our area as digital media experts really comes in.

In the conversation I had with ECR a couple weeks back, I spoke about consumers sometimes (and for me most times) ignoring T’s & C’s. I think a simple question here is when you signed up to Facebook, did you read their T’s & C’s and give your consent for them to share your data across their entire eco-system across the likes of Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp? I’m sure if you use WhatsApp, you would have also recently received the latest notification within the app asking you to read and approve their latest privacy policy? I know I didn’t… I just hit the submit button. I find that they are quite laborious and rather difficult to read with some very high-level legal language. Sometimes we give our uninformed consent without even acknowledging what data is being used and shared across other platforms.

There’s a multitude of sensors tracking your conversations which you’ve most likely provided your consent to do already and that interconnection of sensors and tracking of conversations are key components for these major tech giants. They then use algorithms to pick up on keywords in conversation to better personalise your ad experience.

Now if you’re anything like me and do your research before making a significant purchase, you’re most likely going to consult with your family and friends (WhatsApp chats), ask your local community groups (Facebook groups), search the Google directory and then possibly go in-store before making the purchase (Google Maps). Just think about how many different data cues within each platform that you’ve just provided data to outside of the standard data collection points I spoke to earlier.

But can we stop our devices from knowing everything?

Well it’s definitely possible but it’s certainly not going to be an easy task. You would need to start by looking at all the devices you have in your home – from smart TV’s to Wi-Fi enabled gaming devices and CCTV’s… even your connected doorbell is essentially collecting your data and while you would expect these devices to be used for the intended purposes, they can sometimes be abused. Then you need to go back and read all the T’s & C’s across all devices and apps you’ve ever downloaded. That’s a big task in itself.

Obviously to remain POPI compliant, their T’s & C’s would be updated and should detail what data is being collected and of course what is being shared within their eco-systems and 3rd parties if any. Of course if you get through that long list without having consulted your legal dictionary and you don’t necessarily agree with their T’s & C’s, then don’t forget the three ‘D’ terms I spoke about right upfront…

Disable your location data and voice enabled software across all your devices (Siri, Bixby, Alexa and the like).

De-activate any connections to 3rd party apps or requests for sharing of data.

Delete any apps where you don’t agree with their collection methodologies, use of, and sharing of data.

Yes, it will most likely remind you of living through the early 90’s again but that’s unfortunately the spin off to disconnecting your data linkages to the various tech giants out there. Lastly you need to ask yourself, is the risk of your privacy and safety worth the benefits?

I’m hoping that this blog post helps in guiding your decisions going forward when downloading apps or buying new connected devices, but I speak from personal experience and I am sure you can relate that when you get a new smart device or download an app, you want to have it up and running as quickly as possible. We all crave that instant gratification and so it’s easy to race through the settings and agree to various types of data collection, sharing and storage, without thinking twice about it.

So my suggestion is really to just stop for a minute, read through and digest the T’s & C’s and then click ‘I Agree’ if of course you do…

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The BRC releases Interim Radio Data

Given the previous lack of available RAMS data due to Covid, the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRC), has now released an interim radio dataset (surveyed by Ask Afrika) to the industry. The need for human connection has never been greater and radio, in part, fulfils that need!

“We’re extremely pleased to report that radio listening in South Africa is still healthy after reviewing the first wave of the interim radio data,” says BRC’s CEO, Gary Whitaker. “Since Q1 2020 and our last data release, although media consumption and listening habits have fluctuated and changed, it remains important to alleviate the pressure of radio data being unavailable to the industry.”

It does however need to be stressed that comparisons between RAMS and the Interim data is not advised as the design between the two measurements differ as is the comparison of a radio currency (diary) to a non-currency methodology.

The interim data indicates that 95% of the population claim that they have ever listened to the radio and 91% of those that have ever listened, claim to have listened in the past 7 days. 92% of radio listeners claim that they listen at home, which aligns with our nation’s past and present lockdown regulations.

The average amount of radio listening time per day (Monday to Sunday) is three hours and 51 minutes, but Sundays are however the most listened to day in the week averaging out at to just under four hours. Core listening during a work week occurs between 6AM and 12PM. On a Saturday, listening extends to 6PM while on a Sunday listening is condensed between 9AM and 3PM.

Proving that radio is a trusted source of information as well as entertaining, news and music remain the content genres of choice for radio listeners while most still use radio for companionship, keeping informed and listening to talk shows.

“As a trusted media source, radio is an essential asset in media campaigns, and I believe that this survey has once again proved the value, reach and effectiveness of radio as an advertising medium – even, if not more so, in a pandemic,” concludes Whitaker. “The research is available and can be freely accessed by Telmar and Nielsen license holders.”

For more information on the BRC visit

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Dashni Vilakazi appointed Managing Director at The MediaShop Johannesburg

After a several months long stringent interviewing process, Chris Botha, Group Managing Director at Park Advertising has confirmed the appointment of Dashni Vilakazi as the new Managing Director for The MediaShop Johannesburg effective 1 July 2021.

Dashni joins The MediaShop from her previous roles as GM of Marketing where she headed up Absa’s Investment, Wealth, Financial Advisers and Insurance marketing portfolios and formerly from Old Mutual as the Head of Retail Marketing based in Cape Town.

With over 20 years of experience in positions as head of marketing for corporate listed entities and in advertising, media and communication agencies in leadership positions based in Nigeria, internationally and especially in South Africa, Chris says that she was the obvious choice for the role.

“Dashni has proved herself extremely capable in all areas of leading a team, in delivering transformation and in pioneering innovative ways of growing every business she’s worked with,” he says. “There were some great candidates available for the position and we thank them for putting themselves forward, but we believe that Dashni has the correct ability, passion and drive to elevate the Johannesburg team.”

Vilakazi has delivered transformation in corporate strategy initiations, customer centricity, brand building and digitalization services for sectors in the financial services, FMCG, telecoms, quick service restaurants, retail and beverage categories.  Dashni also boasts a Master’s in Business Management (MBA).

She has a track record of managing diverse teams and can assimilate new, complex environments to process exponential improvements for business success.

"I am honoured to join and lead a legendary media institution that has embraced distinction and merit in this industry especially during these intricate episodes in the communication industry. The MediaShop has accomplished and delivered extraordinary standards of strategy and service to their faculty of significant brands in SA,” she says.

“I believe The MediaShop has tremendous opportunities to capitalise on this established repute and has the correct foundation to innovate for the future and grow its ecosystem. It is hugely empowering to be leading a prominent team that spans years of superior media excellence. The agency’s collective knowledge will support me in providing more capabilities that will propagate this business, the communications industry and our well-regarded list of clients to ultimately sustain, innovate and grow their businesses.”

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