Why Leave the Building?


The Hardy Boys (Pty) Ltd
Umhlanga Rocks, Sudáfrica
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In an article first published in the Kantar South Africa's BrandZ™’s Top 30 Most Valuable South African Brands 2020 Report, Dale Tomlinson discusses our new vocabulary and an integrated approach to problem-solving.

Dale is CEO, The Hardy Boys - a Wunderman Thompson South Africa agency.

So what has reshaped us in the past few months, what is the new lexicon? Words like ‘purpose’, ‘transparency’, ‘integrity’ and ‘trustworthiness’, have been tossed around, sometimes rather recklessly, and sometimes they have bounced back to challenge us. Consumers are holding a mirror up to brands, and what they are seeing is often not so pretty. Brands and companies that were clambering aboard the lucrative, purpose-driven bandwagon are now being challenged.

The purpose wannabes desperately hope to form a deeper connection with people, and they now have to face up to the fact that they don’t really have much to say. These are the times when the charlatans are held to account, and brands like Lifebuoy and Dove, which have fought the good fight for years, now find themselves even more deeply entrenched in the lives of more discerning consumers.

Getting back to the new lexicon, let’s take those soft, emotive words and bolt them together with more gritty, angular words like ‘agility’, ‘pivot’, ‘reset’, ‘conflict’, and ‘integrate’. Now you can see a new industry language emerging. One would have thought that these words would not naturally be happy bedfellows, but they are. If adopted, they will make the brands under our care, both more relevant and more responsive.

What does this mean for agencies and clients? It means we need to reshape our offering. We need to take a long, hard look at our brands and help challenge and reshape their narratives. If they truly have a purpose, then let’s make sure it’s real and credible. If they don’t, then let’s be honest — it’s called integrity. It’s ok for some brands to simply be cool or fun or exciting, but you have to be true to that. Fake or shoehorned purposes are the worst kind, and they’ve been around since the days of snake oil salesmen. It’s great for a bar of soap to keep us safe, but it’s also ok for a chocolate to simply and unashamedly encourage us to take a break.

So what do these two ends of the lexical spectrum mean for ‘new age’ agencies? It’s not just what we say, but what we do. Brilliant ideas that are wrapped around deeper insights and driven by a truly responsive agility will give clients and brands an elusive advantage that will help them compete in this volatile and ever-changing landscape.

It is imperative that more unlikely bedfellows come together and link arms to create brilliant solutions to tough business challenges. It is the creative ideas guys strumming down with the propeller heads and data scientists. It is the integrated and collaborative wrangling of issues by a multifaceted team that will result in work that is both relevant and responsive. Gone are the days when the consultancy worked on the business strategy, and the creative agency polished the campaign, while the digital agency planned the social media — all with their own business agendas and needs for recognition.

There is a new kind of agency that is fast emerging, one that can attend to multiple facets of a brand or business’s strategic and creative needs with a common understanding and agenda; one where there is no line between tech, data, and creative — just a problem and a team. The benefits that come from this integrated way of problem-solving are clear: consistency, economy, and agility. In these days of rapid response to unexpected challenges, it is hard to justify having your migraine treated by five specialist physicians with different diagnoses and bedside manners, not to mention bills.

This has never been more apparent than during the recent COVID-19 maelstrom. Banks were helped to seamlessly redirect complex channel plans with complete consistency in messaging. FMCG brands responded quickly and pivoted from selling food to providing hope. Homecare brands moved from high-sheen to hygiene, and confectionary brands did what they do best: provide a little comfort in a tough time.

We have learned the power of joined-up thinking and the impact of agility. And this was made all the easier when the brand didn’t have to leave the building: with one team working on one problem, virtually, with a common goal. Never has the saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ been more relevant. We have found a new way of working, and it’s great!