Duke Group

#BigQ2020: Back to the future

Wayne Naidoo

Wayne Naidoo

Wayne Naidoo (@WNaidoo) is the founder and CEO of DUKE, which he founded after leaving his position as CMO at AFB (now JUMO), one of Africa’s fastest growing-consumer finance groups. He is currently chairperson once again of the Association of Communication and Advertising (ACA) of South Africa and was runner-up for MarkLives #AgencyLeaders2018 Most Admired Ad Agency Boss Leader in Cape Town. Wayne is also the former CEO of Lowe & Partners SA, a former chairperson of Young Presidents Organisation (YPO), and a former director of the AAA School of Advertising.

Every new year comes with its trends and innovations, hip ways of doing things and that one new thing, process or tool that we never knew we couldn’t live without. We’ve tried all the ‘new’ things and clever ways of doing stuff; we’ve gone for all the latest crazes and tried new processes; followed the fakers and influencers; and streamlined, outsourced and handed our business over to consultants. And, yet, we are still sitting at one of the lowest points in advertising history.

Lost our way?

With all our future-forward thinking and planning for the next best thing, it seems we’ve lost our way in advertising — brands have become risk-averse; ads are safe and boring. The great admen who were once considered great business leaders and partners are now mere lackeys who tiptoe around clients as yes-men, instead of being respected and appreciated for adding value to their business. Marketing has forgotten how to engage with people’s soul and imagination; we’ve neglected creativity and innovation in our obsession with cost-cutting and saving money. We’ve lost the nuances of charm, engagement and empathy in our communications and have become a generation of implementers who’ve skipped the advertising basics.

So, just perhaps, in 2020 we should ditch all the cleverness and great new things and focus on the going back to the old ways of doing things, the ways that worked and created powerful, memorable advertising? Let’s get back to basics, to what the core of effective advertising has always been: delivering results to our clients and adding value to their businesses. No more shortcuts and knee-jerk responses, no more clever tricks and baffling with digital BS — it’s time to revert to the fundamentals of advertising.

I’m the first to admit that our digital era has been hugely beneficial and has certainly simplified and enriched so many aspects of our lives. But we’re all still grappling with so much ever-changing data and constant updates that, all too often, our responses are so reflexive and lacking in proper well-planned, methodical strategy that we miss the point. What we thought was urgent and a big strategic digital “opportunity” often never amounted to anything at all and our response was lacklustre, at best, and ultimately a waste of time. The immediacy of the digital age has us rushing to do stuff and forgetting why we are doing it. Just because digital allows us to react immediately doesn’t mean we need to. We don’t need digital communications to just fill a space; we need them to be impactful and meaningful.


In 2019, Facebook and Google overtook all print and TV advertising globally. So, how about we take these fantastic tools and in 2020 we use them effectively? Let’s think about the fundamentals of advertising and apply them to enhance the great new ways of doing things. Before we throw an ad online, perhaps we should think about what we’re aiming to achieve with it — is it conversion? Is it about brand loyalty? Is it about sales? Is anyone even asking these questions? Are we considering the traditional brand-building exercises, winning trust, growing loyalty, and looking at pricing and customer experience?

The digital space is an incredible real-time space in which advertisers have been afforded to play, but we oftentimes get carried away with the medium and forget to apply the traditional tenets of advertising. We get so caught up in the tool that the art of communication is neglected. Every advertiser knows that their most-important tool with which to truly get their brand to shine is creativity and, even in this fast-paced digital age, creativity is the only thing that is truly sustainable. At the end of the day, with all the cleverness around us, it’s creativity that allows us to marry our brand with a consumer. No matter how niched and targeted our medium — it’s the creativity of our message that has to land their hearts. When we don’t keep our eye on the fundamentals of our advertising, things get messy and disjointed and the results (or lack thereof) speak for themselves. Our advertising has very little to show for all the wonderfulness of the advances we’ve taken on in the last 20 years.

I’ve no doubt that there will be new progresses in 2020 and enhanced ways of doing things and we should certainly embrace them — growth and development challenges us and prevents us from stagnating. What I know for sure, however, is that the winners of the future will be those who take those new innovations and still remember to apply the tools and thinking of the past.