The Need For Ad Agencies

There was once a thriving advertising industry in Fiji but the number of options for clients has diminished in the last five years. Is it that there is no longer
16 Apr 2016 09:20
The Need For Ad Agencies
Razor Advertising in Walu Bay ... One of the few advertising agencies now operating in Suva.

There was once a thriving advertising industry in Fiji but the number of options for clients has diminished in the last five years.

Is it that there is no longer a need for specialists to assist with a company’s marketing communications. Some people tell me that there are now a lot of well trained people who can take over the role the agency used to perform.

Some say that technology has replaced the advertising agency creative departments.

It is true that the universities and technical education structure is churning (a word I have chosen carefully) out people trained to work design computers.

Looking around the world, if there was any truth in these hypothesis (and a number of other proposed reasons for the decline of the agency in Fiji) there would be evidence of a decline in the use of advertising agency services in most of the developed countries.



But there is no such decline. Instead, the big and successful companies everywhere are still using agencies and the industry is not only alive, but flourishing.

Sure, almost every well managed marketing oriented company has its own in-house studio and employs a number of well trained communications people.

But they are not seen as replacing the advertising agency, they are there to assist the agency to do a better communications job for the client.

They are the inside link between the marketing people and the communications service providers. They were there in the old days, but were called brand managers and communication was only a small part of their role.

Now, the task of communicating with customers has become very much more complex and a significantly broader range of skills is needed to get even a mediocre payback for the communications dollar.

So the brand manager still manages the brand, but just as they go to engineering to get the production process right, they go to an advertising agency to get the communications process right.

So why do Fiji companies believe they know more than their international competitors?

The single biggest driver is that they can do it cheaper.


Local Companies

It is interesting that a number of companies in Fiji are marketing brands here for international principals, and invariably these very experienced marketers demand that the Fiji company employ an advertising agency.

In these cases it is common for the local company to turn its in-house advertising department into an advertising agency and use that entity.

What’s wrong with that, you ask.

To answer that, let’s look at what an advertising agency, a real advertising agency, should offer.

An agency internationally is judged by the quality of the product it puts into the market.

This is not only the advertisements it creates, but the strategic thinking behind the concept, the media choices it makes and the techniques it uses to make those choices, the synergy of the whole campaign, how every separate item works to build the whole, the brand development in the campaign, the way it motivates the target audience to take the action needed for the campaign to succeed and how it measures the campaign to find ways to improve the communication.

This requires a very well trained group. Most of the people involved in the campaign will only be involved in a section, for a short time.

It is not possible to employ these people unless there is a significant amount of work for them to be involved in, otherwise the exercise will not be financially viable.

A single company (or group of companies) can’t economically support the group needed to create really affective communications.

An advertising agency, with the cost spread over a number of different companies, could do that.

What was once a thriving advertising industry in Fiji is now only a handful of practitioners.

The size of the market was a factor.

As the industry grew and became very profitable, a number of other companies were formed and the already small pie was split even smaller.

Then technology started to appear that allowed ordinary people to prepare reasonably professional looking advertisements.

There were even software programs that made it easy to make television commercials.

So the advertisers started to do their own thing.

And they provided the advertising industry with an even smaller pie to share.


Media Planning

As the advertising agency business became marginal financially.

There was not the operating budget to bring in very well trained expats to transfer knowledge to the local people who were entering the industry.

And because the company agency produced less dramatic sales results, advertising budgets stagnated over a number of years.

The media started to find it difficult to finance the expansion of their services or to upgrade the equipment.

One of the most critical aspects of marketing communication, and one that consumes the greatest share of the budget, is media placement.

Media planning requires a lot of knowledge and experience, it is now a science in most developed markets with proven statistical measuring tools to check plan performance and almost every plan is a complex mix of different media.

Perhaps the greatest loss for local companies is the ability of the planners.

It always surprised me that clients would spend days arguing about the creative work, but simple tick media plans which were often ninety percent of the spend.

When I first started in the advertising profession, there was a saying attributed to a very famous company chairman, who said: “I know that half my advertising budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half”.

I was taught that a campaign needed to be totally synergistic, that every bit had to have a message that was convicting to the target audience that it had to be delivered in a way that created impact in the consumer mind, that it had to build the brand and that the result had to be measured.

If your company is doing that, you do not need an advertising agency.

John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in advertising agencies. For feedback on this article, please email him:


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