Quacks Having a Field Day

The quality of advertising in Kenya has been heading south over the recent years.

Gone are the days when captivating ads would rent the air during primetime news. We are only left with memories of those unforgettable ads that would ring long like an anthem.

The advertising world has been invaded by quacks and amateurs. The industry faces a shortage of professionals and the gap has been filled by people with great intentions but little capacity to execute them.

The cost of incompetence has been ads that have been met with disbelief by the intended audience. Some adverts have ended up being the laughing stock in online forums. Others have caused so much uproar that their companies have been forced to hastily recall them and spend endless hours in public relations efforts to deal with the fallout.

Role of advertising agents in marketing campaigns

In a formal and professional set-up, a business planning to carry out a marketing communication campaign involving use of advertisement is supposed to use an advertising agency to accomplish the task. Sadly in Kenya a “do it yourself” mentality seems to rule the minds of many. People design ads without due consideration of professional expertise and experience.

There seems to be many people who believe that advertisement is all about graphic design. Graphic artists with little if any business training and understanding of marketing purport to undertake the work of advertising professionals to the detriment of their clients. The results are often disastrous and at times just hilarious. You see many adverts that have no value other than entertainment. They make the heart merry but do not go far enough to call the mind towards supporting the products being advertised. It is a wasted effort.

The above issues can be avoided if businesses engage the services of advertising agents. An advertising agency has the competency to professionally execute a marketing communication campaign hence achieving desired results. Unfortunately, we have firms that claim to be advertising agencies yet have no professional capacity to act as such. It is therefore advisable to thoroughly scrutinize an agency before engaging its services.

You would never hire someone not trained in law to represent you in a court lest you end up in jail for offences never committed. Similarly, you wouldn’t hire someone not qualified in accounting to audit your books. If that be the case why should you hire someone with no training in marketing to undertake your marketing communication campaigns? Your may end up miscommunicating instead of communicating.

Departments and functions in an advertising agency

An advertising agency has various departments which tackle various aspects of a campaign and all the administrative activities involved. They collectively ensure that a campaign is carried out within the confines of professional norms. The key departments include;

1. The account management department – it acts as a liaison between the client and the agency. It has professionals who interpret the clients’ marketing strategy to the other agency staff. It also ensures the agency resources are deployed for the client’s assignments and supervises the project to ensure it runs as agreed with the client.

Engaging a firm without a proper account management department may result in communication breakdown between client and firm. It may also result in output that does not meet the client’s expectations since it is not aligned with strategy.

2. The creative development and production department – it is involved in converting the client’s ideas into actual advertisements. Its members include creative directors, creative department manager, copy writers, art directors and producers.

Locally you find a situation where creative people such as graphic designers are left with the whole responsibility of interpreting client strategy and developing the final advert. This may result in a witty, captivating and entertaining ad but may fail to communicate the relevant message.

Production professionals on their part ensure that the final advert is produced in the best quality possible. An advert may be good but if it is unprofessionally produced its impact will be lost in the crappy output.

Creative people are often not the most disciplined and can easily get carried away in an environment where key marketing professionals are missing. It is therefore risky to equate a loosely assembled group of creative artists with an advertising agency. Creativity can never replace professional marketing skills.

3. The media planning and buying department recommends to the client the most efficient means of delivering the message to the target audience. They do planning, researching, negotiating, scheduling, buying and verifying media space. Creative media buying is key to the success of a marketing campaign. Without these professionals, the media mix chosen may not be optimal and the campaign may underperform or fail altogether. The campaign may also end up unnecessarily costly if those involved have no ability, negotiation skills and networks necessary to squeeze in the best deal.

4. The account planning and research department ensures strong consumer brand relationship by putting the consumer at the centre. It gathers all available intelligence on market and consumers and acts as voice of consumers. It uses the research to prepare comprehensive recommendations about the consumers’ wants, needs and relationship to client’s brand and how the advertising agency should work to satisfy them. Most importantly, it balances account management and creative departments to ensure research is reflected in ads.

While these functions may be organized differently in various firms, one should be on the look out to ensure that all the required professionals are available. This will ensure that a wholesome solution is delivered.

Development of advertising profession and industry in Kenya

There is need to ensure that the advertising profession in Kenya is properly developed. We need to have marketing courses with specialization in advertising being taught in our universities. Advertising professionals need an association that can register practitioners and regulate the trade while ensuring continuous professional development.

Considering that consumers of advertising services need access to professional services, there is need to weed out firms masquerading as professionals. This is the only way to restore confidence in the sector and improve uptake of services. Consumers also need awareness on what advertising entails so as to avoid disastrous self-prescriptions and engaging of quacks either out of ignorance or in an attempt to reduce costs.

Advertising firms need to create awareness about their services. Apart from the big advertising agencies such as the NSE listed Scangroup, most small agencies are not well known. This creates the impression among business owners that formal advertising agencies are only available for large enterprises. In recent years, consolidation by entities such as Scangroup has seen consumers left with little choice. This poses challenges since when one agency is handling business of competing firms; there are many things that can go wrong such as leakage of strategy and tactics.

Lastly there is the issue of ensuring advertisements are ethical. Currently, there are many unethical practices being perpetrated by players such as exaggeration and misrepresentations of a product’s capabilities. This if not checked will only see the professional sink deeper into disrepute.

Businesses need to know that the cost of incompetence is very high. You may think that by short-circuiting due process you will save money, but in the end you will lose more. To rephrase a common saying; “If you think competence is expensive try incompetence.”

Let us develop a culture of engaging professionals and desist from hoisting quacks to a status they don’t deserve or merit. A business built on professionalism is established on a solid foundation and will withstand many shocks. A business built on shortcuts will be short-lived. Choose wisely.



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