TDDD Interviews: M&C Saatchi Abel and Recruit Digital


It’s a new week on The Digital Daydream Diary and I’m proud to present a new feature to you – TDDD Interviews. In this feature, we speak to the experts, the gurus, the insiders and the go-getters of the digital marketing and tech industries of South Africa. You’ll get to hear some of the insights and opinions from industry professionals as I bounce off a number of questions and ideas based on the current theme or topic, in an interview environment.








Last week, my featured story took a look at 10 reasons why digital marketing is important in South Africa. Keeping with the theme, I sought insight on digital marketing in South Africa from Johannesburg’s M&C Saatchi Abel agency and Recruit Digital. The result was a triple-header account with 3 digital marketing professionals.



First up is Linora Benjamin-Jager, head of digital at M&C Saatchi Abel, a senior position that has seen her oversee many successful digital campaigns for clients such as Edcon, Pepsico and Nedbank. Her experience in digital started around 8 years ago, heading up digital marketing for FNB.

Second, is Skye Aspden, a young, ambitious and solution oriented digital marketing consultant at M&C Saatchi Abel with noteworthy experience in digital – ranging from start-up, e-commerce and programming to agency, client service and strategy.

Third, is Alex Martin, founder and managing director at Recruit Digital – a niche staffing provider that has seen him and his company find the best fit for employer and employee alike in all digital industry touch-points; creative, media, technology, marketing, PR and e-commerce.

Here’s what they had to say:


TDDD: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in digital marketing and how you landed in your current position?

Linora: I’ve been in this part of the industry for around 8 years, beginning with heading up digital at FNB and more recently making the move to M&C Saatchi where I’ve been presented with an opportunity to anchor the digital discipline in the agency.

Skye: Well, Alex placed me through his company, Recruit Digital. I started with quite a technical background, doing a lot of programming and business systems. Through that, I started getting into front-end programming and SEO – which was my first taste of what digital marketing actually was. It escalated from there, from digital marketing at a travel company called, to starting up an e-commerce company called Citymob (now Superbalist) and finally ending up here at M&C as a digital marketing consultant – somewhat of a digital “generalist.”

Alex: I’ve always worked in recruitment, since I was 19, and I saw an opening in South Africa, in digital marketing and tech in specific. No one else seemed to have an agency that focused on this niche, so I kind of jumped on it – and that’s the short answer.


TDDD: Where do you see South Africa in the digital marketing landscape? Up to speed or still playing catch up?

Linora: From a spend perspective, we are way behind! Brands overseas are spending 40-45% of their marketing budget on digital, while we’ve got brands still sitting around a 2-3% mark. It does depend on industry, our banking industry is more digitally geared and some of our banks are spending up to 15% of their marketing budget on digital.

Skye: I’d say there are 3 ways to look at that question; start-up and tech culture, traditional business culture and infrastructure. I think that our start-up and tech culture in this country is right up there with the best, our guys are doing the research online and applying solutions in really unique and cool ways. But then, traditional businesses have a long way to go, with a lack of understanding in digital from an executive level – they don’t understand what digital can do for their businesses. Finally, South Africa has a huge infrastructural limitation in terms of internet access and speed and access to hardware – this is a huge challenge for digital marketing.


TDDD: What is your favourite aspect of digital marketing in making it easier to connect and engage with consumers?

Linora: I can’t split my business hat from my digital hat, so for me, e-commerce and e-tailing is something of interest to me. Especially when you start blending that with an app-commerce environment, where mobile becomes the in-pocket wallet. I think that South Africa is on the cusp of breaking into that environment.

Skye: I don’t think I could choose a favourite, it always depends on the objective and the budget. In the start-up industry, there’s an ideology called “growth-hacking” that relies on trial and error to find the optimal method or channel. That’s how I’d pick my favourite aspect of digital.

Alex: For me, it’s got to be social media, because the level of interaction and engagement is more personally and emotionally intertwined.


TDDD: In terms of targeting digital campaigns – do the diverse LSM’s and consumer behaviours of SA consumers present more of a challenge or opportunity for marketers?

Skye: At times, it can be limiting from a creative perspective. The client brief might offer great creative opportunities, but if specific consumer segments mean that your channel of communication is limited to USSD (basic mobile phone services such as SMS), then it becomes quite a challenge for marketers.

Alex: Both. There are many obstacles and barriers such as the mobile one Skye pointed out, but if you can find a way to overcome these, then there is a lot of opportunity.


TDDD: What are some of the digital marketing headaches and obstacles you find yourself facing on a regular basis?

Linora: Good question, and a very pertinent one in South Africa! For me, it’s the hesitation, the fear factor, of marketers to say “here’s 20% of my budget, go and spend it on digital.” Not having the confidence that this is still going to meet their target or objective. It’s a big challenge and means taking each brand and campaign on a case-by-case basis in order to measure and communicate the value in digital to the marketer.

Skye: Client knowledge is a big one. There are so many cases where clients struggle to understand what we are going to do, how it works and how it will achieve their objectives. It requires a bit of hand-holding, feedback, analysis, ROI stats and an explanation of how the digital campaign integrated and worked with the above the line campaign.


TDDD: How do you think things would change for the advertisers in the Mad-Men team (1960’s) if they had access to the digital marketing tools we have today?

Skye: Well they were big drinkers, so maybe Uber could have gotten them home after work? But on a serious note, I don’t think much would have changed. Advertising was so new back then that digital probably wouldn’t have changed the status quo of mainstream media. Digital probably would have been a bit difficult to figure out compared to TV, newspaper and billboards.


TDDD: Are digital marketers the nerds or the cool kids in an agency?

Skye: I don’t think people know enough about what we do, so maybe we’re a bit of an enigma!

Alex: I don’t think you can differentiate between nerdy and cool anymore. In many cases, nerdy is the new cool. The balance of power has shifted and digital has turned the nerd into a modern billionaire, just look at Zuckerberg!


TDDD: If you could have access to only 1 social network, which one would it be and why?

Skye: Tinder! That’s only because I’m single. But I generally use Facebook as a newsfeed to keep me updated with sites like Mashable, The Next Web and Tech Crunch. When I go down my timeline, I mostly find news and interesting stories rather than boring friend activity. 

Alex: For me, it would have to be LinkedIn. As a recruiter, my network is one of my most powerful tools.


TDDD: What advice would you give to a young digital marketer looking to find their big break in the South African job market?

Alex: Digital is still quite new and those in the industry have come from a variety of roots and backgrounds to get where they are now. Also, it’s hard to say what sort of professions and skills in digital will be available in the next 5 or 10 years. So it’s probably a good idea to focus in on your key skills in digital, but at the same time, try to be somewhat of a generalist and gain experience in the vast touch-points of digital. So when the time is right, you’ll probably find that you gravitate naturally towards a particular area or profession in of interviewing



Meet Tim - a digital dreamer. Current 4th year Business Science Marketing Honours Student at UCT, e-Marketing Tutor at UCT, Digital Marketing Student at Red & Yellow and former intern at Made Digital Agency. Keep an eye on his blog for some great content on digital marketing and tech.

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