From Media Anthesis To Beyond: The FutureTech Story

Boye BalogunWith the focused goal to bridge the gap between creativity, technology and the next wave of scalable innovation, FutureTech’s growth strategy underpins advertising beyond media and the evolving role of technology in it.

“Innovation, speed and curiosity are what drive us. We’ve built the business on collaboration right across the board, internally and externally” – with these words, Boye Balogun, the Managing Director of FutureTech, explains how the company identified and developed its proposition of bridging the gap that exists between advertising and technology.

In a manner of speaking, Mr Balogun’s company has taken a form of the ‘open culture’ that has driven the technology business for long, and applied it to marketing.

“We see opportunities when most people see competition. That openness to work together allows us to plug and play, to create solutions that enable our growth,” he adds, reflecting on what has worked so far, for the four-year old firm.

At present, FutureTech is present in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region, through five offices, including Dubai, Riyadh, Lagos, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The company also has Asia footprint with presence in Singapore. Mr Balogun explains that this brings both learnings and challenges for FutureTech.

FutureTech is known for delivering advertising solutions to brand advertisers, media players, social, digital and PR agencies, through a host of partner products and its own home-tailored technologies. Its partner list counts the likes of Unruly, Storyful, Future Influence and Loop Me.

“In 2018, we’ve had to refocus on our core DNA and clearly delineate what we stand for,” he says.

Rewiring For Basics
FutureTech had begun its journey challenging norms of digital advertising. That however, is a sector where the only thing constant is the rapid speed of change, and being a challenger is not for everyone. FutureTech may not particularly be the antithesis of mass media, but its positioning is close enough.

Its refined strategy is divided in two streams. The first is based on acknowledging advertising is more than just media. “We have hence invested in our technology to power our influencer and content platforms to build up the content part of our business that we launched last year,” Mr Balogun explains.

Secondly, since not many agency or advertiser partners can run at the pace of an offer like FutureTech, in its re-energized avatar, it is focusing only on what it describes as “frontrunners in fast paced markets”. Considering that it is the very pace of growth and innovation in the media and tech industry that fuels FutureTech, Mr Balogun expresses, “We are not a mass offering and we will no longer sacrifice our next wave of ethos to help play catch-up.”

Responding To Demand
FutureTech is not in a hurry to add new markets just yet. It is instead focusing on consolidating its presence in the markets it is operating in. That being stated, it would appear that the company’s final call on that decision depends on demand. This in fact is the primary reason for it to invest in a Singapore office.

“We have demand for our services in Asia and many of our clients are global brands. I got into a very interesting conversation about Korea just the other day,” Mr Balogun recollects, adding, “Southeast Asia (SEA) is a huge business opportunity for us and Singapore is the gateway to most of those markets. In our roadmap from the beginning, after Africa, a SEA operation through Singapore was the final step for our regional hub setup plan. Asia is a very different market in many ways, and we are already seeing benefits across other offices.”

Among the focus areas that will remain important in its new DNA, is its talent. “Our business is powered by best local talent in each market; our people are our lifeblood,” says the company’s Founder.

The Frontrunners
An intrinsic part of the new phase is identifying the right partners who, as per Mr Balogun, don’t just stay with the pace of change but lead it. FutureTech exclusively represents its list of partners in MEA, and it exerts great care while choosing these companies.

Mr Balogun explains that each market and its requirement, is different. FutureTech is constantly exploring potential partners but the key is that the partners’ product evolve, stay future fit and always relevant. “We also have a clear guiding light based on our business strategy. On some occasions, we partner based on direct client demand for product services. We are a solid set of products across video and mobile advertising, content curation and distribution that can work as point solutions or together as a complete activation package,” he says.

To remain a frontrunner in the technology-led marketing and advertising race, FutureTech’s strategy includes building the next generation of tech products.

One of its initial push was to build locally relevant advertising products for each market. Its product partners invest millions of dollars in R&D but above that, the objective was to build products that are created for audiences in specific markets.

In January this year, FutureTech launched its tech-powered influencer product ‘Future Influence’. Already rolled out in multiple markets, Future Influence is next level, influencer 3.0 that merges FutureTech’s influencer talent experience with smart tech powered by artificial intelligence (AI). “Our influencer director is one of the few people in the region to have worked on three influencer tech platforms. Along with the credibility of FutureTech, we delivered some amazing campaigns for key auto, FMCG and finance advertisers,” he informs.

FutureTech also seed invests and encourages young entrepreneurs. One example is seen in an EdTech innovation product in South Africa where it partnered with a telecom company and African Development Bank to support education with technology to rural communities. “Advertising is not only about the now, it’s also about empowering and building your future customers,” Mr Balogun states.

In that vein, another segment of great focus for FutureTech is the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Next Spenders
As part of its strategy to stay relevant to the community, FutureTech has paid special attention to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including SMEs. It consults with startups and entrepreneurs on a pro-bono basis when it can. “We seed support in other cases,” says Mr Balogun.

Most importantly, FutureTech developed a SME toolkit for startups that can help accelerate their growth. “I have a keen passion for growing the local media ecosystem, content providers and small businesses in the face of overwhelming globalization and mass media,” Mr Balogun remarks.

To support and help SMEs and smaller players gain an unfair advantage, FutureTech has a more personalized approach through networking, mentoring and tailoring services to their needs.

Mr Balogun’s advice to SMEs and entrepreneurs is to not isolate brand stories from acquiring customers. “You must tell a great brand story to acquire customers. There is this growing belief in this region that you must do one or the other or make sacrifices on branding to deliver short term success. Stay true to the brand, invest in content marketing and collaborate with others to drive organic growth,” he says.

As Mr Balogun says, this is an industry of change that is radical even in its tempo and nature. It is for that reason that FutureTech’s focus has been to be built for changes and the evolving landscape. “We are a digital solutions and tech business for the new media world. Because we are still a lean business, we operate with immense flexibility. This enables us to be as radical as required,” he states.

Three Qs To ‘Reluctant Entrepreneur’ Boye Balogun
The last four years have been a journey of rapid growth for FutureTech. As it looks to take its learning from that and structure its next steps, Boye Balogun speaks to Arabian Marketer’s Sana Mahmud on the road so far, and the way forward…

What made you think of a premise like FutureTech?
It’s a bit of a journey really. I moved to the UAE from heading up digital businesses in the UK. My remit was to build a core digital proposition across the agency that employed me and drive innovation across its clients. In that role, I discovered there was a massive innovation gap in the Middle East markets we operated in. Hence, FutureTech was created. The objective was to bridge that gap across creativity, innovation and delivering the next wave of scalable innovation. I’m a reluctant entrepreneur.

Since FutureTech works with advertisers too, how do agencies react to you? Are you ever seen as a threat?
It depends on the product, we are built around collaboration and co-creation and some of our best ideas are when all parties are in the same room. We really create amazing work then. I would say, some of the conflict is between the agency partners we work with. The content remit sits across media, creative and PR agencies, and there is sometimes a battle for ownership there.

How are you seeing the role of tech evolve in marketing?
All roads lead to the topic of technology as a disruptor and invariably centers on machine autonomy on one side and targeting + data privacy on the other. Autonomous everything means smart technology enables more personalized advertising and less wastage. It leads to your home devices working together to meet your needs. It leads to a perfectly curated ad delivery of my next car based on my three-year media touch point history. It delivers my preferred color, livery, engine configuration, nearest location and the exact buy nudge that will work on me.

Is that creating a value service to the customer and meeting their needs? Yes. Is that intrusive? May be. The tech dichotomy of the future is set between better advertising for brands to reach their audience and more privacy laws to protect that same audience. There is nothing else that matters for the future of tech in marketing right now.

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