The world is in the throes of an economic crisis. While South Africa has not felt it as much, every industry has to stay on its toes to survive. Survival is about being ahead of the pack. The buzzword used for this is ‘innovation’. The Media asked the question: what is happening in our industry that makes you think ‘wow’?
Many people said innovation is not happening while others responded with innovations. Here is a selection of the most innovative of those.
Advertisers are sticking to the traditional and becoming less adventurous because they are scared of risking budgets on campaigns that are not guaranteed to work, according to Richard Lord, associate media director of The MediaShop (Johannesburg). “But there are creative agencies out there pushing the creative limits,” says Lord.
The Carling Black Label Cup
Ogilvy’s Carling Black Label Cup campaign used the public’s passion for football to its advantage. It gave Black Label-swilling soccer fans the opportunity to choose the opening line-up and substitution for a highly publicised game between rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. By the end of the campaign, Black Label’s Twitter following had grown by 600 percent and fans all over had experienced what it was like to coach their favourite side.
The concept engaged a nation of passionate soccer fans who have been passive coaches from their living rooms and stadium seats for years. The campaign offered instructions on limited edition Carling Black Label bottles, and free SMS votes were cast by using unique codes found under bottle caps. Those who participated in the coaching stood to win R1-million, R500 000 of which would go to charity.
Luca Gallarelli, director of Ogilvy Cape Town, says the campaign attracted 10.5-million votes in seven weeks, and tapped into one of South Africa’s passion points.
The Cell C Trevor Noah Campaign
Early in 2011, bloggers and tweeters were abuzz in awe and irritation of Trevor Noah’s face splashed across magazine spreads, television screens and billboards everywhere. This campaign got people talking.
In February, Associated Magazines ran their first-ever interactive voice advertisement in four consumer titles, including COSMOPOLITAN, Marie Claire, O Magazine and House and Leisure Food. When readers opened the magazines onto the Cell C advert page, Noah’s voice activated, telling consumers about Cell C’s new network, new look, and other selling points.
Mandy Waddington, Cell C marketing executive, says the advert provided the perfect opportunity to converge digital with print.
The Walking Dead Zombie Invasion
Flashmobs [organised gatherings of people performing unusual entertaining activities in public spaces] are a recent concept in international advertising. But the Prism award-winning South African Zombie Invasion was hugely impressive.
The campaign was part of a global initiative to promote the Fox TV series The Walking Dead. Seven days before the series aired on Fox (on TopTV in South Africa), people in zombie-costume invaded public spaces in 23 countries around the world. South African ‘zombies’ walked the streets of Braamfontein, Johannesburg, frightening passers-by and creating a buzz around zombies.
TopTV subscription figures increased, and the South African zombies were named “the best in the world” by Fox’s marketing head, Mark Ollington.
Opinions differ on whether the tablet and apps are old news or not. Suffice to say a few new entries have come to define the South African journey to app immersion.
Tech heads and news junkies breathed a sigh of relief when a full daily ‘newspaper’ version of the Daily Maverick customised for tablet devices arrived on the scene.
Branko Brkic, editor of iMaverick, says devices like iPads have thrown down the gauntlet and most of the press have responded by repurposing their newspapers. “But iMaverick is a game-changer, given that our operation is all about creating the best news content specifically for these devices,” says Brkic.
Gareth Cliff Wake-Up App
5FM breakfast show presenter and M-Net Idols judge Gareth Cliff is the face behind South Africa’s first content-driven interactive ‘personality’ app. The iTunes application features a unique alarm clock with a variety of Cliff wake-up calls along with the day’s weather, specific to location. Cliff’s manager Rina Broomberg says the initiative is the next step in the convergence of media, content and technology.
Business Day iPad application
The new Business Day iPad app allows users to manage and monitor share profiles. Des Latham, BDFM online editor, says the app is one of the most downloaded business applications for the iPad in Africa. It has
15 000 users.
One educational programme stands out as being innovative and developing a new group of talent in this industry.
iSchoolAfrica Youth Press Team
The iSchoolAfrica Youth Press Team launched with high school pupils using Apple Macs to produce mini documentaries on their World Cup 2010 experiences.
This grew into the Youth Press Team project, which empowers high school learners from more than 20 schools to produce videos on news and topical issues for broadcast on TV and online every month. The project was founded by Core Group and Think Ahead, and is supported by Mzansi Magic and Vega.
Laurice Taitz, editorial manager of iSchoolAfrica Youth Press Team, says the project gives learners technical and editorial training, and opportunities to job-shadow in media organisations. “It enables school learners to engage with the world around them and to give young South Africans a voice about issues that affect our society,” says Taitz.
Audiences can now find a whole new bouquet of web-based radio stations to suit their needs. This has opened a gap for niche stations, while challenging existing FM and AM broadcasters to think creatively to keep their listeners.
Tony Blewitt, DJ and radio breakfast show host, says there is a huge gap for a fresh approach in radio. “While the web has broken down borders and made us all part of a global community,” he says, “it has also allowed us to reconnect to our local communities in a very personal way.”
HIP2B digital radio
HIP2B’s new teen digital radio station appeals to its listeners through the various forms of media that youngsters consume.
The station is the “soundtrack to teenagers’ social media lives”. The concept is innovative in that high school learners are responsible for hosting and producing the show, and are thus very in touch with their audience. It is the only South African radio station specifically created for teenagers. The “for youth by youth” concept is a new approach in South African radio, says HIP2B General Manager Cathryn Treasure.
Treasure says that young people are constantly online, and in particular, on smart phones. This makes them “readily receptive to the kind of smart educational content that we can deliver in a teen-friendly format.”
Jacaranda 94.2 and Ja.FM
Jacaranda 94.2fm’s new online radio station, Ja.fm, is a music-only Afrikaans station. It is the first time South African audiences can control the playlist of an online station through a technology application called Listener Driven Radio. Users can vote online for songs they would like to hear.
Omar Essack, Kagiso Media executive director of broadcasting, says that Ja.fm delves more exclusively into this specific genre than other stations.
Kagiso and Radmark’s BlockBuster
Kagiso and Radmark have brought reality radio to South Africa but in a way that makes advertisers and integral part of the process. It is pure entertainment, makes listeners the star of the show and integrates other media into its campaigns.
Kagiso Broadcasting and Radmark ‘s four reality radio campaigns are Date my Dad, Lie Detector, Two Boobs and a Bag of Cash and Crazy Talent.
In Two Boobs and a Bag of Cash, women compete to win breast surgery and a load of cash by presenting their reasons for needing it. In Date My Dad, children try to find their single dads a leading lady, with the audience involvement every step of the way.
Essack says while reality TV was said to have saved television by putting ordinary people in extra-ordinary situations and allowing people to become voyeurs. “The embarrassment or emotion of other people became our entertainment,” he continues. “If we want radio to be a cutting-edge business we need to grab the listener’s attention and the only way to do so is through reality-radio.”
He adds: “We don’t just want advertisers to have their name tagged to specific time slots or promotions. We want them to become integral to the strategy behind the entertainment content.”
These concepts utilise an array of platforms apart from radio. Web advertising, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and a variety of viral campaigns will cover online advertising. Interaction with the audience will also take place via SMS voting and a return SMS. Print coverage of the campaign will take place through radio station supplements and local publications. Billboards and street pole ads will also make out part of the campaign. The campaigns will be tailored to meet advertiser objectives and fit in with the specific station’s individual personality.
Schreuder says: “They have highlighted the fact that content is king and that the ultimate drive for radio is audience participation. They have packaged these four reality ideas wonderfully.”
DStv Mobile has made it possible to watch certain DStv channels wherever you are – on your laptop, smartphone or tablet or Walka Handheld TV – by plugging in the Drifta mobile decoder.
M-Net marketing manager Mpeo Makape says the idea of watching shows on a device that fits in your pocket “is exactly the type of delivery the channel thrives on providing”.
DStv’s new video-on-demand service, BoxOffice, enables viewers to access premier movies anytime with a touch of a button. This is a pay-per-view movie rental service offered to Premium PVR subscribers, and allows viewers to watch the latest movies available in DVD stores without leaving their couch.
Matthew Buckland, MD of Creative Spark, says this service is a first for the country, and its integration with mobile and SMS payment, satellite and TV is truly innovative and unique.
Professor Harry Dugmore, MTN Chair of Media and Mobile Communications at Rhodes University’s School of Journalism, says what’s very innovative about the product is that DStv is using a satellite signal and live streaming for the service, rather than underground cables – which is how similar services around the world operate.
The lines are blurring between print and online media, says trends analyst Dion Chang. And, according to Chris Hitchings, DStv Media Sales CEO, online brings convenience and immediacy to users. If it is used right, advertisers have the opportunity to target niche segments of the population.
News24 Zulu & News24 Kenya
News24 is the first online publisher to create an entirely isiZulu digital news platform. This follows in the footsteps of the Afrikaans version, Nuus24, which was launched in 2009.
News24 also created News24 Kenya, an online platform for another African country that focuses on indigenous content and communities.
Dugmore says: “This is enormously interesting, innovative, and long-overdue. South Africa needs to experiment in languages in the digital space. South Africans need news to be served in the language they’re comfortable in.”
Buckland says: “This is the first mass-market news to cater to a South African language. Now that is innovative.”
News24’s User Generated Content
News24 has also developed a system that allows visitors to contribute relevant content to the site.
The User-Generated Content (UGC) system allows users to submit news-related content to the editorial team. If they use it, the user would get an online credit. The idea is to make readers an integral part of their news community.
Users can also create profile pages that chronicle their own submitted content, so that others may view their stories online. The concept will probably find a flurry of interest early on, says Dugmore. “People like to see their names in print.”
OUT OF HOME MEDIA
Out of Home (OOH) media experts say there have not been many innovative ideas in this sector recently.
Vertical growth is what business is about. But MediaVest, in collaboration with NU Venture, Tractor Outdoor and Draft FCB, took this concept literally when conceptualising a new campaign for Emirates Airlines.
A traditional billboard on Kloof Street, Cape Town, was transformed into a living innovation when the team created a vertical garden as an advertisement for the airline. The garden depicts a world map by using contrasting vegetation as a palette.
“With this concept we are able to convert normal dreary bland blank facades into green, breathing spaces,” says Simon Wall of Tractor Outdoor.
One Digital Media’s digital in-store developments allow customers to interact directly with brands. The new digital store concept for 8.ta transformed store windows into ‘whispering windows’ that are activated to play sound when customers approach. Customers can compare products by touching the screen, and can also enter their details so that sales assistants can get back to them on queries. Inside the stores, interactive touch tables allow customers to engage interactively with product information.
“Whispering windows is a new concept for South Africa,” says Lord. “They are a very good idea when used in a way that is relevant to products.”
There are so many media awards but are any of them innovative?
The MOST Awards
People enter awards contests for themselves or their team and if the judges agree that their work is great, they win an award. In the case of the MOST Awards, the winners are chosen for their service delivery performance, based on in-depth industry research.
Media owners and media agencies rate each other, thereby giving feedback as to where the other is going wrong, can grow or is scoring. Following the awards ceremony, the research is available so companies can learn from it.
The MOST Awards’ research-based survey questionnaires are the first of their kind, and are developed by leading industry influencers who all believe in improved service levels, innovation and sustainability.
“Industry awards like the MOST awards drive us all towards best practice and towards greater innovation in our products and services,” says Hitchings. “This can only be good for the industry at large as we all raise our game to remain competitive.”
Gordon Muller of GSM Quadrant says it is not the death of magazines that publishers in South Africa fear, but the death of printing. Magazines that cater for both print and online probably have the best chance of staying successful in the ever-changing media landscape.
In a time where readers and users are integrally involved with the brands they love through social media, it is natural that magazines give their readers an active role within their brands too.
Taste Readers’ Issue
Taste Editor Sumien Brink conceptualised an idea that would give Taste readers creative license within the magazine. In November 2011, the magazine ran its very first readers’ issue, featuring their recipes, and their favourite restaurants, recipe books, wines and kitchen gadgets, presented with photos styled by the Taste team.
The issue pushed monthly copy sales up by 18%, and received rave reviews from all over the industry.
“Taste’s Readers’ issue is a brilliant idea, and it works,” says Schreuder. “The idea to get readers to create content is what all brands want: true customer involvement. It opens up a rapport with readers.”
VISI Covet, a content-driven design social network, allows the design community to share their inspiration, designs, and those they covet, on the network.
By making it easy for online users to upload content that is immediately shared with the entire VISI Covet network, any designers’ work becomes a part of the VISI product.
This gives readers of the magazine a chance to be part of a new design network, driven forward by their connection to VISI. Uploaded content showcases designers’ work, inspires readers and becomes potential leads for magazine features.
Covet is integrated with Facebook and Twitter, and the free Covet iPhone app makes it easy for users to take photos and share them with the network immediately.
Sarie digital magazine
An innovation in online magazines on the horizon is Sarie’s new e-commerce magazine, enabling readers to immediately buy what they see in the magazine.
The digital magazine will feature selections of clothing and advice on pairing clothing for the best looks. So, while readers may not be able to try on the product they want, they will be advised how to wear it, what it will look best with and what figures are best suited to it. “There are already retailers that you can shop from online,” says CEO of Sarie.com, Louna Lohann, “but ours will be the first attached to a magazine.”
The lines between retail and magazines are blurring, according to Chang. Sarie has found a way to make things a little easier for both readers and advertisers.
Whether it is through the smudging of already-wobbly lines, the adopting of international trends in new local-centric ways, or quantum leaps of faith into the unknown, innovation is happening in South Africa.
So, you may end this feature thinking you have a far more innovative concept and it isn’t featured on these pages. Well, make sure you let us know about it next time.
Some of these ideas really rock but some are scratching the surface of innovation. It is a beginning. So get innovative and let The Media know about it. – Editor