As South Africa’s public transport infrastructure grows, more and more companies are jumping on the branded bandwagon, but are they doing it correctly? Jane Rosen finds out more.
Transit media is less than a decade old and part of its evolution as a media form is what Charl Timms, CEO of SP Media, calls “perception change”. In early 2007, South Africa’s public transport was arguably untapped as a mainstream communications platform. The year 2010 can be considered the year companies jumped on to the branded bandwagon and really started to use the real potential of transit media. The “perception change” has transformed transit media from a business risk to an integral part of out of home (OOH) advertising strategy. Last year has shown further growth in this sector.
“In the past five years, we’ve seen a growth from 19 to 163 brands advertising with us [specifically in the transit media sector] and they are not only the banks and mobile networks but across sector(s),” says Timms.
So with everything from fizzy drinks to clothing stores being ‘vinylised’ and pasted on to cars, taxis, buses and trains, the question remains, are they doing it right?
With OOH media constituting “six percent of the media pie, the budget being allocated to below the line (BTL) is less than one percent and is not yet to the extent that we believe it should be”, according to Terence Marsh, former CEO of ComutaNet. [Howard Plaatjies is the current CEO.]
The allocation of budget is one aspect that needs to be re-evaluated, but the other is the creative effectiveness of the campaign, according to Martin Rosen, MD of Mega Vision Media. He believes there is too often a lack of synergy between creative agencies, media owners and brand owners to create an integrated, succinct and informative message.
While there are those who still regard transit media as a “grudge purchase”, most of South Africa’s creative agencies, media owners and brand owners are taking transit media more seriously as an important part of extending core campaigns and creating brand awareness, says Rosen.
However, Rosen explains, “very often there is a ‘lazy drag’ through of the creative idea and concept of the campaign from television, radio and press to OOH media. Creative teams, through their account managers, have to be more forceful, more dynamic and more daring in convincing their clients that when using OOH media formats, the messaging just has to be different no matter what. A call to action approach is what is required otherwise it’s all just nebulous wallpaper”.
Penny Bentley, national sales manager at Outdoor Network, says: “Creative that really delivers a ‘wow’ factor and works for outdoor media is often a challenge. Few agencies or creative people understand the concept that in outdoor, the message needs to be conveyed in four seconds, after which time you have lost the eyeballs. Objectives defining the job that outdoor is expected to do are often hazy, and do not reflect in the end display.”
Rosen elaborates: “Imagine how much more powerful it would be if, for example, a major supermarket chain advertised specials like chickens today for only R10.99 instead of having a picture of a girl eating a tub of cottage cheese, saying ‘Yum’ on a fleet of their trucks. Aiming for this type of communication might need more work and effort, but the results would be ‘wow’.”
Bentley agrees. “All too often creative generated for the more traditional media types is simply pulled through or modified and stuck onto outdoor which does not work.” She explains that there are clearly defined rules for what works on transport media, relating to the font that is used, the size font, lower case or caps, colours, background, shading, kerning, stacking and other issues. “These all play a major role in the ease with which the message is conveyed,” Bentley says.
Timms says media owners need to get more involved in the creative output side. “From the onslaught there needs to be more thought going into the various media platforms. Campaigns do tend to start off as television commercials and print and get pushed down on to things like transit media. The Nedbank Cup and Sowetan campaigns stood out because they were originally designed for transit.” The Nedbank Cup used 53 buses of which 31 were double deckers to promote the soccer tournament. The Sowetan campaign saw 10 double-decker busses expressing the newspaper’s new look and feel.
Notabene Group MD, Ryan Williams, agrees. “I get the sense that the general weakness in non-TV advertising is that the best teams want to write for television, and this means that radio, print and OOH all suffer. I also think that there is a lack of exposure to the transit environment for many clients and creative teams, so this compounds problems because it creates a lack of understanding of the opportunity.”
Jacques Du Preez, CEO of Provantage, adds that another big challenge is that “the media buyers tend to put money into media they consume themselves like print and broadcast. The skills set in media agencies are higher in print and broadcast because they have been around for longer whereas transit media is relatively new. Media buyers are not exposed enough to some of the fundamental changes going on around transport modes because they tend not to commute in taxis or buses but rather their own cars.”
Du Preez elaborates: “The first day the Gautrain launched on 1 April 2010, 12 000 people who are essentially the consumers turned off their radios, got out of their cars, and changed their commuting patterns and a new audience was created overnight. There needs to be more quantitative research and more education around transit media. The big brands like Kellogg’s and KFC have the luxury of spending more on BTL; they really understand marketing and their campaigns are usually really good.”
Pieter Groenewald, CEO of Brandyourcar.com, believes that for campaign effectiveness to really be powerful, “it is critical to educate and inform the driver about the product advertised on their car so he becomes a very trusted source of information in his area of influence at work, sport or social environments. From where we started, I reckon we’ve come some way and the latest campaigns testify to good creative execution and utilising the medium to its potential. As an example the Perfect Touch campaign will turn a lot of heads”.
Improved infrastructure in the traditional OOH space such as taxi ranks, airports, road infrastructure and notably the government funded Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (TRP) are all leading transit media into a new era. Within the next few years, South Africa will see transit media move from ambient to interactive, offering commuters on-board services such as the weather and news. “We are already seeing the migration to 3G technology by MassivTV for their on-board TV channel in buses and taxis,” says Bentley.
Considering transit media reaches commuters who spend on average “2.8 hours in traffic per day” according to Du Preez, the message should be continuous but different and as impactful across the various platforms.
This story was first published in The Media magazine.