In an outdoor nation like ours, transit media should be a goldmine, so why aren’t advertisers utilising it as much as they could?
Every week, 22 million commuters make their way through the traffic in South Africa. Imagine, then, all the ‘blank canvases’ that appear in that public space just waiting for some funky advertising to be added to the mix.
Is it a potential goldmine, or are there just too many barriers in place?
According to some industry role players, transit media is not reaching its full potential in South Africa. John Rice, managing director of Graffiti Media, says the medium is certainly underutlised, especially when compared with other media.
“This is partly because it is still seen as an alternative medium that is not as established as mainstream media, such as television and radio,” he explains, “and it is also more difficult to provide transit media advertisers with accurate feedback with regard to figures and exposure so it can be a little harder to sell.”
Jacques du Preez, who heads up Provantage, an out of home (OOH) media business, offers a different perspective on the same problem.
“Advertising buyers and planners are not the primary users of public transport in South Africa and they tend to buy media that they consume themselves. This situation is not unique to South Africa as it also happens in other developing countries,” he says. “Another reason is that a lot of the transit media infrastructure is brand new and it will take time for people to get their heads around it. There is also a lag in research, so it will take time to get into the mainstream media planning and buying.”
From a media agency perspective, it is not so much that transit media is under-supported but that it requires extremely careful planning to make sure it is utilised in a suitable manner.
“The commuter market is a very specific environment,” says Tanya Schreuder of media agency Vizeum. “For some brands it is the perfect space and for others not. With budget cuts, one could also assume that clients and media agencies are consolidating their spend and trying to do a better job in fewer channels, rather than spreading their budget too thinly when electronic media still attracts the lion’s share of ad spend.”
And, adds Chris Botha, group managing director of The Media Shop, “Transit media is also competing in a market where there are many other media types equally suitable to reach mass media.”
He says that branded public transport is not a ‘silver bullet’ to reach the commuter market, but that, on the positive side, the cost per point (CPP) for transit media is “very favourable when compared to other traditional media”.
So what are the best campaigns that can inspire more faith in the transit media industry?
According to Rice, they are those that have found a way to utilise the medium in a unique manner.
“For instance,” he says, “8ta has provided free wi-fi for passengers in their branded cabs, and Visa offers its cab passengers a 10% discount when paying with a Visa card. Similarly, 1st for Women Insurance has trained the women drivers of the women-only cabs on their various product offerings. These kinds of added-value benefits are a fantastic way of getting people to remember and feel good about your brand.”
Du Preez says that new innovative formats are becoming more visible.
“With innovation in the right environments, brands will follow. Prime examples are MyCiti – the integrated rapid transport system in Cape Town and Prasa (Passenger Rail Association of South Africa), which offer state of the art media opportunities,” he says.
All acknowledge, however, that there are still challenges afoot.
Schreuder says: “A challenge in the commuter space is clutter. Mindsets are often
preoccupied, and with so much going on around you when commuting, clients are nervous that their messages will not be noticed. It is also a challenge to gain critical mass. For example, when it comes to taxi branding, it can cost a fortune in production to brand enough taxis to ensure breakthrough.”
She says that one needs to look at an integrated campaign, one that involves brand building and consumer engagement.
Du Preez says another major challenge is that of a “lack of credible research proving what we as media owners have known for some time: transit media essentially delivers the biggest economically active captive audience in South Africa”.
He adds, “There is a perception that transit media is not as sexy as traditional above-the-line media, like radio and television.”
That said, there are rich opportunities to be explored. Says Rice: “People are spending more time commuting, and more people are travelling more frequently.
“As a result there are ever-increasing opportunities for advertisers to reach their target audience in a different way – on an airport bus handle, on an electroluminescent taxi top on the roof of a cab, to name but two. There are also opportunities to be creative
and strategic with the medium and come up with bold, eye-catching creative executions,” says Rice.
Du Preez also highlights the opportunities and says that transit media “offers a great opportunity for addressing the disconnect that exists between brands and consumers in the main market as it brings the brand message directly into their lives”.
And, he adds, “Brands and advertisers will always have an appetite for new media opportunities, especially in environments where they deliver significant economically active audiences, high frequency and low wastage.”
Despite the challenges, it seems there are still rich pickings for transit media in South Africa, so don’t be surprised if the next time you see a double-decker bus, you mistake it for a layer cake decorated in lucrative icing sugar.
This story was first published in the January 2013 issue of The Media magazine.