The undiscovered gem of the SA media landscape

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Having eleven official languages in one country makes the decision for advertisers that much more difficult. Does one have to produce all advertising campaigns in all languages? Many opt for doing English only commercials, but this results in many not being exposed to the advertising message. That’s African Language Stations (ALS) are so important, and why it is vital for advertisers to communicate with the audience in their home language.

We live in a country with diverse cultures and languages, which are often misunderstood.

African languages play a major role in the day-to-day communication for the majority of our country’s population. While English may be spoken primarily at work during the day, a person’s home language will mostly be used when communicating with family or close friends.

When it comes to ALS stations, many have been viewed in a negative light because the perception is that people listening to these stations are not economically viable, which results in advertisers not allocating appropriate budgets.

Currently, ALS stations have a combined ‘Past 7 Day’ listenership of 25.9 million people with the majority of listeners falling in to the LSM 5-8 bracket (63%).

In terms of lifestyle this target audience might have moved from a township to a suburban area but they still value their culture and tradition. The radio station they grew up listening to remains a large part of their tradition because it embraces their culture.

ALS stations are not being allocated the revenue they deserve. If we look at the total radio spend for January 2012 to December 2012 (R5.2 billion), only 13% was spent on ALS stations, which proves that there is still a huge discrepancy between the audience a station delivers and the revenue it receives. For instance, Ukhozi FM has the highest audience in the country; however it’s not enjoying the benefit of revenue proportionate to its listenership.

Regional stations still attract huge budgets from advertisers, but with a higher cost per listener.

I believe advertisers should not overlook this market as it offers an audience with great spending power that is growing consistently and moving up the LSM ladder. ALS stations play a vital role in the media arena and shouldn’t be ignored by marketers and advertisers as they offer a huge captive audience that is eager to try new products and brands. Marketers and advertisers who ignore this market are ignoring future growth in profits.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.

Laiza Zikalala is associate media director at The MediaShop.

This post was first published in The MediaShop newsletter.

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