In the 10 years since Habari Media launched, much has changed in digital realm. The sales house turned 10 years old in February, and was recently bought by one the South African media’s big four media companies, Caxton. This, says managing director Wayne Bischoff, will give the company the sustainability and scalability that will help it navigate the challenges that will undoubtedly be thrown up over the next 10 years.
Bischoff says the Caxton buyout has already changed the way Habari does business as it has given them access to selected media platforms and brands ”which we can add to our offering” as well as “access to broader range of clients, especially in the retail division”. He says Habari is “already benefitting from Caxton’s exceptionally strong financial discipline. It brings the benefits of corporate, without the bureaucracy”.
Habari was started by Adrian Hewlett as a one-man band operating out of a bedroom in Cape Town. It is now an African powerhouse that works with global operators such as Facebook, LinkedIn and BBC World News. In 2004, Facebook had only just begun, Wikipedia was three years old and Google was only six.
Ten years ago, it is likely Caxton would not have been interested in a digital sales house, no matter how good. “Digital media was such an immature industry back in 2004. People didn’t understand what digital or ‘New Media’, as it was called then, really was… never mind selling it. It was a challenging time to start, but it also enabled us to be at the forefront of the market,” Bischoff says. Habari faced many challenges including what Bischoff calls the “slow uptake of understanding how to utilise digital for marketing purposes”. Bischoff says the fact that there is no true reflection of total digital adspend in South Africa hinders its growth by generating the perception that the segment pulls in less spend than it actually does in reality”.
“The reason for this lack of clarity is that Ad Dynamix doesn’t accurately capture the spend that goes to digital, as most publishers don’t send their logs to Nielsen, whilst the international sites, like Facebook and Google, don’t submit revenue figures,” he says.
Educating traditional marketers added to the challenge. “Traditional media has had decades to build up case studies and trust. Habari Media has spent a significant part of the last 10 years educating the marketplace,” Bischoff says.
And then, of course, there’s the tricky question of measurability. The digital industry, he says, sold itself on being “hyper-measurable”. “This makes it tough when a campaign doesn’t perform well, e.g. click-throughs, unique users, traffic etc. This makes marketers lose faith, and possibly hesitate to book a campaign again”.
It is more than likely that the next 10 years will be equally challenging. “An ongoing challenge is growing our share of the ad pie, to what digital truly deserves. Print is getting 10 times more than digital, and for the same size audience. Convincing marketers that digital can now reach 50% of the adult population at the right time, place and context on a one to one level is imperative,” Bischoff says. “The more inventory that gets dumped into the market, the more downward pressure on the yield. This can hurt the revenue stream of the publishers. And that inventory will not only come from web traffic, but from digital TV as well as a plethora of other platforms coming on board with the digital rollout.”
As privacy laws tighten up, this too could impact on digital advertising. Bischoff says the possibility of “anti-trackers on websites” is a concern. “A key benefit of digital is serving relevant contextual ads to users which have meaning…there is a possibility of that being taken away,” he says.
Then, of course, there’s the constantly evolving world of digital technology such as wearable gadgets. Bischoff warns that it is important not to get sucked in by the hype, as these techs are still some years away from being used effectively as a marketing platform.
Increasing fragmentation of media is also a concern. “We need to make sure our media type stands out from the media clutter, and that our brand can innovate. Defend your premium position. Stop your brand from becoming a commodity,” he says.
“Big Data is finally finding the attention of marketers – they are using it to define their customers and track their buying behaviour. But it is the nirvana of having that robust single view of the consumer from all the various sources of data that still alludes. Marketers want this… agencies still fear it,” Bischoff believes.
Bischoff added to the debate raging on The Media Online on the digital revolution or evolution started by TBWA’s Justin McCarthy and taken up by IAB South Africa (see today’s lead story).
“The article is right to say it is not a revolution, even though the internet and digital communications is the most rapidly adopted technology in history, reaching down to the poorest of the poor. It does mention that 80% of ad revs still go to traditional forms of media. So it’s an evolution, but one that is growing its share every year as it proves its worth and consumers become accustomed to engaging in forms of advertising, including content marketing,” he says.
“But for the article to say companies like Facebook are misleading advertisers is nonsense. Marketers aren’t stupid and wouldn’t be increasing their social media spend if the results weren’t there. But I will leave it to FB to answer that in more detail.”
Bischoff says digital is the most measureable media channel ever invented. “The only problem is that it is so measurable that marketers expect miracles sometimes. But more and more highly reliable metrics are emerging and some big brands have established their own metrics, proving digital as a part of the mix. It sometimes amplifies traditional media and how sometimes, if technology can solve the problem, starting with digital and amplifying with traditional media like TV and radio.”
Habari is also at the forefront of developing its own technology, the most recent of which is a data insights tool called Storyteller. “I am extremely excited about the development of Storyteller. It is fully in line with Habari Media’s strategy of insights and data lead media sales, where we aim to put the consumer first, and use those insights to produce relevant proposals that provide a significant return on investment,” says Habari Media’s sales director Garth Rhoda. “Several clients have are already seeing results, and we are looking forward to rolling it out in the market.”
Storyteller cuts through the massive glut of information on the world wide web that is “based upon the industry-standard AMPS dataset, but uses only sections from the data to build a compelling story of consumers from ‘the bottom up’.
“Traditionally, marketing practitioners have pre-defined target markets for Brand X, stating that their consumers are (for example) 18-34 years old, earning between R2500 and R12000 per month, living in Gauteng, slotting into LSM 7 to 10. What Storyteller does is filter from the brand first and then tells the story of who consumes Brand X, according to the AMPS survey,” says Habari Media’s insights and innovations director Byron John. The result is an accurate representation of actual consumers, which in some cases can be quite different from the pre-defined target market.
John says the biggest advantage of using Storyteller is its ease of use as it utilizes an intuitively designed dashboard that provides even novice marketers with the ability to instantaneously view key demographic variables such as who uses Brand X? What do they do? Where do they live? Storyteller also provides insight into consumers’ digital or online behaviours, illustrating at a glance whether users are technophobes or members of the so-called ‘Digital Elite’. Habari believes cues like this will direct not only the angle of any marketing communication, and the appropriate medium but also the mechanics of any campaign.