2008 has brought quite a dramatic slowdown to the communications industry. The reaction from media owners has been interesting. Some have gone on the offensive; others have gone the defensive route and tightened the proverbial belt.
But communication has its own impetus. So, whilst on one hand one can expect the print – specifically the magazine market – to look at their portfolios very carefully, and rationalise titles and structures, media options available to the marketing industry will continue to increase. Why? Simply put, it’s technology – the change that it brings to lifestyles, and new channels that have new and unique advantages that they bring to the marketplace.
On a daily basis we are seeing new and exciting start-up companies with great products. These are inevitably either internet- or cellular-based. They are fairly cost-effective – and by this I mean results per rand, plus a low capital outlay being required. And the beauty of many of these opportunities is that they are offering communication that is entertaining, engaging and more often than not, of a nature that allows the consumer to interact with the client’s product, and even potentially be rewarded for doing so. The pace of change is fanatic in this arena, and this is perhaps both an advantage and a disadvantage. What one finds is that there is still a marginal reticence to adopt these new media, as everyone suspects that just around the corner, next month or the month after, something bigger, better, cheaper and more impactful will hit the market.
But don’t be fooled. It’s not only the high-tech end of spectrum that’s booming. At grassroots level we’re seeing huge action. The out-of-home media owners are getting smarter and smarter at reading what clients really need. They’re coming up with holistic solutions: Campaigns that fulfil multiple functions for a client and that are not restricted by factors such as advert duration or space limitations.
They’re developing solutions that integrate all levels of communication. So it’s possible to get half an hour of a consumer’s attention and not just half a minute. In this time, you can go through the desired awareness creation, get the consumer to touch, feel or experience your offering, incentivise them to purchase, and reward them for giving you their time. Now surely this is a better bet, with greater payback, than a 96-sheet hoarding on its own, or a page in print?
But there’s more to come from the big guns of the South African media world. They are not being left behind by technology. Far from it. South Africa will soon be testing digital terrestrial signals that will have a number of spinoff benefits for the consumer in terms of access to media. These aside, and ignoring the better picture it will deliver, consumers will benefi t most from the fact that they will suddenly get more channels to choose from – and after buying the set-top box, in theory they will be getting them at little or no cost.
From an advertiser and marketer’s point of view, it is a double-edged sword as usual. On the one hand, greater audience fragmentation is a certainty. This is something that goes hand in hand with technology and the resulting greater choice being offered – it’s a fact of life in the 21st century. On the positive side, more channels lead to greater availability. This in turn implies more competition, flexibility, easier negotiations, better buying and a myriad of opportunities.
So, the economy, the adspend, and the temporary gloom have little effect on the development of the media – not at the top end of the media spectrum, nor at grassroots level.
Striving for better solutions, greater communication and novel ways of doing things, override any economic dips. And so it should.
Harry Herber is the group managing director at The MediaShop.
- This column first appeared in The Media magazine (November 2008).
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