Britain and the United States have historically led innovation and quality in the media and, despite the rapid emergence of Asian and African economies, are likely to do so for many years. In these wired and wealthy (though troubled) economies, digital convergence is a reality now. So what trends can be expected, and how can the South African media do more to emulate the successes of its counterparts abroad?
Elton Ollerhead has some ideas about how this might be done. Ollerhead, now managing director of Mediamark in Johannesburg, has experience in these markets, having spent years in Britain as the digital and publications media sales director at dunnhumby UK. Prior to that, he was head of commercial partnerships for BSkyB’s online business and head of client sales at ISP Tiscali.
Ollerhead says new trends in media emerging from Britain and the United States are “largely focused around digital platforms, with innovation around online digital and mobile platforms specifically”.
Says Ollerhead: “Over the past 16 years, there has been rapid growth in advertising spend migrating to digital platforms (mainly in the past five years or so), with this acceleration over the past few years falling more in line with consumers’ use of digital media and devices.” He adds that “Warc, a body that conducts global advertising research, this year noted a decline in global marketing budgets in TV, print, radio and out of home and marked increases in digital advertising budgets (online and mobile)”.
The migration of ad spend to digital has not been easy, but it has made for some innovative advertising campaigns. One of Ollerhead’s examples is that of Tesco, the Britain-based supermarket giant, which tested a virtual grocery store at Gatwick Airport (following successful reception of the same idea in South Korea). Tesco enticed holidaymakers passing through the airport last December to scan Tesco groceries and make sure that they “came home to a full fridge”.
The grocery items were pictured on a screen beside a barcode that could be scanned with a smartphone or tablet. Customers could then pay for the items online and make arrangements for them to be delivered on whatever date they got home. The virtual store is still limited to 80 items and requires an app download, but Tesco claims it is the future of shopping.
Says Ollerhead: “In addition to this, Tesco offer suppliers multichannel media opportunities across digital, print, in-store and via the loyalty card programme in order to drive sales.” In countries where there is a high percentage of cellphone and tablet penetration, devices play an even greater part in the consumer journey. “(Advertising) campaigns in Britain are being planned and brought to mirror consumers’ device usage habits and are incorporating digital media, specifically interactive and social media elements, to build dialogue with customers with an underlying aim to drive loyalty and repeat purchase to brands and services,” says Ollerhead.
He also cites Nestlé’s 2012 Kit Kat Chunky ‘Choose a chunky companion’ campaign as a particularly good example. Nestlé ran the campaign across TV, digital, radio, outdoor and mobile. The company rolled out several flavours of the chocolate bar and asked consumers to vote for their favourite, which was then permanently added to the range. The campaign was hugely successful, with more than 600 000 votes cast on Facebook and 11 million bars of chocolate sold.
“It was such a success … that Nestlé have commissioned a follow-up campaign that will be bigger and better than the first one,” says Ollerhead. “It is proving that consumers are very willing to interact with brands where it is relevant – there is a decent incentive combined with interesting content (Nestlé are commissioning video content featuring celebrities which will be screened on the brand’s Facebook page).”
Innovative apps have meant that advertisers can increasingly target shoppers. One example is Foursquare, which lets users ‘check in’ to places they are visiting. Foursquare now provides users with coupons and information about special offers at nearby businesses, targeted for geographic location and personal preference. Coffee giant Starbucks has sent coupons and special offers to the devices of people walking past their stores in London in order to entice them inside; Starbucks customers can now pay for their coffee with their phones. Digital apps also provide brands with information about consumers, especially upper LSM customers – 90% of wealthy Americans use mobile apps.
While the advertising industries in the United States and Britain are coming up with leading-edge campaigns, the digital revolution has been something of a mixed blessing for traditional media. But traditional media has to adapt. “Print media owners have to offer excellent content across web and mobile sites as well as mobile apps; TV and radio players also need to embrace digital platforms in order to drive engagement and interactivity with their media platforms as audiences expect to be able to consume content in different ways,” says Ollerhead.
Bloggers and journalists making the above point tend to cite the New York Times (NYT) as an example of how a paywall can work. One of the world’s most prestigious papers, NYT went digital-only in 2011. Since then, online subscription numbers have been encouraging and the newspaper has cautiously hailed its move a success. The paper still suffered losses in ad revenue and subscription revenue (online subscribers bring in much less money than subscribers to the ink and paper product), and they still had to cut staff, but there are signs that this is changing: the company said in February that profits have tripled as subscribers have surged. For the first time, the NYT has made more money from subscribers than it has from advertisers.
Also in the United States, National Public Radio (NPR) has emerged as a large and, some commentators say, unlikely success. The non-profit and partially publically funded radio news organisation has, according to an article on fastcompany.com, doubled its listenership since 1999, reaches 26.4 million people daily, has 38 global bureaux and has 860 member stations. It doesn’t broadcast on FM itself, but rather syndicates programming to these member stations. NPR has embraced the internet, with 14 million monthly podcast downloads, eight million web visitors and a mobile platform. Many of its programmes are reproduced as podcasts and it is putting every one of its employees through multimedia training. NPR’s increasing digital savvy has meant an increase in younger listeners, making the broadcaster more relevant and attractive to advertisers. The NYT and NPR are both examples of how traditional media can grow at a time when it is seemingly threatened.
Turning back to South Africa, Ollerhead says that if local media folk want to emulate the more advanced markets, they need to be braver. “Online and digital media spend is proportionately vastly lower than digital device usage in South Africa, and advertisers and media agencies in this country currently require a disproportionately high amount of convincing to shift media spend from tried, tested and loved traditional media,” he says.
“We need to embrace the speed of transition to digital media and start seriously investing in digital platforms that are commanding proportionately high audiences. Brands need to experiment with campaigns that are linked across media channels and drive different messaging and behaviour based on the channel’s strengths. Media owners need to develop multilayered propositions to provide depth and usability to their traditional formats,” he adds.
Ollerhead says Mediamark has seven radio stations in its portfolio, plus a digital portfolio that combines radio station websites with Microsoft’s Howzit MSN and Skype, and offers activation at radio station events – aiming to provide impact over a range of channels. But however media folk choose to engage with consumers over all the platforms available, they must pay attention to mobile. “We all need to innovate in the mobile arena and are well positioned to be leading the world as the explosion of media in Africa takes place,” says Ollerhead.
Perhaps one day South Africa will be named with the United States and Britain as producing brave, innovative media.