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    Nielsen Adex is rubbish at best! Digital Adspend in SA is close to R2 billion per annum and about 8% of all media. Look at the UK, USA, Europe and Australia where digital adspend has overtaken TV & Print so sitting around 33% of total adspend. There is a serious revolution here, SA is just 5 years behind as brands wake up to digital and become educated. Adex in SA reports 1% in digital, it’s flawed as relies on publishers to submit figures (which they don’t) and excludes search, mobile and social media. A better model is the one used by the IAB and PWC in developed markets, get the figures directly from the top 20 agencies in the country. The IAB South Africa are working on a fix for this shortly. Brands need to wake up to the power of digital asap

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    Great article, Justin. Thanks for bringing us down to earth, especially regarding social media. I do believe, though, there will be a turning point at some stage for TV.

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    sandra gordon

    I am with Justin and Martin on this one. The zealots are out there, punting their everlasting high. Adex is not ‘rubbish’ it shows trends very well and it is accepted that it is what it is. Why are there sooo many different digital measurements. Bull baffles brains.

  4. 4

    Justin McCarthy

    It never ceases to amaze me that the world’s most credible measurement company is rubbished by the digital divas. The only problem with digital ad revenue measurement in SA Alan is the digital players themselves! The medium is under-reported precisely because Google, YouTube, Facebook and hundreds of small players don’t want to report their figures.

    Fact check – Adex reports “internet” (i.e. display) at 2%, not 1%. Adex also doesn’t include search and social because of reporting, but even if they did report I imagine they would classify it differently.

    Anyone who’s planned an online campaign in SA will attest to the same thing – a handful of content aggregators vying for the same slice of pie, each represented by a different sales house that spare no level of unprofessionalism in dissing the opposition. All of this to serve up a sketchy “audience” that looks impressive in cumulative numbers but which even digital professionals admit fail to attract much attention. The interruption model isn’t welcome in the digital space precisely because the big digital players have conditioned the user to a “pure” content environment. A display ad in the Sunday Times is worth hundreds of times more to an advertiser than its counterpart on News

    I welcome the recent inauguration of the IAB in SA – its advent should lead to greater measurement of readership/viewership as well as revenue. It should also lead to some decent segmentation of the chronically diverse digital space. Lumping search (a category literally invented and dominated by Google) with sms, mobile display, online display, classified, etc is no more than puffery. For starters, your PWC data shows search represents 58% of the UK digital market. Search isn’t only the gorilla in digital, it’s also practically an invented category. I’m not knocking it but it’s no more than a signpost in amongst 120 billion webpages (’s estimates). To include search in this category of spend would mean that brands would need to include every dollar spent on signage, packaging, POS, etc. Imagine what the major retailers would rack up on that basis alone? Thrown in every dollar Walmart, Carrefour, Tesco, KFC, McDonalds, etc spend on signage, POS and packaging and then we’re comparing apples.

    Marketers are awake to digital in SA, contrary to what you might think. It’s just that the many cowboys running around plugging wildly exaggerated and out of context numbers is the digital industry’s biggest issue – credibility. One example was the Ballz Radio fiasco that I wrote about in this very title // Clowns like this lot abound in the digital space, giving the entire industry a bad name, let alone the digital players. Not to mention the barrage of social media gurus that clients have to try and decode. Add that up and the digital industry has bigger problems than it has the resources or wherewithal to counter. It’s a great pity – personally I’m a digital early adopter and forerunner, but I’m also a realist.

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    Firstly, I am no ‘digital diva’ and there are very many credible people working in digital so to make sweeping statements is wrong. I worked 8 years at ABC UK the media industry auditing body that belongs to the IFABC (// and is the body that set global digital standards back in 1996 by setting up JICWEBS (// This is where digital metrics were discussed and agreed by Media Buyers, Advertisers and Agencies. Nielsen spoke at a recent DMMA Conference and reported 1% in digital, which we all know is completely wrong. There is a digital standard in South Africa, that being Effective Measure that has been chosen by a tender process beating other global measurement providers like comScore, Gemius and Nielsen themselves. Effective Measure is accredited and audited to Industry standards by ABC UK; // We track actual traffic for 95% of publisher websites in South Africa running advertising, over 90 agencies use it daily to make digital buying decisions and recently we have introduced a service to Brands to help them understand the effectiveness of their digital campaigns by measuring reach, frequency and eGRP’s. I meet with ‘traditional’ agencies and brands daily and there is a severe lack of knowledge in digital, frighteningly so. These brands and agencies are allocating budget based on flawed Adex figures. Effective Measure and the IAB South Africa (ex DMMA) have worked for over a year to get the digital figures into Telmar, which has now been done. With the recent SAARF issues, suddenly numerous measurement companies, including Nielsen, are interested in the digital data so that they can create cross media planning tools. Agreed, digital media can’t be lumped into one figure, hence the breakout of the different channels eg Search, Social, Display, Mobile etc. We could probably throw in Apps, Audio Visual etc in there too. What is scaring the ‘traditional’ channels is that 90% of media will be digital within 20 years, outdoor, digital TV, Kindles etc. I can see why they want to protect their media, I saw it in the UK a decade ago. However, in the UK they have now embraced digital and trying to work out the best models to monetise it, eg paywalls, metered paywalls etc. Volume metrics like Page Impressions and Unique Browsers are pretty useless these days due to cookie churn and device/browser proliferation. Hence Effective Measure will be moving towards ‘Unique Device’ detection based on device fingerprinting which will be closer to the actual number of ‘people’ accessing the content. What irritates me is people assuming digital can’t be trusted, it’s the most measurable medium, it just needs to be audited. Also, focus should be on ‘engagement’ metrics like time spent, number of pages per user etc. Effective Measure measures all of this. Other media use ‘panels’ extrapolated to the universe as their standard, which is far less accurate than actual figures. ABC SA gives circulation figures but RAMS, TAMS etc from AMPS are all in effect ‘panels’ either via a diary or a set top box, not exactly accurate is it. I mean claiming readership figures of 6x circulation is just plain wrong, no-one hands on a paper that much only in the UK on trains where the paper is free and even then it’s about 4 times. Effective Measure is happy to work with the other channels measurement partners as digital is the future and needs to be embraced. It’s not the future it’s the now…

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    See my reply to all above. I agree there are a few ‘cowboys’ out there proclaiming to be ‘digital’ experts with only about 2 years experience, that is why brands and agencies need to question the data provided to them and ask if it’s been third party audited. Effective Measure’s current CEO funnily enough founded Red Sheriff a digital company Nielsen bought back in December 2003, // We are not new to the digital measurement game and actually operate in 41 countries, mostly BRICS and developing world. The Ballz Radio fiasco could easily been averted if they had used proper streaming measurement tools and that data was then audited. Luckily enough Effective Measure can measure Audio Visual Content online if not hosted on Youtube, as they don’t allow 3rd party tagging. We welcome any online radio station, podcast of publisher running clips to test Effective Measure. If a brand is wanting to target a higher LSM market then avoiding or not considering digital would be a huge mistake. See here for our December 2013 infographic; // We provide both audited traffic and demographic data per site and then provide an online planning dashboard for Media Agencies. Splash Ads or screen take-overs do interrupt the user, more so than a full page Ad in a newspaper (the user has to click on something to close it) and are far cheaper. Have you not noticed print circulation dropping significantly. I am no youngster and I last bought a paper 8 years ago. A third of South Africa’s population is online and this is increasing monthly as mobile phones, data and broadband get cheaper. We not saying don’t use other media just include digital in the mix. The children and teenagers of today are on mobiles, be it tablets or smartphones, they are the target market of the future. The lower LSM market can be reached via Mobile platforms like Mxit, 2go, Gometro, Whatsapp, Viber, Wechat etc. Anyway, point made. I look forward to your article on why you think the future is in TV, Radio and Print..

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    Justin McCarthy

    “To make sweeping statements is wrong” – does that include statements such as “Nielsen Adex is rubbish at best”?
    Just curious to know if double standards apply here Alan.

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    It is, leaving out a huge chunk of adspend means it’s completely wrong. You made comments about people not statistics, very different. I’m not trying to pick a fight here, just trying to inform you that there are trusted digital measurement services out there. I’m really surprised that you don’t seem to know about them…

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    Justin McCarthy

    Nielsen doesn’t “leave out” adspend, they measure what the media owners feed them. This may seem picky but the inference in your phraseology is that this is done deliberately, as if with intent to mislead.
    I am aware and know of many digital measurement services available – the problem is that the buying industry just doesn’t trust them as yet. And for that the digital players have only themselves to blame, not Nielsen.

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    Agreed, publishers shoot themselves in the foot for not submitting numbers, but that will always be the case. The methodology just needs to be changed. Get the spend numbers directly from the 20 largest buying agencies. Not by brand, by channel first to start somewhere. This is what they do in the UK and USA. Also, Adex is based on rate card which we all know in digital is never actually charged, far too many ‘deals’ and discounts. Getting the numbers from the agencies will paint a clearer picture. I did not intend to mislead at all, I was just saying it’s not accurate for digital. Well if the buying Industry can’t trust third party audited data like Effective Measure then they have issues. ABC UK is one of the most trusted media auditing bodies globally, them and the MRC in the USA. comScore & Effective Measure are accredited by them. Any measurement or analytics solution not audited or accredited by them should then be questioned eg Piwik, Google Analytics, Yahoo Analytics etc. See here for those accredited; //

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    Justin McCarthy

    Of course I’ve noticed print circulations and revenues nose-diving, I don’t have my head in the sand. As I said, I’m a big proponent of digital, but (i) it must get it’s collective house in order (happening with some impetus finally) and (ii) the industry must beware of oversell.
    This is not the UK Alan, so don’t make the same mistake as many others who just assume that SA will follow that experience. It won’t. I will argue why not in my next piece for TOM.
    Before then perhaps you should take a taxi from Noord St to Diepsloot, go shopping in Sheshego, or visit a tavern in Kabokweni for a slice of the real South Africa outside of the polished glass and silver office parks.Just a thought.

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    I am aware of this, remember Effective Measure works in the developing world ie India, Pakistan, SEA, North Africa, Middle East, Nigeria, Kenya etc where poverty is just as bad, if not worse than SA. I am from Durban and been to Umlazi and many townships, I know what is going on. For lower LSM brands like Iwisa etc going digital does not make sense but doing a Mxit campaign would. My point is if you are a brand like BMW, Mercedes Benz, Adidas etc that digital is a very good channel to reach your target market, there are 14 million people (circa 22 million Unique Browser) engaged with the web daily. Too only give 1% or 2% to that channel would be a blinkered approach. I cannot believe the cost of advertising in print & TV, absolutely crazy. In digital you can actually target demographics etc. We are not in the game of remarketing or retargeting but many are. You can actually measure the effectiveness of campaigns in realtime. Mobile is where it’s at, feature phone for the mass market and smartphone increasing in sales as the likes of Huwaei etc make these phones more affordable. Hopefully the telecommunications companies come up with Wifi hotspots in townships in the near future and the fibre optics finally arrive at peoples homes. Once that happens wait for a digital boom! Yes, it might take 10 years but it’s going to happen….

  13. 14

    Justin McCarthy

    Connectivity will happen, for sure, and the cost will diminish sufficiently for widespread web access across the vast middle market no doubt. It will take ten years as it will be private telcos and not local government providing that access. A terrifying percentage of Municipalities cannot even run their basic services like water and electricity, or collect their debts, so the Eurocentric dream of government sponsored access is simply not going to happen here.

    But what exactly is the boom in commercial advertising terms? A boom in education, information, news and entertainment services yes. Some of which will attract media dollars, but this will be a slow burn, not a veld fire. Mxit is already in a battle for survival with Whatsapp and WeChat. IM is all about market share – the reason FB paid $19bn for it the other day, but monetisation is a very long way off, particularly in lowest common denominator developing markets where the free basic service will always dominate in scale. FB is still struggling to monetise itself and even if it wanted to monetise Whatsapp it can’t. At least not before it reaches user numbers in the billions.

    What many punters forget is that information rich advertising content is what the middle market needs most. Mobile isn’t content rich, it’s content light. Delivery of this is a major obstacle in relation to the old world model.

    More on this in my next post.

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