Out of home media is part and parcel of the African landscape, but it is moving with the times, says Adelaide McKelvey.
Africa is a world of disparities, a continent with a complex history and varied demography, which makes it hard to fit it into a singular cultural identity. It is a continent that is welcoming, with immense energy, untold economic potential and unmet product needs.
Here, out of home (OOH) media platforms are interwoven in the fabric and history of the landscape. OOH’s ubiquitous presence speaks to the personality of each culture and environment, and echoes the aspirations and latent purchasing power of Africans of all races, religions and income levels.
The middle class, growing at a rapid rate, is sustaining economic growth through increased consumption, and also through entrepreneurial integrity. Nearly 45% of Africans are firmly entrenched in the new middle class, spending between $4 (R44.70) and $20 (R223.73) a day, according to the African Development Bank. Informal markets, social networks, subsistence agriculture, microfinance and many other factors often bridge the gap between income and livelihood, allowing the $4 to go a lot further.
Across the continent, city councils are ‘cleaning up’ their act and engaging media owners to inform, educate and participate in the improvement of infrastructure and ‘street furniture’. Increasingly, we find bylaws are being enforced and there is a de-cluttering of large format ’questionable‘ sites, which are being cut down and de-flighted by council officials. We have also seen an increase in the need for private-public participation projects and the beautification of cities, which is a welcome change for regulated outdoor media owners.
It’s no longer necessary to look into a crystal ball to determine the outlook for OOH in Africa. This sector has come of age and new technologies and digital OOH (DOOH) development is growing rapidly throughout South Africa and into other African countries. Up until the last decade the OOH industry in Africa was pedantically settled in a comfort zone watching the rest of the world, and innovation developed by the industry was limited to creative messaging, cut-outs and mechanical movement.
Continental Outdoor Media, operating in 14 African countries, is leading the DOOH development into Africa. It has built a comprehensive network of digital formats in key commuter and consumer hotspots on the roadside, in pubs and restaurants, malls, airports, and on the Gautrain in South Africa. In addition to the network in South Africa, a further 11 Ignite screens have been rolled out over the course of the past six months into Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana, with further growth in other countries planned soon.
A key benefit of the networks is that marketers are now able to plan, by day-part, or region, across Africa. All supporters of these formats cite the ease of purchase, the flexibility of creative changes and quality of reproduction as major reasons to buy these networks. The synergistic benefits of DOOH and mobile integration is a key benefit for campaign planning.
Early adoption of all things new and technologically advanced has become the trend in Africa, and with it comes the fulfilment of watching a continent rise above others and, in some markets, even supercede and leapfrog the advancements made in other developing countries.
A key driver to the growth and future of OOH in Africa is the massive focus on infrastructural growth, largely led by the Chinese. New roads and routes are being forged and developed, which will encourage renewed cross-border trading and movement.
The power of OOH, using both static and digital formats, both indoor and outdoor, is universal and cannot be questioned. Media planning is evolving, and building media plans is just one element within the planning process. Designing and engineering integrated consumer conversations, using strategically placed OOH platforms with captivating content to launch relevant and seamless conversations, is now key to interactivity and brand building. OOH is one of the dominant media channels throughout the consumer day and night in Africa and has always been a ‘must have’ within the media mix, rather than an add-on.
Adelaide McKelvey is the managing director of Continental Outdoor Media’s Rest of Africa business.
This post was first published in the March 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
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