Made in South Africa telenovelas are a huge hit, and not just among TV audiences. Advertisers are pretty taken with them too.
A quick glance at the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa’s monthly top television ratings for DStv will show locally produced telenovelas topping the hit list. In April 2021, for example, Gomora topped the log, followed by The Queen and The River. DiepCity came in at number seven.
With audiences riveted by dramatic content and stories that resonate with them, it comes as no surprise that they’re well supported commercially too. The uptake of sponsorship opportunities has grown over the years and many brands that have embarked on exploring this route have realised great success. On Mzansi Magic we currently have a total of four telenovelas on air, while and 1Magic has two. All six have a commercial headline sponsor, and an associate sponsor as well.
Telenovelas have high audience engagement and create extremely loyal fan bases who follow the stories and stars religiously, with their conversations around the latest happenings amplified across social media platforms. Of course, advertisers benefit from the high appointment viewing associated with telenovelas. We’ve found that all brands that can afford TV advertisements during prime time want placement across the telenovela offering.
It’s not just telenovelas that audiences love. The uptake of local content has always been very high, going back to the days of M-Net ‘Open Time’ and also what’s on offer on South Africa’s free-to-air channels. Brands would target the open time slot on M-Net for Egoli and KTV, both locally produced shows.
One of the most-watched cinema releases in South Africa over the past three decades is a local movie by Leon Schuster. The point to this is that South Africans tend to gravitate more towards South African and localised international content than they do to international content. We find the same with football: a Kaiser Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates match attracts more football fans to the screen than international games.
Opportunities spread across pure brand advertising, sponsorship and product placement. We have found the most popular to be the three-tier sponsorship packages, which include headline sponsors, associate or tactical sponsors, and product placement.
We have integrated many brands into our scripted content, from financial institutions (banks and insurance) and alcohol brands to motor industry brands and of course FMCG brands.
While we’ve had many successful case studies, one that remains significant to me was Johnnie Walker. The brand sponsored a telenovela called Zabalaza, driving a campaign to reintroduce whisky as daytime/sundowner alternative to the mainstream cider market. Their creative was centred on mixing whisky with ginger ale. A few days/weeks/months later they changed creative and this had negative an impact on sales. We were asked to reinstate the old creative and sales picked up again!
Another one was of an insurance company that placed ads around the most popular shows on Mzansi Magic; in less than three months, the owners of the business asked us to stop flighting the ads as their call centre could no longer cope with the number of calls they were receiving.
I am in no position share numbers, but I can say that we have made significant strides and the channel’s revenue bottom line is growing year on year. I would really like to encourage brands steering away from being part of a South African storytelling narrative to start considering this opportunity seriously. The lifespan of the content is far longer than that of an advertising campaign.
Ato Mkwonena is a media specialist with extensive experience in print, cinema, radio, outdoor, digital and television. His current role at DStv Media Sales is sales manager in general entertainment for original productions, where he is responsible for managing content sponsorship and channel management teams across M-Net owned channels.
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