At the beginning of every year, a barrage of trend think pieces flood our favourite news sites and inboxes, courtesy of whatever newsletter we don’t remember subscribing to – from the useful: Three factors influencing your investments this year to the downright absurd: Why that cuddly kitty of yours is a killer.
And no, we didn’t make that last one up – it’s a bona fide New York Times article!
The reality is that in a turbulent macro-environment, shifts in consumer behaviour become especially difficult to predict, says Leslie Adams, sales director at Reach Africa.
“The past few years have been extremely tough on South Africans from a financial standpoint, thanks to the pandemic, load shedding, skyrocketing interest rates – hell, even the shortage of eggs.
“We saw this in 2023’s depressed Black Friday spending, with BankServ reporting a 6% year-on-year decline in the total volume of in-store card transactions last year, compared to 2022’s Black Friday – which is a drop of over 21% in transaction value,” he says.
But South Africans keep it moving. “We take a pressurised environment in our stride – because we’ve always had to. We’ve built extreme resilience, becoming ultra-inventive in how we survive,” he says.
This agility, however, means consumer behaviour becomes more difficult to precisely predict. So while he admits to having no crystal ball, Adams shares three major events that he believes will shape South Africa’s advertising landscape in 2024 – and how he anticipates marketers will respond.
The third-party cookie goes – the rise of the contextually relevant ad
With data privacy concerns on the rise, Google has announced its plans to decommission third-party cookies – which track users’ overall browsing habits across the web – in the first half of the year, in line with a more privacy-conscious approach.
The cookie will be replaced by Google’s Privacy Sandbox, which enables targeted programmatic advertising to users based on their indicated preferences. The Sandbox makes use of various technologies that allow advertisers to personalise ads for audiences while protecting user data from third-party trackers.
What does this mean for advertisers? This is a big one, says Adams, with 41% of marketers anticipating that the loss of the cookie will be their biggest hurdle in coming years, as they lose access to their consumers’ browsing habits and demographical data.
“Marketers will need to work even harder, and the contextually relevant ad – created in accordance with users’ preferences – is expected to come into its own, as advertisers focus heavily on clever ways of tapping into their audiences’ interests,” he advises.
The Attention Economy remains a battleground – in-game advertising to boom
The Attention Economy – a battle for consumer attention as the ad landscape becomes increasingly noisy and human attention spans, in turn, wane – remains a huge focus for marketers in 2024.
In parallel, the in-game advertising sector is expected to ignite interest, as marketers realise that gaming offers a highly captive, rapidly expanding audience. A Carry1st study has indicated that over a six-year period, the number of gamers in sub-Saharan Africa rose to 186 million people, more than doubling.
Of this number, the vast majority (95%) are reported as playing on mobile, proving the Sub-Saharan Africa mobile gaming market to be the fastest-growing in the world.
“While gaming offers a completely captive audience, the key is for advertising to become part of the gaming experience – gamers do not want their playing interrupted with videos,” Adams believes.
“Advertisers must discover unobtrusive, impactful ways to seamlessly insert their brands into the gaming environment while penetrating the gamer’s subconscious.”
Traditional media dominated by the elections – more eyeballs on digital
This year is election year and you can expect the ANC, DA, EFF and all the smaller parties to be vying for our votes across every traditional media channel they can access. For consumers, this barrage of election news means that the current length of our goldfish-like attention spans shortens even further.
For marketers, this also means that the cost of traditional media advertising will skyrocket, as parties pump huge money into advertising. For this reason, brands typically pull back spending in an election year, as it becomes too pricey.
However, this provides more legroom for digital, says Adams, “which is more agile, has a lower cost barrier and a shorter turn-around time.”Adams adds that even despite the political noise and load shedding, TV remains a powerful medium but brands need to be far more strategic in how they insert their messages into the content.
“The reality is, no one is interested in ads, they tune in for the content. Now, if you can work your brand into the script of a popular TV show that you know is watched by your consumer, for example, you will have far more brand resonance.”