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November 21, 2018

Ignore The Growth of Digital Marketing at your own peril

Digital developments

Coming to a market near you very soon.

Marketers in Africa know that online media are gathering audiences and commercial traction very quickly. Not everyone has been bold enough to put some investment into online advertising or social media promotions yet. But that will come. First marketers have to take some time to read up on the media, ask for peer comment and see other brands doing digital.

In order to speed that process I thought I’d share some news about online advertising in the UK. I do so because I think the trends it reveals will very rapidly take shape in Africa. Remember that markets like the UK already had a complicated and comprehensive range of media channels before the online revolution happened. That meant that it was harder for the online trend to become established. However in Africa we had limited channels and no intermediate technology - so the communication changes we are all experiencing nowadays are more radical and noticeable.

This information comes from the audit firm PWC, a hugely successful enterprise that has successfully diversified from its core business of sending a team of auditors to occupy a meeting room in your office for two months, treble your copier bill and leave mandazi crumbs everywhere.

PWC tell us that it’s official. Online advertising on the UK has come of age. And (because you can take the consultant out of the audit firm but you can never take the audit firm out of the consultant) they segue straight into the statistics:

UK Digital adspend is up 14 per cent year on year – an increase of nearly £1 billion.

23 per cent of that spend was aimed at the smallest screen in the household – the smartphone. Here there is a clear parallel with Africa, where most of us get our data fix (as the Telco nerds used to call it) from our phones. Mobile advertising now commands £1.6 billion per annum.

Tablet specific spend – that is to say advertising messages created to work best on mid sized screens like the iPad and the galaxy of comparable devices – has more than doubled.

Consumers are now more prepared to pay for content – with users on average willing to part with £1.10 to watch an online movie, and £0.92 to read an online newspaper article. This is an interesting development that the dinosaurs who tend to run African newspapers should ponder. UK newspapers are successfully transitioning loyal readers from paid-for newsprint to paid-for downloads. They haven’t done this by coercion, or denying readers certain services - as might be done here. The big news houses have run well-planned and well-resourced marketing campaigns to persuade loyal readers to take up a new habit. As a result online newspapers continue to command a fair price for well-presented, interactive news – but then of course they have gone a little further than posting a link.

Other interesting trends to note include the fact that YouTube is going the way of digital television and offering a subscription-based service for viewers wishing to avoid advertisements.

Then of course there is social media investment. This has grown by £922million in the past 12 months – a 65 per cent surge.

Even the kind of advertising content is changing. What started as a text and still photography environment is now mainly using video. Five years ago UK advertisers were ‘only’ investing £53million is video content for online use. Today the figure is £442m – an eightfold growth. This is potential great news for people involved in audiovisual production in Africa. But we’re still going to have to push online video creation past CEO’s and marketing directors who have to have a lie down when they are told that a traditional TV commercial costs $50,000 to produce.

My own experience of the online ad space is growing every day, even though I no longer work directly in advertising. I have three significant clients in East Africa – one in microfinance, one in car batteries and one in small-scale agriculture, who are using social media to drive direct sales enquiries. They are testing social media, trying things out and they are increasingly pleased with the results. That is the major benefit that is driving all that UK online advertising: results.

Because online you get the response you pay for – or vice versa.

Chris Harrison has 30 years experience of marketing and advertising most of them spent in Africa. He leads the African operations of The Brand Inside, an international company that helps organisations to deliver their brands and strategies through their people.

Join Chris this and other discussions about business, brands and behaviour by liking The Brand Inside Africa on Facebook.

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