Of course, spend is useless unless consumers react favourably to the advertising, which would translate into sales and boosting the bottom lines of brands making the investment.
Michael Muller, shareholder and executive creative director of the DWF Collective says Africa as a continent is “hugely diverse and cosmopolitan. Cultures, religions and norms vary not just from north to south or country to country but even from village to village.
“This means that on a micro level, people are looking for different types of advertising that resonate with them, their culture and ideology. It’s important that pan-African agencies and clients understand these subtle nuances – it is potentially very easy to miss the boat.”
It’s a point made by most agencies operating in the African theatre.
“Africa is a big place and very diverse. Each market requires attention,” says Dawn Rowlands, CEO of the Dentsu Aegis Network in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rowlands spends much time travelling around Africa on media business.
She says research by Millward Brown, which tracked thousands of TV commercials in the region, shows that only around 40% of global campaigns “travel well” in Africa.
“There are significant growth opportunities in the region for brands that take it seriously, understand the consumer by market, and invest in good local content,” she says.
Rowlands says brands using Africa as a “dumping ground” for poor quality goods will feel a backlash due to globalization and convergence.
“The growing middle class in Africa are looking for good quality products on a tight budget, and considering they have access to radio talk shows, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, you’d be messing with them at your peril,” she says.
Word of Mouth (WOM) has always been powerful as a means of communication in Africa, says Accra-based Soumya Saklani, who heads up Millward Brown in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“It is no different in today's world of brands in Africa; we typically have seen the role and influence of WOM being somewhat stronger relative to other parts of the world, as consumers share their views, thoughts and recommendations on brands. The rise of social media in Africa, particularly, is then an interesting phenomenon for brands as they see consumers taking charge of conversations,” he says.
This growth allows media platforms to become more integrated, “such as the combination of TV and OOH (out of home) or digital and OOH, and even mobile and OOH or TV, Saklani says.
“OOH is starting to introduce new, more impactful mediums, such as digital screens and better lighting, to make brands more visible to consumers. Print – as we predicted – is going electronic, driving better reach; mobile is becoming more popular, given its reach, and mobile apps are being used to drive interactions with consumers, connecting Africa to the world. Activations are resurfacing as consumers want to engage with brands on the ground,” he says.
These are the markets of the present and the future, so it’s vital that brands understand to whom they speaking, and how to communicate with them in an authentic fashion if they’re to grow the kind of loyalty that will reap rewards in future.
Saklani says many marketers don’t understand that ‘Africa’ isn’t necessarily ‘all the same’ when it comes to advertising approaches that work well in terms of creative style and content.
“At Millward Brown, we are frequently asked to pre-test advertising ideas that have worked very well in other parts of the developing world, such as Asia. We often find that these ideas don’t work as well in the African markets. We also often find that creative ideas that work well in one African market, like South Africa or Kenya, do not succeed in, say, Nigeria or Ghana,” he says.