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The media landscape in South Africa seems simple on the surface. TV dominates most advertising budgets and largely remains the best channel for reach in South Africa to date. Kantar’s South African CrossMedia database suggests that, on average, TV has the potential to reach 78 percent of the population, however, this is not to say that other channels should not be in a brand’s consideration set. Analysis of multiple campaigns also shows that brands that adopt a multi-channel media strategy have higher chances of success. The question however remains, which channels should we be using to drive ROI as efficiently as possible?

To understand the underlying dynamics of the South African media market, Kantar relies primarily on three media proprietary tools: Adtrack, CrossMedia, and Connect. Adtrack is an advertising testing system that has been evaluating the impact of pure brand advertising in South Africa for over 35 years (the evaluation period for this report covers the last five years). CrossMedia measures over 600 multichannel campaign performance metrics to see how specific platforms perform and to assess how they work in combination with each other to drive key brand metrics. Connect is a media strategy measurement tool which advises clients on how best to deploy media by being strategic about the media touchpoints they invest in.

Together, they show that South Africans, like their global counterparts, are consuming media on an ever-greater range of devices. Prior to COVID-19 and likely after it, whenever that may be, they are encountering ads at every point of their daily journey: TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, mobile apps, digital experiences, and (lockdowns permitting) in movie theaters and out of home. But not all of these platforms are created equal and marketers need reassurance that the channels they are investing behind are yielding success and driving return.

 TV: still the impactful channel for now, but comes at a price

If you’re only going to do one channel in South Africa, TV is your best bet. TV has the highest reach and impact touchpoint when compared to all other channels. This is largely due to national broadcasting reach and the fact that South Africans watch almost double the amount of live TV as the rest of the world. This was even more evident during the initial COVID lockdown period in South Africa.

With most South Africans opting to spend their lockdown time watching TV and video content, brands had to ensure that that their advertising on TV was compelling enough to break through the clutter. A TV-only campaign delivers more than twice the brand awareness and purchase intent as one that does not appear on TV. However, that does not mean that brands should ignore other platforms. In fact, the real power lies in combination. If people see an ad on TV, they are much more likely to respond positively when seeing it again offline or on YouTube. And the overall performance of a campaign is much better when media types are combined.


Creative is still king

Unfortunately, you don’t win just by showing up. Year-over-year, South Africa is continually seeing declines in average cut through percentage (“cut through” is a proprietary metric similar to unaided recall). In 2016, for example, 37 percent of brands achieved above average cut through with their TV ads. Four years later, in 2020 that had dropped to 31 percent.

In addition, the average South African noting norm has been on a steady decline, falling to a mere 16 percent end of 2019, and 14 percent in 2020. This indicates that consumers’ ability to recall TV advertising is diminishing over time, which poses an interesting question around how compelling TV adverts are in this day and age.

Part of the reason is that South Africans do not see brands as competing with only their competitors, they tend to evaluate every brand’s ads in the context of all campaigns in the market. As a result, the more creative a brand is with advertising, the more likely its ads will be remembered. If you don’t create truly memorable advertising, you simply won’t be present in people’s minds when they are making a purchasing decision.

Stay in the light

Not surprisingly, pre-COVID fast food and alcoholic beverages scored strongly in South Africa in terms of cut-through, as both rely heavily on unique and creative advertising to get people’s attention. However, with new multiple restrictions on fast food and the sale of alcohol, marketers across brands needed to be more compelling and imaginative in how they advertised.

Ways to win

Find the media that matters

Over 450 Connect studies reveal that typically 25 percent of the impact comes from paid media vs. 75 percent coming from all other touchpoints. It’s important to identify the interactions that matter for your brand and focus your efforts intently on them. Your audience may be on YouTube or Facebook, but they may not be particularly receptive to your brand’s messaging there. You need to choose wisely in order to be heard above the noise.

Create a lasting impression

As much as you can, create a unique brand experience that your audience can relate to. Nobody needs to be told that Nando’s, with its carefully selected design, art, and music stands out as a distinct South African brand. Woolworths does an excellent job of setting itself apart from its competitors. But every brand can benefit from creating a unique impression. Also, remember that people may be able to recall messages you communicate but if they don’t associate your brand with it, you have failed. No brand means no impression!

Size doesn’t matter, but creativity does

Across 5000+ adverts in the Kantar Adtrack database, we see very little difference in cut-through between 30 second ads and those of longer length. Thirty second adverts also offer cost efficiencies, even though from a creative point of view, longer adverts offer a better opportunity to communicate multiple messages. The golden thread is that the 30 second needs to encompass the creative magnifier, which is the most memorable elements of the advert to still be efficient.

Ride the winds of change

Think about your daily routine and how it has changed in the last four months. If you, like most people in the country, travelled to work five days a week and tuned into radio stations for the morning\and afternoon shows, you would know that, that behavior has changed, with most people still working from home. That meant that people were likely to turn to the in-house entertainment of TV and video content. This was further evident the months into the lockdown. Brands like DStv leaped on the bandwagon to ensure they entertained their audiences during this time. The reality, though, is that our media strategies needs to be adapted to changing consumers behavior far beyond this pandemic.