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Media Consumption Landscape

by Ellis Malovany

Media Consumption Landscape

South Africa is similar to all other markets around the world, where the plethora of media channels create challenges for marketers and advertisers in deciding where to invest marketing budget to deliver the biggest returns. From an access point of view, South Africans continue to favor TV and Radio over other channels, with claimed media consumption over a 24 hour period of TV and Radio as 91% and 75% respectively, the highest usage across all channels.


These results from the March/April 2018 Broadcast Research Council of South Africa Establishment Survey release confirms the important role that traditional media plays in reaching consumers. However, although there is greater access to TV and Radio across the country then other media touchpoints, it should be noted that the role of digital continues to be critically important, with 49% of consumers claiming to have accessed the internet during the same time period.


What sets South Africa apart from the rest of the globe is its highly mobile-centric market with significantly elevated mobile phone access to the internet. To a large degree, the internet experience for South Africans is exclusively mobile, as only one in five metropolitan South Africans own a PC most of which are laptops, and just 10% of South Africans have fixed line internet at home. Clearly, digital marketing plans should embody a mobile first strategy, which is imperative for marketing success.


South Africans, unlike the rest of the world’s online populations, generally don’t own more than one device and so multiple device usage is rare. More established global digital channels, such as Smart TV’s, Smart Watches and Gaming Consoles continue to have low penetration in the South African market and therefore media investment in these channels are likely to have low reach. However, this is an opportunity for innovative brands to experiment in these channels and the marketing lessons learnt through this exploration, will ensure that these brands have the edge when these touchpoints do gain more traction.


Not surprisingly, South Africans spend a lot more of their time on their mobile devices than global device owners, though with high data costs, the average South African actually spends much less time online using their phones than their global counterparts (-14%). Brands which do embark on a mobile advertising journey, need to ensure that advertising is optimized to address this concern. Data compression, especially for video, is a key opportunity and already offered across Facebook and YouTube.


So where are South Africans spending that extra time? This is allocated to traditional media. South Africans spend about 20% more time on TV than the rest of the world.  Entertainment has proven to be a healthy business and despite the economic hardships many South Africans have endured, Pay-TV services are trending near their global counterparts. Streaming services like Netflix have not yet gained wide penetration in South Africa, however, as the economy advances, and fixed line internet access is rolled out it won’t take long for consumers, who are always looking for “new and exciting”, to shift share of time to streaming online services.


Social Media

Three out of every four South Africans use social media and of those, about the same ratio of people are on Facebook. WhatsApp is the dominant App and social networking and instant messaging are the most prevalent digital activities.  Throughout the world, and South Africa is no exception, brands look to social media to entice, educate, and build communities. Most importantly, social media creates the opportunity for brands to build trust with customers and utilize the power of storytelling to share customer journeys with their broader audiences.








Advertising in South Africa

Brands do a good job at delivering both cohesive and functional “needs-based” advertising, with heavier media users seeing an even better fit with better storylines. Generally, consumers also see a good fit across media type, more so than across the rest of the world. However, though consumers are seeing a greater proliferation of advertising, there is a sense of intrusiveness, which also is a global phenomenon.





In terms of delivering brand messages, overall traditional forms are still the best in South Africa with radio (+15%), billboards (+11%) and magazine ads (+10%) outpacing global averages. Therefore, it is clear that traditional advertising has far leeway in terms of delivering a less than optimal experience, where consumers are likely to simply ignore advertising messages which are irrelevant. In the digital space, South Africans don’t have quite the same positive perspective on online advertising and poor digital creatives have the ability to negatively impact brand perceptions, so getting the message, and targeting right, in digital is key. Brands should take the time to ensure digital advertising is relevant, creatively strong and optimized for the individual channel.

Recommendations for Brand Media

Traditional advertising holds strong but as consumers continue to increase their mobile internet time, a good mix of media is appropriate with consistent purpose-driven storylines across media and it is clear that multichannel campaigns tend to be more efficient in delivering overall brand ROI.



Clearly, web sites must be optimized for mobile usage, information should be succinct and easy to read, and connecting with consumers is best done via messaging (WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) and social media (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter). Regardless of the media channels chosen, creative integration and optimized customization for each channel in question has the ability to deliver 67% more overall brand ROI then campaigns which are completely disparate. Integrated planning is an invaluable component to ensuring every media rand spent delivers real business results.



For South African brands expanding in global markets, more emphasis on digital is appropriate as global audiences receive more brand messaging online. Of course, traditional and digital campaigns should be well integrated and consistent and should combine need-based advertising, which is highly effective in local markets, with the emotional storytelling that connects with global audiences.