SA media buyers 'fear' online marketing

Smartphone users demand lower cost data. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Smartphone users demand lower cost data. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Online advertising in South Africa remains stuck in second gear because media buyers fear facing up to the 'fallibility' of traditional ads, says a local expert.

Unlike offline advertising, online marketing provides a range of metrics that marketers can use to target ads specifically at internet users, but adoption has been slow.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report dubbed 'Entertainment & Media Outlook: 2014-2018', ad revenue for newspapers in South Africa is expected to reach R11bn in 2018, up from R8.2bn in 2013.

The PwC report, though, further indicated that ad revenues from digital publishing amounted to a comparatively much lower figure of R1.3bn in 2013, with Google gobbling up the lion's share of revenue.

One expert says the slow adoption could be pinned to a 'fear' among media buyers of being held more accountable to metrics in the online space.

"It is perhaps because if they embrace this measurability in the online space, they would need to admit the fallibility of the offline response metrics," Andre Steenekamp, CEO of 25AM told Fin24.

The company is a Cape Town-based digital agency and Steenekamp has decades worth of experience in the marketing industry.

Online audience

"The steady decline in readership or listenership or viewership and the opposing growth in online usage will eventually swing the pendulum," said Steenekamp.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), US internet ad revenues, for example, hit $13.3bn in the first three months of 2015, representing growth of 16%. PwC predicted that by 2019, US print revenues are expected to decline to $146.85bn from $144bn in 2014.

Media buyers are having a tough time using online advertising to drive sales. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

But in SA, traditional media is not on as fast a declining track compared with the international experience, leading some marketers to maintain the status quo.


But online ads cannot simply follow the pattern of their offline cousins. Marketing has to be engaging and has to be measured according to viewable impressions rather than simply clicks, according to another expert.

"With major digital marketing vendors such as DoubleClick providing the tools to measure viewable ads and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Rating Council (MRC) promoting the metric, South Africa’s industry should also get on board," said Johan Walters, digital marketing specialist at 25AM.

Steenekamp argued that the context of internet ads plays a big role in how they are perceived by an audience.

"If ads are delivered in context to the environment the user is in, they become less intrusive. However, you will never please everybody, so someone will always find some form of advertising message and/or medium intrusive."

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