Advertising trends in Southern Africa and beyond

Maggi truck on the streets of central Bulawayo (photo by Andy Kozlov, June-August 2011)

by Andy Kozlov

Back in May 2011, Jewel Neptune wrote the following  in an article in Hello Harare!a leading Zimbabwean monthly, about activational advertising.  “In areas where classical marketing and advertising strategies would not work, experiential marketing takes over. This type of marketing implies the complete experience involving all the five senses.

A fully branded truck, which can also be innovatively developed to resemble the product itself drives around in mass market areas, gathering people to a central place. The truck has a stage, on which an activational crew of up to six people will dance, sing, perform a skit that educates and entertains the crowd; gets them to participate and gives away branded gifts promoting and advertising the product being activated.

A billboard structure waiting to be erected in front of Natural History Museum and Bulawayo Theater (road from NUST to CBD) (photo by Andy Kozlov, June-August 2011)

In addition, if it is called for, the crew get the audience to sample and taste goods on offer. In this way, the promoted product becomes personal to the audience, and they take pride in knowing that they were part of the activation. This encourages them to buy the product, use it in their households, tell all their friends about it and at this point it becomes a household name. Serious topics are dealt with in much the same way, but with sombre twist.

The activation, while entertaining, is sensitively developed to be a more informative and educative one, as topics such as domestic violance, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other social issues are dealt with.” One example of this is Radio Dialogue road shows in Bulawayo’s high-density suburbs.

Zweli Mokgata (Financial Mail April 15, 2011) reports that “frustrated outdoor-advertising firms [in South Africa] complain that there are often delays in placing adverts because local municipalities are slow to approve the erection of new signage.

Alliance Media-funded bus stop in Harare (photo by Andy Kozlov, 2011)

Richard Wilkinson, managing director (MD) of Graffiti Impact Media – which was acquired by Imperial Group subsidiary Graffiti Cab Media– says it can take up to six months for local municipalities to approve a new billboard. As a result, some companies are now using buildings and hot air balloons as billboards and others advertise on vehicles.

Best known for its large-scale outdoor spectaculars such as the iconic 8, 400 sq m Nike building wrap on downtown Johannesburg’s Life Centre and the First National Bank 2010 World Cup Makarapa, Impact Media is a well-respected player in the out-of-home industry with clients including Coca-Cola, Telkom, Hollard Insurance, SAB Miller, Brandhouse, Unilever, Ford, Sasol, I-Burst and HTC.

Richard Wilkinson adds, “Graffiti is a well-established and highly-regarded player in the transit- and out-of-home media arenas. We will benefit greatly from their business expertise as well as from their world-class in-house printing facilities and their extensive client base. With the incorporation of Impact Media into the fold, Graffiti now offers clients every possible out-of-home advertising solution from our building wraps and other outdoor spectaculars to aerial balloons, airport bridges and buses to taxis, trucks and other vehicles and even retail store-fronts. There’s now literally nothing we cannot brand!”

Guerrilla marketing for Havaianas

The 2010 soccer World Cup presented an opportunity for some creative advertising. Impact Media was responsible for the Nike Write Your Future outdoor campaign during the event, wrapping 8,400 sq m of Johannesburg’s Southern Life Centre building in images of famous footballers and LED lights. The company paid the city council 1,2 million rand for five year’s to utilise the space.

Hot air balloons are a relatively new avenue for advertising. Impact will raise one in Montecasino in addition to the Hyundai balloon in Sandton. “Johannesburg is more open to outdoor media than other cities,” Wilkinson says. “Cape Town is challenging in terms of the scale of work we do, and Durban put a moratorium on all outdoor media in the past three years, which we don’t understand.”

Placing a billboard is not as easy as it might seem [in South Africa]. Commercial attorney and former Ad Outpost MD Willem Krog says that municipal, provincial and national regulations may all have to be taken into account. It depends on the location. For instance, local by-laws apply on the road to the airport, but because it’s a provincial road, it will also be affected by the province’s laws. If there’s a tollgate on the road, national laws will be applicable. This web of jurisdictions can lead to long delays in the approval process, with one jurisdiction perhaps approving the billboard while another rejects it.

“The cost of preparing an application for a billboard is around 10 to 20 times the cost of applying for a plan to erect a building twice the size. The reason for this is that local authorities, are milking outdoor companies,” says Krog. Primedia Outdoor CEO Michael de Charmoy says this area of advertising is highly regulated throughout the country, and there is no uniformity – which makes matters more complicated. “Unfortunately, too, some by-laws have been in existence for many years and do not necessarily cover new developments in the outdoor advertising industry.”

A further aspect is that the complicated approval system, the size of billboards and the fact that most of the available licences are held by the large companies – such as Continental Outdoor Media and Primedia Outdoor – make outdoor advertising a hard area for small players to break into. This means that they have to look at other ways to compete in the outdoor market. Transit media is an alternative that Graffiti group MD John Rice says advertisers are increasingly considering. Every month the company designs, prints and applies branding to 800 vehicles, ranging from buses to minibus taxis, trucks, cabs and private cars. Rice says the transit media industry is growing quickly and the company plans to keep developing new technologies.

National Geographic bus ad

According to South African Advertising Reasearch Foundation, or SAARF Store ads rank #1 in the outdoor media reach with 80,1 % of total adult population reading them. They are followed by truck ads (76,5%), kombi ads (75,1%) and billboards (70,4%). Dustbin ads trawl only 48,9% of adults in South Africa. This may well be the reflection of the diffusion of these ads.

Back to Zimbabwe, a couple month back, the Constitutional Parl­ia­mentary Committee (Copac), which is spearheading the drafting process in Zimbabwe, faced a lawsuit over an unpaid bill of $200 000 for advertising. A local media consultancy company Glomedia sued the cash-strapped Copac for failing to pay it for a wide range of services it provided between June 2009 and November 2010. These include the production of audio and video jingles broadcast on the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and a wide range of print materials, including manuals, posters, booklets, flyers and banners. Although Glomedia had approached Copac for payment, it said that Copac had displayed “for a long time erratic, intransigent behaviour that had left it with no choice but to rely on litigation to protect its rights”. Glomedia, which is owned by a former ZBC producer, has sent summons to the three joint chairpersons of Copac Paul Mangwana, Douglas Mwonzora and Edward Mkhosi. Mangwana has dismissed suggestions that the lawsuit could disrupt the constitutional process, saying “Copac will pay all its dues”.

Established in 1997, Alliance Media Zimbabwe has sustained a market leadership position by continually investing in developing an extensive range of billboards and outdoor advertising media options for all segments of the market. 

As the largest airport advertising concession holder in Africa, Alliance Media has held the exclusive airport advertising concession at Harare International Airport, Victoria Falls International Airport and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo since 2000.

Alliance Media is widely recognised as the pan-African leader in outdoor and airport advertising, having the widest coverage on the African continent. Operating in 22 countries, with 15 years experience, they have been awarded the European Union award for innovative media and the prestigious independent Product Market Reform (PMR) award for “Best Outdoor Advertising Company” in multiple markets.

Their strict focus on Out Of Home (OOH) media has resulted in the establishment of over 25,000 of the most targeted and visible billboard sites in Africa.

Alliance Media works with Coca Cola, Sony, Samsung, Vodafone , MTN, Airtel, Nestle, Tigo, Unilever, Barclays, First National Bank, Standard Bank and other world’s brands.

Guerrilla social marketing 1

Principal reasons for Airport Advertising to be considered as part of an advertising strategy:

  • Airports have the highest demographic target, which consist of an affluent audience of corporate decision makers within Living Standards Measure (LSM-the most widely used marketing research tool in Southern Africa) groups 8 – 10
  • Airport advertising offers high impact within the immediate environment
  • Extended periods of exposure allows time for detailed message comprehension
  • Internal illumination provides 24-hour brand presence

The Trillion Dollar Campaign, an outdoor advertising campaign launched in 2009 to promote the newspaper The Zimbabwean in South Africa, was created by a Jo’burg-based  advertising agency TBWA Hunt Lascaris with the goal of both increasing awareness of the newspaper itself, and of the growing problems of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe and increasing restrictions on free speech by the government. The Trillion Dollar Campaign made extensive use of Zimbabwean banknotes, repurposing them as printing paper for handouts, billboards, and poster advertisements. The campaign was highly successful, and gathered significant publicity; first in other South African newspapers, then in

Guerrilla social marketing 2

other media such as television and radio, and finally in international publications such as The Guardian and The Times. The Trillion Dollar Campaign went on to win several honours from the marketing community, receiving Golds at The Art Directors Club Awards and the ANDY Awards, and taking home the Grand Prix in the Outdoor category of the 2009 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, the most prestigious awards ceremony in the advertising industry.

To conclude, a few words of guerrilla advertising:

In his book, Guerrilla Advertising 2: More Unconventional Brand Communication, author Gavin Lucas collects some of the best non-traditional branding and marketing campaigns.

It’s cheaper to print it on money than paper: Zimbabwe-related Trillion Dollar guerrilla campaign

Lucas’ first book on the subject was published in 2006, featuring more than 70 international campaigns. In Guerrilla Advertising 2, he continues to explore this trend after the introduction of social media marketing.

The book features 63 campaigns, which are categorized in five themes: Street Propaganda, Site Specific, Sneaky Maneuvers, Stunts, and Multi-Fronted Attack. Some of the most creative projects include an inflatable pig between two Manhattan buildings to publicize dental floss, street buskers interpreting songs from Oasis’ new album, and a motorcycle with a large digital clock to promote on time pizza delivery.

Gavin Lucas lives in London and is Senior Writer at the leading communication arts journal and blog Creative Review.

You can write to Andy Kozlov on


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