Covid-19 shifts platforms for SA advertising

An empty billboard overlooking Langa on Vanguard Drive speaks to the lack of advertising due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the crash of the economy. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

An empty billboard overlooking Langa on Vanguard Drive speaks to the lack of advertising due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the crash of the economy. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 1, 2020


The world has changed and so has the way in which advertising works, and there are big changes on the horizon.

A consequence of the national lockdown has been the way in which advertisers are able to reach audiences with traditional media platforms, and an increasing use of online and social media. People are at home, so the manner in which they reach audiences need to be adapted.

“There’s been a big reaction from an out-of-home perspective in terms of advertising on a big scale,” said Richard Lord, media and operations director of media agency, Meta Media. The agency’s clients include Cell C, Toyota, and Capitec.

“Airports are empty so airport advertising...there’s no point in doing it. There’s no people out on the roads, so no one is seeing billboards, so we’re looking at how valuable these platforms are at the moment. Because we are seeing people stuck at home, we’re now seeing an interesting shift in how other media types are being consumed.

Despite the lockdown and the fact that South Africa entered into a recession last month, Lord encouraged businesses to proceed with advertising during this period: “We know that with the majority of companies, the first thing that gets dropped when we’re in a recession is the marketing budget,” he said. “My recommendation would be to not stop advertising. There’s very clear evidence that shows that brands that continue to advertise through a recession come out far stronger at the end of it.” 

A study conducted by media consultancy firm Nfluential found that 71 percent of respondents were spending much more time on social media since the lockdown started. A total of 85 Eighty-five percent of people were also considering and using online shopping options, pushing the retail space to online.

“The findings show that people are more on social media than ever before, this means that brands have a bigger audience than ever before on those platforms who are engaging and consuming content,” said Nfluential chief strategist, Anne Dolinschek. “It is a good time to invest more in digital marketing and influencer marketing now as that's where most brands' audiences are right now.”

According to a 2020 report conducted by global marketing platform Hootsuite, South Africa is home to 36.54 million internet users with a national internet penetration rate of 62 percent. The rate, reported in January this year, is 3.1 percent up since last year. 

But online is not the only platform experiencing a surge in viewership, with more and more South Africans tuning in on their televisions.

“We’ve seen an increase in consumers watching TV, and a big increase in consumers watching TV at different times of the day that they ordinarily wouldn’t have,”  Richard Lord said. “Starting early afternoon at around 3pm, traditionally everybody’s at work. I think there are some advertisers who are taking advantage of those shifts.”

On TV channels such as and the SABC channels, advertising space can cost hundreds of thousands of rand according to the available time slots, with the prime time slots ranging from 7pm to 9pm costing up to  R200 000.

Connect, a company under advertising agency M&C Saatchi Abel, said that prices for television ad space had flattened and even decreased during the lockdown due to ad campaigns being paused and a decreased demand for airtime.

“It’s dependent on the service or product that the brand is offering,” said Connect managing director Rita Nel. “If it is available, then spend has remained if not increased. Brands where the product and service are not available have paused their spend for now. Some brands are using it as an opportunity to build and show how they fully understand the situation their consumers are in.” 

According to the Hootsuite report at the beginning of the year, South Africans spent an average of 3 hours and 33 minutes a day watching television - and evidence is clear that during the lockdown time spent in from of the small screen would have increased.


Weekend Argus

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