Mobile Advertising in Africa: Crossing the Chasm.

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By Emeka Enwere.

There is a lot of media rave about online advertising and the edge it gives over traditional advertising. However, most of the arguments for online advertising fall flat in Africa. According to Internet world stats, internet penetration in Africa currently sits at 28.3% as at March 2017. With this level of penetration, online advertising cannot meet the current needs of most brands playing in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space in Africa who want to effectively reach the mass market.

According to the World Bank, only 35% of Africa’s population dwell in urban centres with the bulk of its population still rural. Due to weak infrastructure (bad roads, no electricity, low incomes etc.), access to media is a huge challenge in Africa especially for the bulk of its population in rural areas. Without access to media, dissemination of information becomes a challenge and advertising cannot be effective.

For a long time, radio has been the most dominant media in Sub Saharan Africa. Most households who do not own a TV in Africa at least own a transistor radio. The problem with radio is that it suffers from heavy fragmentation. There is a proliferation of radio stations each dominant in its own niche, and as such, there is really no national or mass audience. Hence, we must turn our attention to other media channels.

Over the last few decades, a new media has emerged on the landscape breaking the long-standing barrier to access challenge and driving ever increasing penetration. Unique mobile subscriptions have crossed the 50% mark in most countries in Africa. There are likely more people in Africa with a mobile phone than transistor radios. Some even listen to the radio on their mobile phone. Mobile, is the media channel that offers an opportunity to create a unique “Africa Product” that addresses the benefits of digital advertising combined with meaningful mass market reach.

The mobile phone has a lot of unique attributes that strengthen its proposition as an advertising channel. It is always on and close by. People generally spend more time on their mobile phone than any other media. It is a highly personal device. Combining this quality with rich data from mobile operators can turn the mobile device into a great direct marketing channel that can deliver all the benefits of one-to-one marketing. The mobile device is also a very effective direct response or two-way communication channel.

In order to carve out an effective mobile advertising product for Africa, there must be very tight alignment with how the mobile device is used in Africa. Africa is predominantly a prepaid market where the predominant activities of subscribers outside making call revolve around topping up their airtime and checking their balance. And each time they perform these activities, the mobile network sends them notification messages. 

The channels created around these activities (balance enquiry notification, recharge notification, end of call notification etc.) will drive the most advertising impact. Mobile network operators in Africa currently use these channels to advertise their own services to great effect. However, the next frontier lies in opening up these channels to third party brands and advertisers who want to reach the mass market.

Providing an automated platform that makes this process seamless is a challenge that Twinpine is solving in partnership with mobile operators across Africa. Twinpine’s Adrenaline platform will aggregate mobile operator channels across Africa and provide a single online interface where advertisers across the world can target mobile subscribers in Africa in near real time.