A Pulse for Traditional Media in South Africa.

The chorus singing “traditional media is dead” does not exactly have a verse to harmonize with in South Africa (“yet?” Perhaps.).

When an average of at least 68-75% of your population can be reached by one of the country’s four free-to-air television stations*, as is the case in South Africa, you’re certainly going to maintain television’s place in the media plan.

When I shadowed an annual planning brainstorm and strategy session in South Africa, awareness of the continued relevance of traditional media was not lost on the brand team in the room (comprising account management, media planning, creative, and strategy and planning professionals).

Channel planning for this particular client’s 2012 strategy included a heavy-up on television supported by radio and inserts (leaflets). The bulk of the discussion was devoted to these three with regards to budget allocation, ROI and efficacy. Social media brought up the caboose and the need to fit it into the budget seemed an unappreciated burden.

Not only was social media last to come up in discussion and consideration, but it was designated to one person to figure out later in isolation, rather than discussed by the entire team as had comfortably been the case with television, radio and print channels. The only social media efforts referenced were internal-facing initiatives, such as a company Facebook group. Customer-facing channels were not discussed (and do not exist for this particular client**).

While interesting to note that social media came up last, that doesn’t make the approach wrong. Rather, it was a reminder that all media has its time and place. Especially in a Media Arts environment, where the most effective channel is the channel to employ, whether it’s a billboard made of Zimbawean money, a Facebook group or a television spot.

Particularly interesting in the discussion of this client’s television spend was the consideration given to corruption in South Africa. “Bang for your buck” has a whole new meaning when you cannot trust that your media partners will run the media as agreed upon. While the demographics of different stations might be comparable, the consensus in the room was that certain stations were to be trusted and relied upon, while others were not.

The question to which the answer must be no is, “does social media’s place in the conversation depend on the brand team’s collective comfort level and familiarity with digital channels?” As long as that is not the case (i.e. everyone is at least knowledgeable and strategic about its value and use), and traditional media is still leading the plan because it is best suited to communicate the big idea to the right network, then it’s not time to plan a funeral for traditional media. Yet.

*According to AdReview’s 2011 Media Facts.
** Note that as for any agency, efforts differ from client to client. Other clients, such as the MySPAR example, have a considerably greater social media and digital presence. 

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