an #OpenAfricaMag interview. The youngest person to head a major media-buying agency, Chris Botha (@chrismediabotha) has taken The MediaShop from strength to strength. This comes at a time when more channels, most of them in the social media space, present themselves to advertisers. The award-winning exec shares his insights with Open Africa and gives an overview of the shifting media landscape, as he sees it, in the near future.
Open Africa: What is the future of television in Africa? Will different things happen in different countries, and what will influence the way audiences view/consume television?
Chris Botha: The future of television in Africa remains bright. The medium is still the biggest-reaching medium in most markets. That is not going to change overnight. The biggest change that we will see over the next few years is the realisation of DTT [digital terrestrial television] in Africa (and SA specifically). This will give consumers access to more content and, in turn, will change the TV landscape altogether. In most cases, consumers in fact consume more television, when they have more to watch. I therefore believe the medium will remain a power player for many years to come.
OA: How does investment in infrastructure in general [and technology in particular] change the way people consume media?
CB: It offers options. I can now choose where/how/when I consumer whatever content I choose to consume. So whether it be television, radio, digital or print, as media proliferates, we find consumers with more options. If in the past I had to wait for tomorrow’s newspaper to read the news, I can now read the full story online right now. Similarly so with learning and consuming of any type of content. [The other] morning, at 3am, South Africans could view the new season of Game of Thrones as it aired in the US. The options available to consumers really are endless.
OA: How is bandwidth [digital access]…
1) … changing the way people consume media?
CB: Fundamentally. You can now read up about any topic, whenever you want. The news breaks in the media, as it happens, and opinions are a dime a dozen. Digital media has integrated into every traditional media type. You can watch TV online, read the newspaper online, you can listen to the radio online. So every single media owner has had to change and adapt to remain relevant to the consumer.
2) … changing consumer behaviour?
CB: The consumer is more demanding now than ever before. The consumer is also flooded with options. The consumer controls the conversation flow.
3) … changing the tracking of ROI and measurement/advertising efficacy?
CB: I believe the digital revolution has vastly improved the above. We can now track every campaign in a digital format, and really start seeing what media pulls what triggers. With big data we can now start serving ads more responsibly to consumers, and really demonstrate value to our clients.
OA: Do brands understand mobile? How big is mobile in Africa and what kind of opportunity does it present to big brands who want to reach mass audiences?
CB: Mobile is massive in Africa. In SA alone, it has nearly 90% penetration of the total population. The platform is only going to continue to grow. I do think brands are starting to understand that commercial platforms, social media etc all need to be done primarily for mobile here in Africa. It is our first and most-important port of call.
OA: What do brands need to know about mobile, and how to engage consumers using mobile?
CB: Wow. That is a very long list… If I had to simplify it, I would say brands need to understand that the consumer journey begins and very often ends on mobile. Now we need to adjust everything we do accordingly.
OA: Can you share media trends — these can be country or continent specific.
CB: Continued growth in the optimisation of data, and programmatic planning and buying, I believe, will be a big push. At the same time, the content game is hotting up, and more and more brands want to own, sell, and promote content. I believe these are the two major pushes we will see continue to grow this year. At the same time, we will see the traditional media owners continue to fight it out for an ever-decreasing pie size.
OA: We read a lot about research being a big problem in Africa — that there aren’t uniform approaches to media measurement — so trying to negotiate pan-African campaigns can be a major headache for brands. What are your thoughts about this?
CB: That is true. Not an easy one to solve. I believe we have enough challenges around research in SA that we need to solve, let alone the rest of the continent. There is simply no one-size-fits-all solution.
OA: How is technology changing the way brands buy media, and what does this mean for media agencies and for brands? Can you speak to programmatic buying here and other similar changes in the media buying landscape.
CB: Technology makes our jobs a lot more interesting and exciting. Programmatic buying is changing the way we plan very many of our campaigns. We now have rich data on our consumers, and when and where they go. This helps us tailor-make our offering to the consumer, and really give our clients an edge. As an example, Google has so much data on its users, and our brand consumers. How we use this, and integrate with it, will determine how successful we can be.
OA: What does a downturned economy like the one we’re facing in SA mean for media buying — what happens? What are the expectation from brand owners?
CB: Media money is tighter than ever before. I believe it has two impacts — first, clients and agencies resort to their safety blanket (television) which is why we are seeing the medium continuing to grow. At the same time, as clients want more accountability for their media spend, we are seeing a push towards digital. It is still seen as a “cheap” medium by some.
Chris Botha (@chrismediabotha) started his media career at Publicis before joining The MediaShop. He was invited to join The MediaShop management team in 2006, and to the board of directors in 2008. In January 2010, he was appointed joint MD of the Sandton operation and, one year later in January 2011, was made group MD of the entire operation. While studying communications at the University of the Free State, Chris Botha presented a campus radio sports programme. An avid supporter of the Free State Cheetahs, Botha is a family man who self-describes as ‘an average guy’.
This feature first ran in Open Africa, the definitive guide to business, branding and marketing in Africa, brought to you by Ornico in partnership with GIBS Business School, with MarkLives.com as its official media partner. Download the entire publication free of charge (registration required).