Africa media research in a globally connected world

We are about the witness unprecedented changes to the advertising and media world. Most people think that it will be a revolution and others believe it will be an evolution, but either way the changes are coming. 40 years ago, experts began to predict the death of the thirty second TV commercial yet it is still significant today, and in hindsight it would have been more relevant to talk about the death of the tungsten tube television because broadcast technology used now has relegated ancient equipment to the museum.

This week members of PAMRO (Pan African Media Research Organisation) converge at the Smoke That Thunders, better known as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, for the 17th annual conference, and tongue in cheek, I’ll add that where there is smoke there is fire. Drawn from all over the continent and from other parts of the world, they bring knowledge and experience that result in a cataclysm that defines the future of media in the region. The market consists of one billion people with great potential and we are playing off a low base compared to the rest of the world, but vision, energy and action has brought us this far, and is what will take us over the mountain.

The theme of the conference is Africa Media Research in a Globally Connected World and in it we’re not predicting the death of any advertising format. Instead, we are talking about the effects new technology and prescribing how it can drive value and satisfy the needs of both consumers and investors. When mobile telephony arrived on the continent it was considered an imperial tool, too expensive and insignificant for the masses because its predecessor, the land line, only had two percent penetration.

Today mobile telephony on the continent has eighty percent penetration and what a wonderful tool it has proven to be for a multitude of needs including collecting media data and analysing consumer behaviour. The media spend in Africa is only about two percent of the global expenditure and if you look at it from a commercial perspective, only those with total faith in the stability of the region would match the potential with an adequate investment. So mobile technology offers a stop-gap measure with low associated costs and the ability to match cutting-edge audience data collection systems to some degree.

A good number of the experts are addressing this subject and incorporating other methods to help complete the picture such as crowdsourcing, satellite monitoring and developing hybrid systems. I believe that as we go through the implementation stages of these systems, we can safely predict the death of paper and pen research!

It is through these technological leaps and the sheer will of members that we have increased the number of nations covered in the media dataset to nineteen countries. We have thirty five countries to go and I look forward to the day that the participating delegates will get a data package with comprehensive media data from fifty four countries. Our unique economic and political conditions require smart thinking and heavy lifting and we don’t embark on these initiative because they are easy, we do it because they are hard. One discussion in particular looks at the ability to capture accurate audience behaviour irrespective of frequent power outages, and another talks about the lack of income data in our classification systems brought about by unreliable sources of data.

Despite the challenges, our progress is supported by the rise of the continents GDP from growing peace, which makes Africa an attractive destination for investment and the expansion of media is largely as a result of private sector initiatives. Data not only documents the changes taking place, but more importantly, it provides the means to plan and measure the results of these investments.

Our motives to be the best are guided by a values that unite us, focusing our energy at the points of impact and moderating the need for pure profit in order to support the advancement of sustainable media ecosystems. By being inclusive we appreciate the views of all the industry stakeholders and work together with them to meet common aims. Through concentrated attention given to solving problems we are able to provide relevance to the sector, improving efficiencies and applying value-driven processes. At the end, it is the ability to bring together our wits and muscle that we will establish media excellence in the region.

Africa has 14% of the worlds population and only 3% of the GDP and in between those numbers is incredible potential and opportunity which, through research, we intend to identify for media and advertisers. Africa’s advertising expenditure as compared to the worlds spend is in similar proportions and together we are deciphering the treasure map for the impending gold rush.

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