Keep an eye on media dynamics to align your marketing resources

Good insight creates a whole new way of thinking; it is generally a disturbance in discourse and while we may have awesome data at our fingertips, not knowing what to do with that data renders it obsolete and ineffective. When speaking to business students they often ask when it is necessary to conduct comprehensive research considering that startups have limited budgets. My response is simple; it depends on the size of the opportunity. Commision credible research for your big business initiatives.

With ad spend in Africa standing at an estimated $15 billion per annum, the role of PAMRO (Pan African Media Research Organisation) is to collectively develop media currency across the continent and provide relevant insight to help you spend your money wisely. It was founded in 1999 as the premier industry forum for media research providers, media owners, marketers and advertising agencies with the aim to create a uniform research infrastructure in African countries.

The flagship event of PARMO is the annual media research conference that is hosted rotationally in African countries and this year the PAMRO conference is scheduled for the 21st to the 24th of August at the legendary Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The organisers are developing a program that is suitable for busy senior executives in the industry with plenary sessions, workshops and networking events that are relevant, inclusive, collaborative and innovative.

Early PAMRO conferences were dominated by discussions around methodology and analysis as media researchers around the continent showcased their impressive technical expertise, trying to outdo one another. As data on Africa became more available and the changing trends were laid bare, the conversations have changed. 5 years ago, the thought leaders reviewed the potential that the developments in information technology would have on the media business. Last year, those thought leaders demonstrated what they had implemented with cutting edge technology in the African context.

For us, that is the true benefit of the organisation; the ability to put our minds together and think big, and then turn those thoughts into massive action. The result of which is the contribution of research to the media growth in Africa, which is growing at double the pace of the global average. We have seen that where you have good audience measurement and subsequent return-on-investment (ROI) analysis, there is significantly more investment in advertising and promotion.

One of the big things achieved that aids the ad spend increase is the establishment of a Pan-African measure of socio-economic status (SES). As brands expand their markets across borders they need to look at consumers through the same lens and the work towards this done by Neil Higgs of TNS is projected to have a major impact on marketing across the continent. Locally, KARF (Kenya Audience Research Foundation) has adopted the SES in the update of the Living Standard Measure and this is good news for companies that manage brands across a number of African countries and require set standards for customer segmentation.

Also, with the high penetration levels of mobile telephony, media research providers in Africa are miles ahead the rest of the world in implementing mobile based field work. Last year Ipsos introduced us to their smart-phone app for media consumption research, while Geo Poll showcased their feature-phone SMS platform, both of which point to the future of continuous and real time media data at costs that are viable in the continent.

Going a little further, we heard that consumers today are increasingly exposed to content from multiple screens, and this is changing the way they are interacting with brands. With over 80% of internet access in Africa occurring through mobile devices and with increasing number of online video views, media houses need to watch these trends closely in order develop strategies to remain relevant and protect their revenue streams.

Though despite the growth of online media consumption, TV growth remains strong and the migration to digital TV formats guarantees this growth for some time to come. An additional benefit of digital TV is the ability to receive return-path data from the decoders back to the broadcaster with continuous program consumption information. As this information is being turned into insights that reflect the true nature of TV viewing habits the implications to the media houses and advertisers are great especially in regard to cost reduction of the research and the ability to provide real time information and ROI in a manner similar to online media.

As the media environment continues to develop within the local nuances, it is critical for the stakeholders to keep an eye on the shifting sands and ensure that we can anticipate future dynamics and align our resources accordingly.

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