Online marketing: What's next for the banner ad?
WRITTEN BY VANESSA CLARK, MOBIFLOCK MARKETING DIRECTOR
According to South Africa’s Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA), the top advertisers in South Africa, have assigned 10.7 percent of its own current annual media budget to digital platforms. The DMMA says that although this is higher than expected, many marketers surveyed are still not spending any money on digital at all.
In addition, the perception is that traditional media is still king when it comes to attracting new customers, brand building and achieving reach, according to the DMMA study. However, social media was credited with increasing the longevity of customer relationships, as well as being cost effective, while online display advertising was considered to be easily measurable in terms of sales and return on investment (ROI).
Compare this to the US, where, according to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, online ad spend grew 23 percent from the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, and totalled $14.9 billion for the first six months of 2011.
African Business Review talks to leading online agencies across Africa to gauge the state of the nation when it comes to online advertising, and to find out what's next for the online banner ad.
“As with any media, the challenge for advertisers is cutting through the clutter. Compelling and relevant content is the only way to do this,” says Mary Mzumara, the Managing Director of Quirk Marketing Agency’s Johannesburg branch.
“Talk about banner blindness has indeed been around for a few years now – I’d say over five years easily. However we continue to see online ad spend increase and it’s on a cross section of media.
“Banners are not the only online format and there are a variety of creative opportunities in ad formats. Some placements allow advertisers to interact with content on pages, others bring what’s traditionally sat on a website, such as forms, into the banner experience and others bring games into placements.”
Oladele Okusanya, CEO and Creative Director at Lagos-based communications agency Brand Connect Media concurs and raises the point that the mobile environment, so critical in Africa, is vastly different to the desktop web: “Banner ads are faced with several challenges, one of which is the lack of creativity in many ads that have not taken mobile online users into consideration - arguably the highest numbers of internet users in the modern age. A major factor is the small size of mobile screens and ads should send very creative short messages that can attract the users instantly.” He also points out that in the emerging mobile advertising market, many users don’t know what to expect, and so only very creative ads get their attention.
Quirk’s Mzumara agrees that the biggest challenge for mobile online advertising is real estate: “There just isn’t a lot of it. However there is an opportunity – we find that we have a higher click through rate on advertising for mobile campaigns as often these are used as a form of navigation. The more relevant the advertising is within content – the greater the results.”
Paid vs “free” content
Okusanya continues: “As the problem of banner blindness persists I see a bigger rise in PR online as this will continue to appeal to users and advertisers more than online ad spaces. Unpaid content is often defined as free advertising, but that definition is seldom accurate.”
Mzumara agrees that content is king. “Non-paid content has always been a key factor for advertisers. It’s about creating great content that engages users and telling a story. The difference between paid media and use of social media like Facebook and Twitter is the consumer chooses what they see and consume – they vote by liking or by following. However, the challenge of gaining and keeping attention remains.”
When it comes to the possibilities that HTML5 – the next version of the code that underpins the web, and will include more “app-like” capabilities – brings to online advertising, Okusanya is bullish, while Mzumara is somewhat more circumspect.
HTML5 “will be a revolution” says Okusanya. “It is still under development, but is expected to come with more syntactic and semantic features and is also expected the surpass its predecessors.”
Mzumara urges caution around constraints in ad serving technology when it comes to service HTML5. “Standardising formats has meant more consistency and been a factor in reducing costs for clients. HTML 5 formats have not been introduced yet – there is some way to go here due to the way that adverts are served to users.”
In any event, it seems likely that the online ad world is going to become far more sophisticated and tailored when compared to today’s banner ads. Okusanya concludes: “Considering the rapid growth of the internet- over one billion people use the internet -this is good news for online advertising as it will continue to grow. There are loads of technical features, from behavioural targeting, mobile advertising, the mobile technology, viral marketing, and ad customisation that can drive the future. One thing that is also sure to happen is a significant spending turn around.”
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SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”