Picture: 123RF/olegdudko
Picture: 123RF/olegdudko

We are all aware of the significant and rapid advances in technology which, because of Covid-19, have only intensified over the past few months. The world has gone digital, prompting the business and advertising sectors to rely more on digital technologies for day-to-day operations.

Privacy policies, GDPR, POPI and a possible cookie-less world has been a long-standing conversation in the media and advertising space over the past three years. In an industry that is highly dependent on third party cookies, what does the future of media look like?

During a recent Future of Media digitised event, in collaboration with Vodacom, Ezi Ads, Everlytic, Proudly SA, The MediaShop and WAN-IFRA, the topic in question was: “How do we create an authentic brand journey by taking full advantage of telecommunications and media technologies?”

Hosted by Kenzy Mohapi, radio personality at Jacaranda FM, the panel of experts included Benjamin Fahmueller, head of global partnerships: SSA at Google; Denvor Daniels, sales head at Vodacom Digital Advertising; Sindy Snow, head of marketing at Vodacom Digital Advertising; Kerstin Trikalitis, co-founder and CEO of Out There Media; and Sarah Utermark, director of commercial partnerships SA, Opera Software and representative on behalf of the Mobile Marketing Association.

The discussion began by addressing the role of the telecommunications company in media and advertising.In Fahmueller’s opinion, the telecoms industry is well equipped to take part in the media industry because of the user data, first party data, platform availability and the reporting tools they have available. “I believe the telecoms players are in a good position to take part, both globally and in SA.”

Daniels added that from a local perspective, telecoms companies, specifically Vodacom at the moment, have the ability to address an audience that had seemed un-addressable in the past.  He added that: “This has been made possible through innovative new platforms as well as innovating on existing platforms through creative communications with the customer, building out exciting new display channels, and high engagement channels through video.”

With all these options, marketers have so many choices as to how they want to target their audiences. Snow reiterated: “The lines between digital and mobile are becoming more blurred and, as marketers, it’s essential that communication happens at all levels regardless of lifestyle or position in the economy.”

Yet one of the biggest challenges in digital marketing is reach and the pool of recipients and customers that brands can access. “This is where the operators are in a strong position because they have the mass scale of reach,” said Utermark. She added that for operators to package their products in a way that allows brands to continue that conversation is, in her opinion, what telecom companies should be working towards.

There’s been a lot of talk about channels, platforms, communication and marketing in the industry. Who is the new kid on the block? What is RCS?

Trikalitis gave us some insights into this new communication platform: “Rich Communication Services (RCS) is the game changer the industry has been waiting for. It’s been developed by the mobile operator community and is the new standard of message. RCS provides a native, trusted environment that turns messaging into an interactive, future-rich experience. 

Over the next 24 months all new handsets will have RCS automatically installed.  The telecom companies now have an attractive channel combining the best of two worlds: reach and universality and richness and interactivity, with Vodacom being the first African operator that has invested in this innovation.”

Regardless of the platform, content is still king and the creation of good content is still key to captivating audiences. Utermark said: “The challenge with this is the speed at which the content needs to be developed, adapted and marketed. With the financial constraints that Covid has left us with, creative concepts are very important with mobile. The key here is to find a way in which campaigns can be created in a cost-effective way and personalised to resonate with the customers in a timely way before it gets distributed on digital platforms.” Snow added: “It’s important to stay relevant and get creative in your customer messaging, especially with everyone being bombarded with advertising at the moment.”

With a reminder that there are people behind the device, Daniels added: “The great opportunity with RCS is that you can get creative in your communications. You are being afforded the opportunity to build and put out some smart engagement strategies. You are connecting to a real person. With the feedback you get from that person, brands can adapt their messages effectively, allowing them to be relevant and react in real time.”

With data and accessibility being a real challenge in SA, how has RCS worked in this regard?

Fahmueller pointed out that: “Zero rated platforms are important in Africa as it is a very data conscious society. Especially during difficult times, it’s important to keep users connected. Telecom companies have done a great job in keeping education platforms connected and have now expanded this to advertising. This offers brands a nice opportunity to reach customers, especially now that we are not on the road as much, going out less and working from home.”

Proof of reach, first party data and personalisation are just a few reasons for investing in telecom technologies. What ROI could a brand expect when looking into these platforms?

Snow said: “While awareness is created for brands via mobile when clicking on the digital banner, a big drop-off rate has been recorded if the user has no data. RCS has some sort of data component but, as a whole, brands can stay connected to their audience even if they have no data. By using a zero-rated platform this has increased the click-through rate by 70%.”

Trikalitis added: “Brands love RCS because of the functionality and reach. In today’s digital world, conversion rates are generally low; in the case of RCS the conversion rates are very high. It’s been calculated that RCS is 2,500% higher than normal digital advertising.”

With traditional media like billboards, radio, television and print still around and not going anywhere, RCS is a great add on, closing the loop, making sure brands and businesses stay connected, relevant and top of mind. The panel was asked to give their final thoughts about the paradigm shift that’s taking place, with Fahmueller reminding us that content is still key and that it’s just the platforms that are changing. Snow alerted us to the fact that there is more coming and that RCS is just the tip of the iceberg. Lastly Utermark reminded us that collaboration and transparency will allow us to streamline processes and realise the goals we set out to achieve.

The next digitised event, The Shift: Empathy & Advertising, will be taking place on September 29 at 6pm. For more information on the international speakers, or to register, click here

the big take-out:

RCS is a great add-on. It closes the loop, and makes sure brands and businesses stay connected, relevant and top of mind

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.