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Why competing for audience attention requires significant content investment

Going off the beaten track is difficult, especially when you have ambitious marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) to meet in business environments that are monitoring your short term achievements as an indication of projected performance.

I see many marketing executives throw their hands up in resignation and then walk the straight and narrow, staying squarely within the box and playing it safe so that they can keep their management boards happy.

The methods of communication have changed significantly throughout time with the introduction of each new form of mass media, and online media is no exception.

It provides excellent opportunities to interact with audiences in ways that no other media is capable of and being relatively new, those brands that have the stomach for risk tend to blaze the trail and generate incredible return on investment (ROI) from their interactive advertising activities.

Their approach is to divide the budgets into three distinct pockets — age old proven strategies, new tactics that are showing promise, and cutting edge initiatives that are completely experimental which no one else has tried.

‘‘Tusker Project Fame’’ (TPF) was one of the first highly successful exploration of content marketing on a large scale. Certainly not an easy sell, but it drove up the brand equity in ways that traditional marketing techniques could not.

The risks were apparent because they had to invest close to half a billion shillings on the project mainly due to the fact that the media house demanded to be compensated for the airtime, and even though it was negotiated way below the market rates, it blew the budget out of proportion.

The show is developed and licensed worldwide by Endemol who pitched the programme to the major advertisers, but it was East African Breweries Limited who were able to see the potential and get past the corporate bureaucracy that it may see the light of day.

From the first season the show was able to climb to the top 5 most viewed programmes on Kenyan TV and the same in the other East African countries.

TPF competed with top shows like ‘‘Papa Shirandula’’ and ‘‘Churchill Live’’ showing that reality TV could stand its ground against local drama and comedy.

It also made its mark on digital media which was growing steadily in the region in 2006 mainly consumed by upper income, urban and male skewed audiences in Kenya, which made up just about five per cent of the adult population.

The best show content was the live performances before a studio audience and aired countrywide on TV, and the ejection parties held at the Carnivore creating the most memorable experiences for those who were privileged to attend.

‘‘Coke Studio’’ on the other hand was developed by Coca-Cola in Pakistan and they’ve since produced the show in other countries, and now in Central, East and West Africa for the last three years. It also leverages on our love for music, but it is not competitive and is aired in a studio environment without a live audience.

The major difference, however, is how they leverage the TV and online media experience to drive incremental reach through a combination of the hyper-targeted and wide reaching mediums, as explained by Waithera Kabiru at this year’s PAMRO conference held at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Online media is now more of a factor because of the significant growth in internet access across African states brought about by increasing electricity supply and lower costs of devices and bandwidth.

The results of ‘‘Coke Studio’’ have been impressive with regards to the key metrics — audiences reached and the time spent interacting with the content.

What is interesting though is that Coca-Cola doesn’t regard engagement, including likes and shares, as an important measure but instead prefer to consider the incremental uplift or the attribution to the messaging, and the reach as the most critical KPIs.

The new kid on the block is the ‘‘Lion’s Den’’ which has kicked off with a bang and in an effort to strengthen the brands positioning as the bank that supports the wananchi’s dreams, it provides an excellent showcase of the great ideas our youth have and their ability to articulate those ideas to erstwhile investors.

Again, this was an initiative that the production company pitched to the major banks and KCB’s Angela Mwirigi was able to navigate the corporate maze to acquire the sole sponsorship.

Angela brought her experience from ‘‘Tusker Project Fame’’ to make the ‘‘Lion’s Den’’ more affordable and orchestrated to deliver strong results for the banks marketing programme, and also by using the TV and online mix to meet the KPIs.

With four episodes aired so far, we are waiting with bated breath to see the results which are projected to be impressive.

As the marketing communications paradigm shifts and places content very prominently in the priority list, most marketers are struggling with the need to create content that can compete with popular content in ways that are relevant to their brands.

The path to success in interactive advertising has been illuminated by the the major brands who are taking risks and backing them up with substantial investments. The notable initiatives have proven to be successful and worth emulating.

Mr. Otin is a digital marketing expert and CEO of The Collective - an interactive ad agency. He is also the President of PAMRO and the Chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of Kenya. @joe_otin

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