Kenya's communication industry has potential

Till Aurousseau (Creative Director at Ogilvy and Mather) and Denrele Edun (Channel O TV presenter)

A thriving and cosmopolitan city with as many billboards as there are green spaces, Nairobi is a feast for the senses. It is a beacon for East Africa, with a growing number of international companies setting up offices here in order to reach the region more effectively. And with Kenya's large stake in the East African market and its many advances in terms of infrastructure and mobile connectivity, it offers lots of potential to brands in the region.

As part of its roadshow across Africa, the Loeries joined forces with DStv to connect with key players in the industry at the luxurious Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel in Nairobi on 28 March. The Loeries Roadshow and DStv VIP Showcase was well received by a very enthusiastic audience from agencies, marketers, and local media. Fahmeeda Cassim-Surtee, Sales Director of DStv Media Sales opened the session, speaking on the future roadmap in media. She was followed by Daryn Wober, CEO of Ventra Media Group, who shared his insights on leveraging sponsorships, and how to effectively and creatively use digital platforms.

Television, radio and outdoor are still dominant forms of brand communication in the country – although digital is slowly beginning to join them. Mobile and digital penetration is at an all-time high in Kenya, but there are still many who do not quite know how to reach their audiences through this medium.  “It takes a bit of education to explain to brands, broadcasters and radio stations why they should invest in digital,” Wober said, “but I think once you start talking to them and they understand that it gives them a new platform to engage with their audiences, then they start to get it.”

Wober also said that the nation plays an important role in Africa's development. “Kenya, from an East African perspective, tends to hold the key budget-wise to a few countries in the region, so it's very much about looking at the East African region as opposed to just one country,” Wober said. “Kenya has also proven to be a very, very positive hub for tech start-ups, and a lot of money has been invested in tech hubs to facilitate entrepreneurs, great ideas, to build businesses and to take advantage of the expertise that's coming in internationally.”

After Wober's presentation, Farzana Khubchandani, Head of Marketing at Google Kenya, took to the stage. She shared her insights on using current technology and internet connectivity to its full potential, using relevant case studies to engage the audience. The talks were rounded off by Andrew Human, CEO of the Loeries, who presented the 2013 Loerie winners from across the continent, shared his tips for entering the awards and gave an overview of the exciting line-up for Loeries Creative Week Cape Town in September this year.

Everyone attending was left very inspired by Human’s talk, especially his comments that it takes hard work and persistence to make great things happen. “Across the world, people deal with small budgets and people who say ‘no’,” said Human. “You have to really believe in an idea and overcome the hurdles in your path to do something new, something remarkable.”

“It's very challenging working in Kenya. This market is fairly conservative so trying to do breakthrough advertising is a battle,” said Craig Wakelin, Creative Director at JWT Kenya.

“I've been here for four years and I think in terms of creativity the industry has not made major progress,” said Neil Drewitt, Business Development Director, Wunderman. “It's a commonly held view and I think that's why we need award ceremonies like the Loeries and we need to push it along. Creativity has become a little bit complacent and a bit cookie cutter. Markets have an era of creativity and Kenya did have an era of creativity but funny enough, the market's grown but creativity hasn't.”

“In East Africa I'd say we have the most intellectual brand communication industry,” said Fridah M Kaburu, Account Executive East Africa, DStv Media Sales. She added that advertisers have begun to localise their campaigns in order to successfully reach their target markets. “If you look at the billboards in Kenya, you'll find what we call 'sheng' – it's a mixture of English and Swahili. We've also noticed a lot of trends targeting the youth. There's a lot of aspirational advertising going on.”

One of the bright spots is innovative sponsorship in the football arena. Kenyans – and East Africans in general – are football crazy and as such, a number of unique campaigns have been rolled out in order to make the most of this market. SuperSport presenters and commentators such as Ali Hassan Kanleni, Chiko Lawi and Bernard Otieno have all voiced their excitement for what the game has to offer in terms of business opportunities and education. MchakaMchaka, the first football show entirely in Swahili, has worked game etiquette lessons into their shows, brought fans into the studio and been at live matches interacting with attendees. They have had so much success since starting late last year that they are in the process of creating an even more interactive show where they visit different counties in Kenya – offering more localised and government sponsorship opportunities.

Another opportunity for regional investors is that of short-form video. “Generally speaking, short-form video is really the dark secret of the internet in Africa,” said Drewitt. “People don't like reading loads and loads of text and skipping through pages, but they will watch short-form video, which is why YouTube is fantastically successful here and the use of video by brands, if you get it right, can be a real winner.”

Till Aurousseau (Creative Director at Ogilvy and Mather) and Denrele Edun (Channel O TV presenter)

Gennaro Pisapia

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