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INTERVIEWS
By 6 April 2011 | Categories: interviews

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At 33 Chris Botha is group MD of The MediaShop, one of the biggest media agencies in SA. He talks to TechSmart about online marketing, promoting your brand via social media and "consumer touch-point strategies".

TechSmart: Being group MD of The MediaShop at age 33 must be a daunting task?

Chris Botha: Yes, hell of a daunting task. I now know what Thabo Mbeki felt like when he took over from Nelson Mandela. These are absolutely massive shoes to fill. Harry Herber, from whom I took over, is an industry legend, and trying to emulate what he did is a terribly tough task. Luckily for me though, I have arguably the best media management team in South Africa supporting me, so makes my job a lot easier.

TS: How strong is online advertising in SA compared for example to the US or UK?

CB: Nowhere near as strong. South African Online Advertising accounts for only 2-3% of adspend, whereas in more developed markets it amongst the biggest around!

The South African market is quite unique in that we tend to skip "generations" of technology. I believe that Online Advertising will never be big in SA. We will "skip" that phase.

Online globally is moving to "Online Communication" of which online advertising is a very small part. Modern digital and communications agencies (like ourselves) find that we have massive digital clients, but we hardly book any media for them. We do social media, website development, app development and advanced search. Online communication is a 360 degree communications approach and not limited to advertising.

TS: There must be a decent year-on-year growth online though?

CB: Yes it is growing nicely, much better than the rest of the market. But like I mentioned, I don't foresee online advertising in its current format getting to the size of Television for example. The move will be away from what we call traditional online advertising to new means of online communication.

TS: Will better broadband here in SA have an impact on the way companies advertise? Will we see a move to short video clips on websites for example?

CB: I hope so. South African digital advertising tends to be very "flat" and one dimensional. For good reason which I understand. However, I think our creative industry is being hamstrung by the slow online that we have.

TS: Is the cellular market attracting advertising spend in SA? How long before smartphones become viable advertising platforms here?

CB: Not at the moment. I do however believe that cellular is a bigger opportunity for advertisers than desktop online. Look at the major cellular networks - they simply cannot keep up with the demand for data. Mobile access in SA is increasing at a rapid rate, and just over 70% of the population has a cellphone! How long before that same 70% all have smartphones?? Once again, I don't believe advertising - the way we know it - will play any significant role in the drive. Mobile "advertising" is all about creating content. The successful brands are the ones that create good content, utilising the mobile platform to distribute it.

TS: How important is a Facebook page or Twitter stream to companies? Should all companies have them?

CB: Yes. They SHOULD HAVE HAD them!! I believe digital is moving beyond Facebook and Twitter. If you don't have a FB or Twitter account now, you might have missed the boat already.

I think the more important cue to marketers is what they do with their FB accounts and Twitter feeds. If you use it only to promote and sell, you will never ever make a success of it. Marketers need to use their accounts in a much smarter way that rewards consumers and users for visiting their FB page, or following them on Twitter. It is a conversational tool, not an advertising medium.

TS: You talk about "consumer touch-point strategies", can you explain this?

CB: Communication is about more than advertising. We try and touch the consumer wherever he interacts with the brand. So from the digital element (their website), to what is being discussed about them (social media), to the traditional advertising, all the way down to the point of sale. Whenever the consumer interacts with the brand in any way, shape or form, we need to manage and control that communication. So it is about so much more than just advertising.

TS: Do you ever miss your campus radio days?

CB: Hell yes. I miss sitting with my mates in a hot stuffy studio, talking nonsense, listening to music, and having fun. Campus Radio is really special to me. We did some crazy things on air, and took those on air things, and made them come alive in pubs and clubs. A lot of what I learnt there informed what I do today.

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