Ghana's Digital Advertising Industry Begins to Take Off – Big International Brands Take Online and Mobile Seriously [analysis]

The digital advertising industry in Africa is beginning to show the first signs of beginning take shape. Digital spend on banners and social media is increasing, particularly amongst consumer brands aimed at the young. Russell Southwood interviewed Adsbrook’s Derek Jason Bossman about the state of the industry in one of Africa’s bellweather markets, Ghana.
Bossman set up and ran a sold-out event called The Future of Digital Advertising West Africa in Accra on 12 February.
His motivation?: “My company runs an advertising network based on the local online industry. We thought we’d get the advertising agencies together and found overwhelming support. It was a first of its kind. We have relationships with all the local agencies so they don’t see us as a threat. But there’s a disconnect between local agencies and digital buying.”
Adsbrook is an advertising network that runs online and mobile advertising campaigns. It’s similar to Google Adwords in that it places banners and interactive ads. Local agencies buy ad placements for the digital element of the campaigns they are running.
In Africa, it’s used websites in a number of countries including Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. The best websites tend to be news websites backed by larger media organisations. In Ghana, the top two are GhanaWeb and Joy Online.
Currently most clients are spending less than 8-10% of their budget on digital advertising but the front-runners are spending slightly over 12%: “When we started, we had to do a lot more educating than selling. Digital is a fraction of what clients are spending on print, TV and radio.” The biggest spenders are the mobile operators followed by Diageo brands like Guinness, Smirnoff and Malta Guinness.
Creative work for online ads tends to still be derived from print or billboard work with simply a link back to a website or Facebook page.
However, Bossman thinks that the work done by Scanad is different:”It’s an international team with international standards and they do interactive ads. It’s a breath of fresh air. 80% of everything else is standard, static banners.”
So what’s used more by clients? Mobile or desktop?:”In Ghana, desktop use is much higher than mobile. I don’t know the reason. Maybe people haven’t opened their eyes to mobile. There’s not a lot of individual players spending on mobile.”
“In Nigeria, it’s 60-70% mobile and there’s a lot more mobile inventory. Brands are taking thos massive advantage there, companies like (handset manufacturer Techno). There are also app store companies that have spaces and slots to run ads. There’s a lot of digital agencies springing up in Nigeria because it’s the second biggest market on the continent.”
A run-of-the-mill brand awareness campaign can get 30-120 million ad impressions in a month. 30-40,000 to 100,000 unique views can cost a client somewhere between US$10-15,000: “South Africa is more expensive because it’s the most advanced market and it’s years ahead of the rest of Africa. They have the most advanced campaigns but I think we’re now close.”
“Nigeria and Ghana are not that expensive comparatively. For a CPM in South Africa you’d pay US$5 but for the same in Nigeria it would be US$1-2 and in Ghana 60 US cents to US$1. There’s also more granular targeting in South Africa and that’s worth more.” Adsbrook doesn’t sell social media directly but uses their self-service platforms.
Ghana currently has between 10-15 digital ad agencies. Adsbrook has worked for about 12 of them. A lot are small 1-3 person quasi-digital advertising agencies:”There’s a lot of jumping on the bandwagon.” In terms of full service advertising agencies, there are between 8-12 but of these only 4-5 are international like Scanad and Ogilvy Mediacom.
Digital advertising spend is creeping up as a percentage of total advertising spend and the trend is led by international consumer brands aimed at the young. The rest will follow but it will take time.