The distance between bands and consumers has almost disappeared, and this combined with new technologies has changed our understanding of what creativity is and what it can achieve, writes ROB NEWLAN, head of the Facebook Creative Shop in EMEA.
Today the bar for creativity is extremely high. It starts with people. Anyone can use the phone in their pocket to shoot and edit high quality video – something that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. Anyone with a mobile phone has a computer in their pocket – from shooting and editing video on a smartphone to banking on a feature phone. Small businesses can shoot a video of their product, market it and accept payment all online. Brands and consumers now exist side to side, and often face to face, in a vast digital landscape. The distance between brand and consumer has all but disappeared, and the resulting intimacy – combined with the ongoing explosion of new technologies – has changed our understanding of what creativity is, and what it can achieve.
We need to inspire people, and more importantly, we need to create value for people. What’s good for people is good for businesses.
The (fast evolving) context
Digital communication in Africa is booming. The change is so fast paced it’s hard to keep track. Even so, at Facebook one word matters to us above all others. Mobile.
According to ITU data, roughly 685 million Africans have mobile cellular subscriptions, while some 200 million have access to the Internet. 120 million Africans are on Facebook, and more than 80% of them will return to Facebook using mobile devices, predominantly feature phones rather than smartphones.
Mobile is a deeply personal device. Your phone is often the first thing you check when you wake up, and the last thing you check before you head to sleep. Your phone is so much more than a communication device – it is often how you get directions, bank or read the news. And that doesn’t include WhatsApp. The bottom line is people are living their lives on mobile devices.
People are at the core of the Facebook and Instagram experiences. The average user now spends more than 46 minutes a day across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. At Facebook we believe ads can be amazing experiences. Technology unlocks the power to tell incredible stories to the right person at the right time no matter where they are. And the creative community – agencies and brands alike – now have the mobile canvas to tell better stories to people that are relevant, inspiring and impactful.
Video, collaborative creativity and emotional connections
People are increasingly adopting visual language to communicate. As a result, video consumption is sky-rocketing, particularly in high-growth regions. Billions of videos are viewed on Facebook every day, and a full three quarters of these views take place on mobile devices.
We have just started to unlock the potential of sight, sound and motion in a feed-driven world. Two case studies from the recent Cannes Lions festival reveal the power of this transformation.
Despite its long running success for P&G, the Always sanitary pad product recently risked losing relevance with a new, younger audience. The Always #LikeaGirl campaign changed all that by asking every day consumers to explore the meaning behind a common and rather patronising phrase, ‘Like a girl’. (As in “she throws Like a Girl”). #LikeAGirl became the most watched video in P&G’s history, with 48 million views in North America and 76 million views globally. Ad recall was extremely strong, and emotional connection to the brand went up in the target audience, while rivals suffered slight declines. The video was distributed not on TV, but through social media.
Similarly, American sports apparel brand, Under Armour, turned its previously macho male identity on its head with a quirky exploration of the pressures of being female in the 21st century, inclusive of a celebration of women who ‘defy expectations and ignore the noise of outside judgements.’ The campaign centred on the pay off line I WILL WHAT I WANT, and featured two stunning videos, the first highlighting ballerina Misty Copeland and the second model Gisele Bündchen.
Two things stand out in both campaigns.
First, the brands combined science and art to show different audiences various creative ways to discuss ideas that really mattered to them. The end result in both cases was a campaign that genuinely touched people’s hearts and minds. Both brands laid the foundation for consumers to get creative in the realm of personal life philosophy.
Second, in both instances people were a primary creative force. The #LikeaGirl video incorporated real young people, exploring – on camera – gender and life philosophy. The conversation at the heart of the campaign was defined and carried out by the target audience, through the prism of social media. Equally, the I WILL WHAT I WANT videos redefined audience participation. In the video featuring Gisele Bündchen, Facebook user comments were at the heart of the experience: After seeding a teaser film on the platform, we used people’s real online reactions on the platform in our TV ads just two days later. A web experience then became a live interactive experiment.
A custom engine scraped the web for comments made about Gisele. Comments were rendered instantly and displayed on the site. For the first time, the entire online discussion about a single person was happening on one website in real time. Gisele is seen sticking to her routine while contradictory opinions on social media flash behind her, proving will beats noise live.
Collaborative creativity is a vital new force
Facebook cares more about creativity than any other platform. Our goal is to create value for companies and the people who receive it. The Creative Shop wants to be an essential partner to brands and agencies: it wants to help move the industry forward.
Facebook Creative Shop is a team of brand marketers, creative directors and strategists who build ideas to help clients grow their business. We believe that every person’s experience on Facebook should be personal and relevant. Even the ads they see. We work closely with businesses and the larger Facebook team to build tools, processes and creative that drives real world business results and delights people.
To help global businesses show beautiful visual stories in News Feed on every device and connection type, we started Facebook’s Creative Accelerator programme designed to help brands unlock the power of personal storytelling in high-growth countries. For example, in Kenya, Coca-Cola delivered a high impact campaign that had Kenyans sharing their stories of happiness. Nurofen, meanwhile, reached 54% of its target audience through a Moments That Matter Facebook campaign in South Africa.
Facebook recently opened our first African office in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is an important first step in strengthening our partnerships on the continent. People in the creative community are working to “hack” Facebook and Instagram in exciting new ways, to develop new marketing executions. We want to continue to work with the creative community to hack creative on our platforms, and our new office brings us closer to the creative community in Africa.
This expansion has happened because we want to ensure we are able to effectively support the huge range of new advertising formats and communication tools now open to communicators. These include new advertising formats and new connection tools that allow for improved contact with audiences (Book Now buttons are just one such new feature), along with advanced measurement tools like Conversion Lift and Ad tech.
We believe we can work together to create rich creative expressions on Facebook and Instagram that are not just better for marketers but better for people too.
The Creative Shop wants to be an indispensable partner to brands and agencies. We know the future does not build itself. Together with our partners we can build for where people are going.
Online retail gets real
After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.
Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.
The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.
This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping.
But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.
On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.
He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.
According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.
In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature.
Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.
A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand.
In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.
Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.
It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time.
It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.
Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.
The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.
Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.
Reliable satellite Internet?
MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company.
“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.
The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.
The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022.
The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data.
C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.
MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity. Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.
Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.
Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online.
“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”