John Wanamaker (1838-1922), an American businessman, wouldn’t have known his now famous statement, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half;” would profoundly change traditional advertising after the Internet’s arrival.
But even before the Internet gave TV, radio, print and billboard advertising a panic attack, traditional advertising once enjoyed a ‘bling’ era that birthed and celebrated its ‘owners’ like David Ogilvy, James Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett. Brands, especially fast moving consumer goods, believed they had to advertise, and spend heavily at it, if they wanted to gain traction. Prices soared as everyone from agencies to media houses to the government salivated for a meaty piece of the dish. Advertising effectiveness wasn’t judged on return on investment, but by awards ceremonies such as the Cannes Festival of Advertising . If you weren’t a Fortune 500 company with a deep wallet, you couldn’t afford to promote your brand/s, especially on TV during sporting events such as the Super Bowl.
The Internet attacks Adland’s comfort zone
Then cracks began appearing. Billboards were labeled a source of pollution, leading to Sao Paulo banning billboards in 2007. Pay-TV remote controls came with ad skipping options. Fast food advertising was blamed for rising obesity cases in ‘first-world’ children. Then Google happened! The company was formed in 1998, giving advertisers eyeballs, options such as customized budgeting and best of all, analyses that enable you to calculate the return of investment.
One feature that characterises advertising in Kenya and hinders SMEs from exposure, is the high cost of traditional advertising. Observe the billboards as you drive, the TV ads in-between the news, the radio ads, the full-page advertisements on the major newspapers: almost all the brands are either multi-nationals, NGOs or the government.
The Kenyan government has implemented policies that have enabled the easy adoption of ecommerce by both businesses and consumers: from zero rating of computers to lobbying Internet service providers to reduce Internet access fees after the arrival of underneath cables such as Eassy that have improved speeds (though ISPs contend they have to first recoup their investments in these undersea cables before they reduce prices) to establishing the Kenya ICT Board in 2007 whose roles include ‘positioning and promoting Kenya as an ICT destination.’
Facebook and Google inducements
Google recently launched Kenya Business Online, an initiative to fast-track SMEs’ establishment of a web presence. You already know about the search engine’s vital statistics, so we won’t bore you by repeating them. However, we will outline its Google Analytics feature and how it helps you track the effectiveness of your ad spend on its Adwords platform. You can track: sales and conversions (number of people who buy your product or service from your website), email campaigns and banner ads, and trace transactions to keywords and campaigns, among other numerous benefits. Visit www.google.com/analytics for more information. To sweeten the KBO offer further, Google is offering you a free Kshs5,120 Adwords voucher.
Facebook, Google’s advertising competitor, already allows brands to create free pages. It too plans to offer free advertising worth $50 (approximately Kshs5,000 at the current exchange rates) from January 2012, but it’s unclear whether SMEs outside America will enjoy this benefit. It’s unfair to Kenyan SMEs because slightly over one million Kenyans are active ‘Facebookers’. Facebook also allows you to measure your advertising effectiveness courtesy of its Ad Manager feature.
Google and Facebook founders owe Mr. Wanamaker a drink, don’t you think?