Interview: David Ampofo

How are changing habits of media consumption affecting advertising practices in Ghana?

DAVID AMPOFO: Much of the urban middle and upper classes are now connected to DSTV and satellite television. This is the result of rising incomes. Digital and internet-based media reflect the changing mindset of the Ghanaian consumer. There will be a need for more sophistication, because new media provides new opportunities. I expect to see a quantum leap in terms of advertising practices, and this will also have an impact on advertising budgets. Companies have realised the importance of new media, although they might not have the capabilities to fully operate in that environment yet. For example, even companies in extractive industries, which used to focus exclusively on investor relations, are starting to realise the importance of having a presence in new media.

But there is some strength in traditional media as well. Radio is still a major source of information in Ghana. Everybody listens to the radio whether they are driving into work with their car radios on or listening in their corner shops or walking in the street with a hand-held radio set. It is a ubiquitous medium that will always remain relevant in the Ghanaian market. There is also a new resurgence on the print side, especially in magazine readership. Publications are of higher quality, focused on their niche, discussing more socially interesting themes, using more provocative pictures and reaching a higher editorial standard.

What are the challenges to measuring the effectiveness of advertising campaigns?

AMPOFO: It is very hard to manage audiences, but new media is certainly helping. For years I have been hosting a television show, and the network could not tell me who was watching. But as soon as I put the programme on my website, the internet service provider was automatically able to count and locate people following the show. So the introduction of new media into the market is allowing for some sort of measurability. For traditional advertising campaigns that use print, radio or television, however, it is still quite difficult to correctly understand the extent to which they are effective.

In what ways has the increase in purchasing power affected the advertising market?

AMPOFO: The average local income is increasing, but there is also an influx of foreigners that impact on purchasing power as well as practices. For a long time the sector was driven mainly by fast-moving consumer goods. These were advertised on television and radio, in print and painted on huge billboards around the cities. But now there is an influx of advertising from financial services and banks. These not only advertise products, but are also hugely focused on promoting their corporate image. Thanks to this, advertising budgets are growing by necessity and companies now want to advertise their names in an increasingly competitive market. You have to stand for something before you can sell something.

What role do political advertisements play in the overall advertising mix?

AMPOFO: The last half of 2012 will be very big for the advertising sector thanks to the elections scheduled for December. A lot of political advertising is traditionally done through campaigning outside. It used to be that only presidential candidates used billboards, but now even parliamentarians use the large ad space. This new trend will surely multiply the number of ads.

The expenditure in the advertising sector is generally much higher in an election year. Ads will be plastered on billboards, television, radio and print.

What you see is that a lot of the traditional commercial advertisers stay away from communicating in the few months before the election, because they are crowded out. They know that during the last quarter of the year they will not make as much because people will be focused on the political campaigns.