Now is the time: With the market booming, new tactics are becoming increasingly popular

On a June morning in 2013, commuters in downtown Accra were startled to look out their windows to see a dozen horses crossing through traffic. The maroon t-shirts and banners proudly declared the riders part of a guerrilla advertising effort from Enterprise Insurance, Ghana’s oldest insurance group, whose horse logo is a key part of the company’s identity.

NEW DIRECTION: Such direct advertising efforts remain rare in Ghana, but advertisers have begun moving in a new direction as the country has risen to become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. As such, a number of new sources of advertising revenue have developed in the past three years, as have the number of international and domestic advertising agencies operating in Ghana.

In January 2013 Marketing and Media Focus magazine, also known as MM Focus, was launched to serve as the industry’s voice. According to one projection for the sector published in The Africa Report magazine, revenue growth for the sector in 2013 is set to be 25%, bringing the value of the advertising industry in Ghana to $50m by 2014.

“Ghana has seen a lot of economic movement and the launch of new projects, from new hotels such as the Kempinski to shopping malls. More long term is the development of projects like Hope City. The discovery of oil near Takoradi means that city is also booming. These new projects point to Ghana’s growth as an emerging market and will also open up a large number of new advertising opportunities,” Torgbor Mensah, executive chairman of the Argon Group, which includes DDP Outdoor, told OBG.

OPENING UP: International advertising agencies are seeking out opportunities in Ghana. Traditionally, foreign players have either entered the market by establishing satellite offices or through local partnerships. In February 2013 Italian advertising firm Now Available in Italy started Now Available in Africa, which though launched in Ghana has aspirations to be a continent-wide entity. It hopes to create synergies by having offices in Milan and Accra working jointly on projects. The firm has been asked to take part in advertising pitches with telecoms provider MTN, Tata Motors and the detergent brand So Klin.

BIG SPENDERS: A decade ago, the primary advertising sectors were beverage and cigarette brands, but the emergence of a vibrant telecommunications sector has made mobile-related marketing the largest advertiser by volume in Ghana. The six companies in the telecommunications sector hold roughly 30% by volume of the advertisements that appear on the nation’s most popular radio and television stations.

They are followed closely by banking and financial advertisements and fast-moving consumer goods such as beverages. Some shifts are seasonal: “There is a noticeable surge in advertisements from consumable goods and in particular single-serving beverage market during the months of June, July and August during Ghana’s rainy season,” Mensah told OBG. Real estate and property, as well as government and public service announcements, currently round out the top-five sources of advertisement on Ghana’s most popular TV and radio stations.

English is the official language in Ghana, and is the language of choice in 95% of the nation’s advertisements, though occasionally one of Ghana’s 81 regional languages is used on billboards in rural areas.

REACHING THE AUDIENCE: Both state and private media rely on advertising revenue, with approximately half of the content in the nation’s most-circulated national newspapers coming from advertisements or announcements. Popular broadcasts, such as morning radio programmes or television news shows, are often sponsored by specific advertisers.

However, the waiting time for a particular newspaper page or radio slot with a popular media outlet can take weeks. The advertising boom has dramatically raised rates for advertising space. A full-page advertisement using multiple colours in the Daily Graphic, Ghana’s most-read newspaper, can range from GHS3000-4000 ($1540-2055), while a space on Peace FM for a 10-minute interview can cost GHS3200 ($1645). In the summer of 2012 two of Ghana’s advertising companies, Origin8 and AdSpace, merged in an effort to remain competitive. AdSpace may be a good fit for Origin8; the latter has handled high-profile clients, two of which are worth noting: MTN, the largest telecommunications company in Ghana by market share, and Irish beverage company Guinness. Origin8 had previously been paired with Saatchi, but the international advertiser split with Origin8 in January 2013 with plans to open its own office in Accra. Saatchi operates independently elsewhere on the continent.

Other than specific advertisements around religious holidays, the most sought after calendar space for TV and radio advertisement broadcasters is during important sporting events. Ghana’s famed national football team, nicknamed the “Black Stars”, is at the heart of many advertising and sponsorship deals. In June some of the nation’s largest TV networks formed a consortium to win the rights to broadcast live FIFA matches in Ghana. The consortium included the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and Metro TV. The group had previously formed an alliance to win the rights to broadcast other global sporting events.

Corporate social responsibility is another emerging segment within the industry, and one towards which an increasing number of companies are allocating traditional advertising revenue, albeit on non-traditional outlets. For instance, Vodafone Ghana’s recent “1 like is 1 cedi” Facebook campaign attracted both positive media coverage and helped position the brand as a responsible stakeholder in the local economy.

BILLBOARDS: Billboard placement remains the preferred advertising method for certain sectors of the economy, in particular for telecoms, consumer goods and public awareness campaigns sponsored by the government and non-governmental organisations. Unlike television or radio advertisements, there is no ownership, and unlike newspapers, literacy is rarely an obstacle. The dominant company in the billboard market is DDP Outdoor, which has been in the advertising business since 1973 and has a network of 2000 billboards across the country. As a subsidiary of the Great Argon Group of Companies, DDP Outdoor has affiliate offices in a number of African countries.

Average billboard rates in Ghana range close to GHS25 ($13) per sq metre per month, depending on the location. Advertising rates are relatively standard, though rates of GHS40 ($21) can sometimes be charged for larger signs due to maintenance issues. As such, it is not unheard of for a price of GHS30,000 ($15,420) per month to rent a billboard along a busy cross-country highway or motor interchange in the Greater Accra area. A number of unlicensed billboard companies exist at present as well. In 2013 the municipality of Kumasi issued warnings about billboards being constructed in areas of the city, which had previously been set aside for non-commercial purposes.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Having reached the recent figure of 100% mobile phone penetration, according to local media, many Ghanaians are now embracing data plans and accessing the internet through their phones.

This has resulted in increased opportunities for the development of social media as a powerful source of advertising revenue in Ghana. To date, the primary business sector to realise the potential for social media is, not surprisingly, the telecommunications sector, which maintains a strong presence in this segment. According to media marketing and online statistics company Social Bakers, the most popular brands in Ghana based on their social media presence are Tigo, followed by Vodafone Ghana, Airtel Ghana, MTN and Samsung Mobile. Social Bakers presents a similar ranking for Twitter followers, though since Twitter is far more active, the numbers are more transitory. Still, data from Social Bakers suggest that Vodafone, Airtel and Samsung are also in the top five most followed Twitter accounts in the country.

With 40% of Facebook users in Ghana being 18-24 year olds and disproportionately male, brands focused on this demographic will likely find social media advertising useful. Overall, Ghana’s media have not yet found their online niche, with no local media company in the top 10 on any social media platform, according to Social Bakers, though in terms of web traffic Joy FM and other media giants remain popular.

OUTLOOK: While traditional forms of advertising will continue to be important in future, a number of new marketing channels are expected grow in relevance over the next few years. Specifically, the area with the largest potential is mobile advertising.

Globally, in-app mobile advertising revenue is set to jump from just $2.4bn in 2012 to reach $7.1bn by 2015, according to Juniper Research. With mobile usage growing, new models such as viewing or receiving additional adverts in exchange for airtime could be forthcoming. Overall, Ghana’s rapidly growing economy and the launch of new projects, which range from mines to shopping malls, looks set to offer a host of advertising opportunities in the foreseeable future.


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