In recent years, local cities and towns have been awash with billboards by the roadsides or on strategically located buildings advertising products and services offered by various companies.
These billboards come in different shapes and sizes, including digital advertising screens and super signs and wraps. They are also supplied by different companies who are, naturally, in competition with each other to get the most strategic of spaces for advertisers and indeed give them better results.
Continental Outdoor Media is one of the players offering the outdoor advertising platform and has since engaged marketer Khwesi Msusa as its first Malawian general manager (GM).
Msusa, a graduate of the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College in Zomba and currently finalising his dissertation for a master’s of science in strategic management from the University of Derby (UK) through the Malawi Institute of Management, has previously worked for Carlsberg Malawi Limited, Chibuku Products Limited and Airtel Malawi Limited in various sales, marketing and distribution senior positions.
Speaking in an interview on his appointment and the place of outdoor advertising—touted as the most public advertising medium available and free to user—on the market, Msusa spoke against corporations which reduce marketing or advertising budgets when the going gets tough economically instead of increasing it to stimulate in market product/service activity.
He said: “Ironically, in most developed countries, consumers are encouraged to spend more during hard times so as to stimulate the economy while in developing countries [such as Malawi], the opposite is true. It is worth mentioning here that consumers like outdoor advertising as it is a proven source of information for new products, store locations and event advertising. Besides, it is free to them.”
In his new capacity, Msusa is heading the Malawi operations of a one-stop advertising service for marketers across South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, from the design and printing of artwork, to the display of outdoor advertising through different outdoor advertising mediums. Continental Outdoor Media operates in 14 countries, namely South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mauritius, Madagascar, Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania and Malawi.
The company’s products range from product networks providing a network of advertising opportunities in different geometrical areas, citilites, digital advertising, innovations (from advertising concept generation to production and flighting), mass reach for specific advertising spaces in densely populated areas, supersigns and wraps such as the one on Kanabar House in Blantyre.
In Malawi, outdoor advertising is said to have a 50 percent market share when placed within the same fold with newspapers, radio, television and flyers as compared to an 80 percent market share in other developing countries.
Why the low penetration in Malawi, so to speak?
Msusa, who is probably the youngest Malawian to head a multi-national company, said in terms of customer or consumer reaction to outdoor advertising, market research conducted here in Malawi showed an overwhelming positive response to the medium, with many consumers confessing to have made their first purchase of products or use of service after seeing it on a billboard.
In terms of the corporate world, Msusa said many organisations “that have real marketing managers of clout” have embraced outdoor advertising as a means of reaching out to their customers/consumers besides the other traditional mediums such as newspapers, radios, televisions and flyers.
Despite its benefits such as re-enforcing the availability of the brand, it re-assures the consumer of the brand choice and provides the retailer with proof of advertising support as well as enhancing brand visibility. Generally, outdoor advertising faces challenges, including the politics of getting site rights in different cities and vandalism of structures and advertising flexies.
However, Msusa says the challenges can easily be overcome if Malawians appreciate the fact that there are times where individual interests supersede public interests; hence, as a people who love their country, it is imperative upon those holding public offices to consider the interests of the public first before considering individual interests for the common good of the country.
Looking into the New Year 2013, Msusa said Continental Outdoor Media intends to offer free advice to companies and corporates seeking to use outdoor advertising as an alternative, but are facing budgetary constraints or lack an understanding of how the medium works.
He said: “I am coming from a very strong marketing background and I understand the boardroom challenges of convincing an operations/technical/finance boss to approve a budget where substantial amounts are allocated to advertising. We plan to build Continental Outdoor Media not only as the biggest advertising agency in Malawi, but also as a brand that will lead the way for marketers to go into outdoor advertising fully aware that with its size, outdoor advertising compels attention and stimulates recall and is ideal for penetrating competitive strongholds.”