Internet marketing will disruptively re-invent the Kenyan Ad Agency (Part One).
I have been professionally engaged in building, managing and marketing web solutions for over a decade so I can say with some authority that Kenya’s Ad Agencies are about to get a serious reality check as a result of the growing importance of Internet marketing. Why do I say this? Because for the better part of the last decade, the Ad Agencies have almost unanimously ignored Internet marketing as a key ingredient for developing comprehensive and high impact marketing solutions for their clients. Their argument has been that there are simply not enough internet users in Kenya to justify the viability of serious internet marketing investments. Therefore, as has been the case for decades, the Ad Agencies have continued the tried and proven path of selling their high-margin analogue marketing services (i.e. Television, Radio, Print, Outdoor, Indoor, etc) whilst largely ignoring the internet medium – this is about to change, brutally, whether they like it or not.
There are several developments in Kenya’s ICT sector that are set to disruptively re-invent the Kenyan Ad Agency as we know it. The first development is that earlier this year, the Kenya ICT Bill was passed and we now (finally) have the legislative framework to startÂ benefitting from e-commerce as a way of selling Kenyan products and services, globally, via the Internet. The second major development is that of the high speed fibre optic undersea cables that are set to begin operations this month with SEACOM, followed by TEAMS and EASSY in the span of a few more months. The cables are ultimately expected to lower the cost of end-user Internet access by as much as 70% from their current rates. Lastly, there is the reality that Kenya currently has an estimated 3.5 to 4 million internet users, as well as over 16 million mobile subscribers. The current internet and mobile penetration, not to mention that Kenya has one of the highest usage rates for mobile web in Africa all point to fertile ground for internet marketing services.
Now, the big question is if the Internet is about to become super cheap and everyone will now be able to get online, even in rural Kenya, isn’t it only logical for the Kenyan Ad Agency to start offering internet marketing services far more aggressively? At the same time, in spite of the oft used argument that there is not enough local internet content and online services in Kenya (yet), Kenyan’s will still go online anyway, whether its to get on Facebook, download email or pay for subscriptions. Going forward, the big dilemma for Kenyan Ad Agencies is not if, but, when their clients will start demanding (yes, demanding!) internet marketing services. By the way, when I talk about “Internet marketing services” in the context of this post, I am referring to web site development, web site hosting, managed services, email marketing, search engine marketing, display ads, social media marketing (web 2.0), site analytics and mobile marketing, all as a collective.
In many parts of the developed world, Ad Agencies have already seen client ad spend drop by as much as 50% for analogue marketing and the balance re-allocated to internet marketing. This trend is growing as the debilitating effects of the global economic crisis have forced their clients to rethink their marketing efforts as they look for the best value as a result of declining budgets. In Kenya, its a well-known fact that the global economic crisis, as well as the post-election violence have seen marketing budgets dwindle so Ad Agencies need to think hard, really hard, how they can deliver increased value to their clients. Internet marketing services may offer Kenyan Ad Agencies a way out since it delivers the highest return on investment (ROI), is results-driven, trackable and real-time.
In the second part of this post, I will offer several solutions (as well as the pros and cons for each one) that the Kenyan Ad Agency can adopt to remain relevant in what will become a radically transformed marketing landscape through the growing use of the Internet.