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 start  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.

Previous post

Facebook Usernames? What's all the fuss about?

Next post

Swahili Facebook launched.


  1. edward okul
    June 18, 2009 at 7:02 am — Reply

    I ve rrad your article on “Internet marketing will disruptively re-invent the Kenyan Ad Agency (Part One).” and it is insightful.
    and your observations are dead right.
    Question? what,s your take on the role and effectiveness of BTL- below the line marketing with the emargance of internet marketing?
    Edward Okul

  2. June 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm — Reply

    Edward. Thanks for the comment and certainly a good question! What I can say is that internet marketing is a form of direct or below the line the marketing. So, i’d say, combine the medium’s to create a synergistic outcome across the board. The medias need to work together for maximum impact. Look out for part 2 of this post next week. It will offer more insights!

  3. June 19, 2009 at 5:15 am — Reply

    Moses, Great post. I have been talking a little bit about the growth of internet penetration in Africa. Governments and corporations will have to further engage and actually move a good amount of their processes and service distribution online for our web activities to become relevant. Otherwise, web in Africa will grow but generally access foreign sites that might not become relevant to the development of internet ventures in Africa. The post is here – http://pamojamedia.com/blog/2009/06/scaling-internet-growth-in-africa/

  4. […] In the first part of this post, I was basically trying to describe what I see as the current status quo that the typical Kenyan Ad Agency is in the context of Internet Marketing. Basically, its not a pretty picture, but not totally bleak. Going forward, the way I see it, the Kenyan Ad Agency can follow any of the three routes below, each with its pros and cons: […]

  5. […] This article seems to mirror alot of what I had to say in my recent two part posting on how Internet marketing is set to disruptively re-invent the Kenyan Ad Agency. Its good to read see I am not the only one who thinks that there are some serious changes required […]

  6. July 3, 2009 at 12:19 pm — Reply

    This is an interesting article, but don`t forget all the time-line of the infrastructure of the internet cables and stuff.

  7. July 5, 2009 at 2:45 pm — Reply

    Your blog is so informative ? keep up the good work!!!!

  8. July 14, 2009 at 4:27 am — Reply

    This topic is something that is very widely discussed here too. PR and ad agencies getting into internet marketing is definitely a global hot topic. Thanks for the post and I look forward to reading more. Keep up the good work!

  9. November 13, 2009 at 8:25 am — Reply

    Came across your post as I was looking for press release related info. Very nice post. Hope to learn more from you.

  10. February 9, 2010 at 12:19 pm — Reply

    The penetration of Internet in Africa is quite limited compared to the rest of the world. Measurable parameters such as the number of ISP-registered users, overall number of hosts, IXP-traffic, and overall available bandwidth all indicate that Africa is way behind the “digital divide”.

  11. Murugi
    February 9, 2010 at 11:25 pm — Reply

    Mr Kemibaro
    your blog is amazingly informative. do you have any data or research content on internet/new media use in the public relations sector?
    I am conducting some research on the same. Your assistance is highly appreciated.

    • February 10, 2010 at 1:29 am — Reply

      Murugi. Thanks for the positive feedback. Unfortunately I do not have any real data in the PR sector. However, I’d suggest you contact firms individually to find out exactly what their strategies and tactics are. I can tell you though that several PR firms have reached out to me to do reports and posts on this blog for them so they do certainly recognize the value of internet PR and social media in general.

  12. […] it happened, exactly, but digital marketing is suddenly hot in Kenya. It was not too long ago that I did a two part article here on this blog complaining about how local Ad Agencies did not “get” digital marketing […]

  13. September 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm — Reply

    All Kenyan businesses must engage in internet marketing to survive the 21st century.
    Thanks Moses.

  14. June 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm — Reply

    Hi! You are have said it all. Agencies will soon come to an end or simply be faced out despite the fact that many companies if not all believe blindly in them without thinking of online marketing gurus like you. Good work!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.