roadstar-prAs the world effectively shrinks with the advancement of communication, travel and globalisation, marketers the world's new colonists seek new markets in which to expand their empires. The pressure is compounded by the multiplicity of new products and brands finding their way to market with the growth of the traditional industrialised countries and the entry of the new economic engines of India and the Far East. Of course, much has been said about the potential of India and China but what comes next after the marketing herd have stampeded across those emerging territories? Africa, surely the last marketing frontier.    

The dark continent has for so long deterred all but the most determined of companies. What with corruption, famine, HIV Aids, political instability and natural disasters it is understandable that only the brave has safaried into our mysterious Hinterland. But there is change, real change which multinational marketers have come to recognise. Democracy and freedom in South Africa, the great economic engine and springboard to the vast continent.

Communism has waned, loosened its grip on East Africa and become a sentimental nostalgic ideal amongst the young of Africa, drawn as they are by American Hip-Hop culture, brand supremacy and the desire for the rich life. Military dictatorship has ended in Nigeria after 30 years of military rule while the country pumps the world's sixth largest quantity of oil to an insatiable energy hungry world, the 140 million inhabitants should be the beneficiaries.

World banks meet to forgive Africa's debt and design new aid packages compiled to encourage responsible government transparency and the reconstruction of Africa's inadequate infrastructure whilst marketers salivate over the potential of the 500 million consumers that inhabit the 17 million square kilometres of the sub-Saharan continent.

South Africa already leads the commercial colonisation with the infrastructure of such well-known South African brands as Shoprite, Game and Woolworths leading the charge in areas as diverse as Mozambique to Zambia and Nigeria providing the conduit through which the South African product manufacturers will find the passage for their products to these new relatively untapped markets.

Of course, the multinationals follow. The American world companies into Angola, the Cameroon and Nigeria whilst Portuguese and Brazilian companies favour the Portuguese speaking territories of Angola and Mozambique.

As the sales infrastructure develops facilitating product entry, the missing ingredient remains the ability to promote brand recognition and the purpose of the brand. A visual medium is needed that can be easily understood by the illiterate and non-illiterate consumer alike. The medium must be flexible in its ability to be located in the urban environment or a rural setting where vast numbers of the indigenous population still reside. The uncertainty of a continuous electricity supply makes dependence upon electronic media questionable whilst the footprint of other major media types are generally confined to the urban centres.

In such an environment, the Outdoor advertising medium stands proud accounting for an estimated 20-30% of the Adspend of major marketers across the countries of the sub region and one can appreciate why when considering that an illiterate or partially illiterate consumer if exposed to a radio message, a true broadcast medium of Africa the consumer cannot recognise the brand audibly advertised when confronted by the brand on the store shelf unless having been exposed to the brand and an illustration of how it works through a visual medium such as Outdoor, whether on a billboard or on the myriad of taxis that provide the major transport network.

Clear Channel Independent has recognised the opportunities presented by Africa and the need by marketers for a standard format outdoor advertising medium of South African quality that can be bought consistently across the sub-Saharan region. To this end, the company has already established itself in Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania, Mauritius, Namibia, Uganda, Botswana and Malawi with plans for further expansion and enjoys a broader client base than it does in South Africa due to the multinational influence. Most formats offered in South Africa are available form the Africa division with others specifically designed African territories. The company provides a one-stop service for marketers across the whole sub region from the printing to the display of advertising through a single source at its Johannesburg Head Office, or through any of the 12 branch offices.

Barry Sayer