Previous slide
Next slide
Previous slide
Next slide

Teaching old dogs new tricks


Chris Botha

Group Managing Director

Park Advertising

Chris Botha

Chris Botha

25 March . 3 min read . Opinion

(Credit: JB MEdia)

The Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) medium in South Africa is a category that is growing rapidly. The hyperlocality and rapidly adaptable nature of this medium means that agencies and clients have a “shiny new toy” to play with in the OOH space. And it is not just in South Africa but globally. Following a challenging couple of years during the pandemic, DOOH advertising is back on track and projected to generate an astonishing $14 billion globally in 2024. With more digital inventory than ever before, many sites are now selling out all their slots, and the “tills are ringing”. So things are going well for OOH media owners, thanks to this newfound windfall.

But for how long? At some point, the curve will flatten. And what then? Most media owners are going all in with capital investments in Digital OOH. They are investing in getting the latest tech and ensuring that there is a regular power supply to all the boards in a world where a consistent power supply is not guaranteed. So we see media owners investing hundreds of millions of rands in the latest infrastructure, screens, and generators—but how much are they investing in themselves? The people. The human beings behind the screens.

DOOH is in a very interesting and exciting place. I do believe that it has the potential to truly grow and compete in exciting ways with platforms like digital and television. But if the salesman and media owner behind the screen are still old school “billboard cowboys”, you won’t ever truly unearth your full potential.

I would argue that the biggest investment (after infrastructure) for most OOH companies needs to be in people and data. With the decline in television ratings, print circulations, and click-through rates, DOOH is ideally poised to steal share from these giants. But how many of today’s sales reps can truly make a case to a television media planner that they can offer more competitive Cost Per Views on their platform? Now is the time for DOOH salespeople to actively start targeting other platforms like television and print.

But so much of their efforts are still focused on moving money away from DOOH Media owner 1 to DOOH Media owner 2. They are not fighting to grow the pie but fighting for their slice of it. It is a missed opportunity. I really think there is merit in DOOH strengthening their value and proposition to start giving the likes of Google, Facebook, and the major broadcasters a bloody nose—but they need skilled people to do this. Bonny the Billboard Rep, who sold static sites for 20 years based on location, location, location, needs to be revitalized and re-engineered to sit with digital strategists in agencies and move money from YouTube to DOOH.

I don’t think this is happening. The change needs to happen across the entire ecosystem. When choosing a good site, do the teams consider what data they could gather from consumers passing by? Are the managers thinking of how they could enrich campaign performance through investing in third-party data? I am not saying no—but I certainly have not seen this at all.

So my encouragement to DOOH media owners: Go out there and firmly grasp what is happening in the digital media world. Invite some folks from Google to your office and talk to them about how you can collaborate. Employ some people who have never worked in OOH and see what new, fresh perspectives they might bring to your business.

Digital OOH is more akin to television and digital than it is to classic OOH. Therefore, start acting like broadcasters and digital platforms. That will ensure that the tills keep ringing for many more years to come.

As the landscape of advertising continues to evolve, embracing innovation and adaptability becomes paramount for sustained success in the digital OOH industry. Collaboration and knowledge exchange with tech giants like Google can offer invaluable insights into consumer behaviour and advertising trends. Moreover, fostering diversity within OOH teams by bringing in individuals from diverse backgrounds and skill sets can inject fresh perspectives and fuel creativity. By embracing a forward-thinking approach and investing in both technology and talent, digital OOH media owners can solidify their position as key players in the ever-changing media landscape, ensuring continued growth and relevance in the years ahead.

Chris Botha is the Group Managing Director of Park Advertising – the owner of two of South Africa’s most prominent media agencies – The MediaShop and Meta Media.

A Bloemfontein boy by birth, Chris started his life in media when he was a student at the University of the Free State. He ran the local campus radio station (RSFM) and was the proud presenter of the sport show.

 Chris joined The MediaShop in January 2000. He grew his media knowledge working on brands such as Nando’s, MINI, Virgin Mobile, Absa, and Shoprite Checkers.

 Chris was appointed to The MediaShop management team in 2006, and to the Board of Directors in 2008. In January 2011, was made Group MD of the entire MediaShop operation.

 Under his guidance The MediaShop has shown massive growth in billing, and initiated various industry first initiatives that has set the agency apart from its competition. In 2018 the group launched a new media agency called Meta Media and housed it under the Park Advertising holding company. The group further launched a large number of new services including a data hub, to a full digital capability, Outdoor production, as well as an Integrated Marketing services offering.

 He considers himself an “alternative thinker” and believes in doing things differently. This was recognised in 2010, when he was chosen as the Media Innovator of the Year. In 2011 he was a judge at the Cannes Festival of Creativity, and in 2012, he was selected to be a judge at the International Festival of Media in Montreux.

 In 2013 he was chosen as one of the 200 Young South Africans to look out for by Mail and Guardian, and also as one of the Top 40 under 40 in The Media. He was chosen as the “Media Rising Star” by the media owners of South Africa at the MOST Awards in 2013, and received the Shepherd Award at the MOST Awards in 2022.

 In 2014 he was the recipient of the “Cum Laude award for business achievement” from the University of the Free State. Chris is a member of the board of the Advertising Media Forum (AMF) and served as Chairperson of the Board of the ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation).

 His personal allegiance lies with the two loves in his life. His family (wife Julie and kids Adam and Lauren), and the Free State Cheetahs rugby side.