Last week, Umuntu Media and 365 Digital announced that they have signed an agreement in which 365 Digital will handle all media sales for Umuntu Media’s online content portals in Africa.
365 Digital’s sales team, Dash of Lime, will be responsible for all media sales for Umuntu i-portals across Africa. Through the partnership, Umuntu will be able to draw on the considerable resources of an established sales base. In turn, 365 Digital can expand its base to the rest of Africa.
Umuntu Media has four live portals and will be launching two more this year.iZimbabwe, iZambia, iNamibia and iBotswana are up and running and gaining traction as the most popular sources of local content in those countries. iAngola and iMozambique are the next two additions, and Umuntu is looking to expand into more African markets by the end of April this year.
TheMediaOnline caught up with Alistair Albers, sales director for Primedia Online, to find out more about how the deal will work. Albers has been working in the digital economy for seven years.
TheMediaOnline: What are the challenges of handling media sales on a continental basis?
Alistair Albers: The primary and most likely traditional challenge is undoubtedly the ability of our teams to have regular and prolonged face time with existing, and new, clients. Of course, differing business and cultural practices to our own are also a concern. However, the nature of digital media sales does, to a large extent, negate these specific concerns, although more likely only with more digital-savvy clients.
Possible clients with more limited digital media exposure present another challenge, not dissimilar to challenges faced in the South African market in its early stages of digital media adoption – with the exception that geographic hindrances add another element of complexity to this process.
TMO: What kind of staff capacity do you have across Africa to handle the needs of Umuntu? Will you be hiring in the African destinations?
AA: At this point in time our sales force is limited to South Africa only. It is unlikely that our relationship will see us hire staff across the continent in the short term. This is primarily because much of the large brand spend being planned and bought into Africa is originating from market entry points such as South Africa, the Middle East and the UK. These are markets our sales force has extensive on-the-ground relationships in.
Until appropriate media budget inflow has been leveraged from these points, any staff expansion across continent would be premature. That said, it is plausible that in the longer term, our partnership with Umuntu and possibly other digital African media partners may see us deem it necessary to establish on-the-ground presence in a continental hub such as East Africa, specifically Kenya.
TMO: What is the big vision of this deal? How do you see it playing out?
AA: Umuntu Media’s great potential is that opens up premium wired inventory across the continent. Although there is extensive search and mobile inventory in Africa, most of the premium wired inventory is limited to offshore channels, implying that the scope for a domestically relevant custom published channel is massive!
In many respects our vision for the partnership is an opportunity to control access to what may develop into one of the largest reservoirs of on-continent published premium wired inventory.
TMO: What kind of content is being produced for these portals and from where is it being sourced?
AA: The channels follow a portal content model in that they house multiple contextual verticals per site, ranging from news and business to lifestyle and entertainment.
That said, the sites have a concentrated focus on the lifestyle/entertainment genre by sheer virtue of the market appetite for this content. Content production is bespoke and a mix of in market origination and curated content from both bespoke and syndicated production sources in South Africa.
TMO: What would be your 10 year goal in this business, the long-term vision?
AA: In partnership with Umuntu Media, our long term vision would be to see the “i-country” brands launched in all major African markets, acting as a network of country specific inventory reservoirs with massive social asset integration.
Conversely, the advertising side of the vision is to see the in country brands develop into among the most sought after digital media channels on continent, allowing for not only massive geo-specific campaigns, but continental campaigns.
The Umuntu brands will be channels of choice for large domestic clients but as importantly will be network wide premium inventory access for large MNCs and global brands aiming to speak to African consumers.
This article first appeared in The Media Online on 17 February 2012.