South Africa’s power crisis is impacting digital ad strategies

By our News Team | 2022

Extended electricity blackouts mean that audiences may not be able to access online brand messaging, impacting campaign metrics.

As South African consumers struggle with an increased level of electricity blackouts – known locally as load shedding – digital marketers are being warned that they need to plan accordingly to ensure their audiences are able to access online brand messaging in a time when power isn’t guaranteed.

“Clients with various digital campaigns, across numerous online platforms and with unique marketing objectives, are being negatively affected by load shedding because audiences simply can’t access the Internet,” says Mark-Anthony Goncalves, Paid Media Specialist at ByDesign Communications.

Digital Marketing

Photo by Paul from Pexels

The country has struggled with electricity supply difficulties for more than a decade, but the crisis has escalated recently. In the past week, so-called ‘Stage Six’ power outages have meant household can be without power for six or more hours in a 24-hour cycle.

“The ripple effect of this results in fewer online product and service searches taking place, as [mobile] phones and laptops need to be charged and battery life must be preserved through any means possible,” Goncalves says.

Advertisers pay for a specific message in a particular timeframe

“So, you pay for an advert with a tailored message — to a specific audience, on a specific channel, at a specific time — to drive a marketing objective and the required ROI, in the hope of unlocking further marketing budget. However, your audience was unable to see your advert due to load shedding.”

This is a problem, as marketing campaigns are measured on metrics such as campaign performance, advertising spend, return on advertising spend (ROAS), and return on investment (ROI).

“Their success determines the future budgets and repeated campaigns. The recently implemented load shedding schedule has had a clear negative impact on digital campaign performance across numerous channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Google Advertising,” notes Goncalves.

He emphasises that not all audiences will have access to wi-fi, or enough data to load content during increased levels of load shedding.

Television viewership of ads is also being impacted. In an article published in mid-August on the advertising industry website Mark Lives, Quanita Salie, GM of media agency Meta Media Cape Town, noted that a previous round of heavy load shedding in June-July had seen TV viewership plummet to some of its lowest levels ever.

“During the first two weeks of July, the average weekly minutes was down by an average of -20% compared to the same time last year, with the first week of July being the worst at -34%,” Salie said.