Mitigating Loadshedding in Advertising

Published by Lerato Thebe


30 May 2023


I must apologize because there’s already millions of articles providing a point of view on loadshedding and how it affects media. It is a hot topic right now and considering emerging talk about the potential for a Stage 16. My question is, what happened to stage 9 to 15? What does this even mean?

Well, our learnings from the COVID 19 lockdown point to the significant impact on the commercial standing of media agencies, whilst also providing clues as to the specific areas of impact. These are the ability of media owners to deliver on bought inventory, the evolving shifts in consumer media consumption behaviour, and the migratory media investment decision-making of advertising clients.

Let’s explore these potential effects.

Unpredictable power cuts directly impact the ability of production houses and broadcasters to produce and distribute content as planned. This has a knock-on effect on the whole media value chain, making it a challenge for media owners to adhere to their programming schedules, leading to reduced visibility of advertisers’ content in the times and spaces that they would have preferred. This impact inevitably affects the result when reporting back on reach and frequency of ads aired through these mediums.

With growing penetration of digital platforms driven by greater affordability and access to smart devices and connectivity, viewership has already been rapidly fragmenting. Loadshedding patterns will in turn further polarise and bias viewers and listeners towards platforms that allow them to continue consuming the content they love even in the absence of reliable power or connection. So, if prime time or drive time is regularly the victim of power outages, this will upset the ability to connect with audiences thus depreciating the value of these time bands.

Now advertisers have been forced to make tough decisions about where and how their media investment is placed. Some advertisers are opting to protect their return on investment by shifting spend from traditional media to the seemingly more reliable digital platforms. There are certainly advantages to investing in digital media. These include: The potential reach and flexibility of online platforms; the ability to target specific audiences; and the option to optimize campaigns based on real-time data.

By leveraging digital, advertisers can maintain their visibility and engage with their customers who are actively online even when the power is off. However, while this may be a viable option, digital connectivity is not immune to the impact of loadshedding. It is reported that many mobile signal towers are unable to keep up with the frequent power outages. This ultimately raises the same issues of the ability to deliver on planned and/or bought impressions.

In a consistently unpredictable media landscape impacted by forces that are largely out of the control of agencies, advertisers and audiences, a degree of adaptability and agility is required for brands to successfully communicate. As agencies, we need to constantly re-evaluate our strategies and explore the best channels to deliver on objectives. We must consider alternative platforms that are less dependent on electricity such as print (print is not dead), solar powered OOH billboards, and other static forms such as bus shelters, street poles, transit, and promotional events. These and other tactics can help to mitigate the impact of loadshedding.