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In many ways Ethiopia fails to value creativity and the advertising industry is one salient example.
Addis Ababa is filled with advertisements on billboards, and many of them are as boring as they get. They usually just plaster a picture of their product along with their names and that is about it. This doesn’t stoke people’s interest or justify the large amount of money the companies frequently pay.
Rarely do I see an advertisement that is really well done like the billboard for Ethiopian Airlines Cargo which shows a lioness carefully carrying her cub in her mouth with a headline reading ‘Cargo with care’. I really liked this advertisement for three reasons; the lion is a symbol used to define Ethiopia culturally, it shows the strength of Ethiopian Airlines as an institution and it demonstrates the care and professionalism that goes into their work. That is an ad that has met its goal.
The same problem is seen in any form of advertizing; TV and radio.
I once heard a radio ad for a furniture company, a woman is explaining how happy she is with her brand new furniture and saying in excitement, “look how beautiful my house is!” Think of how silly this sounds, a visual appeal in a radio ad.
There is a perception that Vladimir Lenin (one of the father’s of Communism) actually invented marketing when he sold Communism to the Russians in 1918. Lenin pitched the concept of the ideology, developed bold colors, a simple straightforward logo. He plastered posters all over the place and then sold the entire Russian populace on the idea.
Obviously it took more than marketing to sell Communism to the Russians. But marketing can be that powerful and it has a huge impact on people’s lives. I dare say it is capable of brain washing.
Social networking has become a huge marketing tool and sites like facebook have become a popular way to promote almost anything. If used effectively, it really is a powerful medium.
Facebook currently has 1.4 billion users worldwide. Around the globe 700 billion minutes are spent on facebook each month, according to statistics. The average time a person spends on facebook is 15 hours every month. If these numbers are not interesting enough, an average of 70 billion pieces of information are sent each month. Research from 2013, indicates that there are over 51 million facebook users in Africa and well over 800,000 in Ethiopia. Here I am just talking about facebook but keep in mind the other sites such as twitter and youtube and in other parts of the world many new ones are gaining popularity.
These platforms present a very big opportunity for marketers. In fact they have the potential to be one of the most useful and cost effective marketing tools. However, as usual, here in Ethiopia, the social network craze is yet to be exploited.
Some might argue that spending a lot of time and money on marketing, especially when it comes to consumer goods, is only effective in an environment where there is abundance of choices. They also say that people need to be in a position where they have the luxury of choosing between two products, with out financial constraints.
But I believe people always make choices, even though the choices available may be limited. Either way, there is almost always an opportunity waiting to be tapped in people’s abilities to make these choices. All it needs is time, effort and a whole lot of creativity.