CTN has broken new ground by taking outdoor advertising to the next, logical step: 'living billboards' which create jobs, flight the hugely popular CTN Stokvel TV and allow brands to make contact with communities in the heart of townships.
eStokini is a name worth remembering. It means 'gathering place' in many African languages - and that is just what this living, breathing township billboard offers - and more. Indeed, it is a pre-manufactured venue where communities are quite plainly, able to live the brand.
To explain: an eStokini stands proudly along the main thoroughfares of dusty South African townships. Four metres tall, these stylish structures not only display a brand message, but create a minimum of four jobs per unit for the community that they serve as well. Some of the services available include:
* A newsstand carrying daily and weekly newspapers, as well as monthly magazines. Products will include Daily Sun, City Press, Sunday Sun, Bona, etc.
* A kiosk where the owner provides fresh bread, milk and food on the run: tea, coffee, 'walk & talk,' 'smiley' or 'pap en vleis!'
* A community phone, a retail point, as well as promotional and research points.
* And to top it: free viewing of the popular CTN Stokvel TV channel which is customised to this market.
The flexibility of the project is vast. The innovative design allows all these services and more to be offered in a modern and compact unit which is available to clients on a yearly basis for branding, as well as customised for retail sell-through and promotions.
"For 10 years Stokvel TV has been educating and entertaining Stokvel groups, burial societies, church groups and more." Says its CEO and eStokini creator, Vanessa du Plessis: "It was time to take our channel even further - to 'destination' points where viewers are relaxed, at ease and are enjoying their surroundings. eStokini, I believe, offers an intimate viewing point that delivers high absorption levels of the message, and of course group viewing, which is in line with the traditional Stokvel TV approach."
Indeed, it is now possible to create positive associations in a market where many brands have been battling to establish a presence for eons. Now clients can use the full media circle: outdoor branding, print, TV and direct selling - all in one unit. Adding automatic job creation to the list is just magic.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the first eStokini's are rolling out with the participation of the Edcon group, who's Jet Club brand's marketing innovation recently knocked Edgars (from the same stable) off its long held perch, taking pride of place as the top retail brand in the country.
The innovation of the concept was a definite match and the first five Jet Club eStokini units will be rolled out in the Soweto area as early as December this year. Says Jet Club marketing manager, Cameron Burt, "eStokini is a great communication vehicle speaking directly to the Jet Club target market."
In association with the South African Council of Churches (SACC), the project will initially roll out from street edge church properties, and churches will benefit greatly from the revenue and jobs created. CTN Stokvel TV is already the designated communicator for the SACC, who for some time have distributed the tape-based channel which also features SACC projects and news. eStokini units can hence be placed on suitable church properties, of any denomination, anywhere in South Africa. And therein lies more of the magic - the revenue will also help the needy.
Says the SACC's general secretary for the Gauteng region, Rev Gift Morane: "We live in a situation where there are no jobs, and the Church is in a position to create partnerships with business sectors to create that much-needed employment. We see the eStokini project as an opportunity to develop skills and encourage entrepreneurial talent in the townships. As Raymond Ackerman recently said, BEE should not only benefit a few, but should also reach out to the poorer communities, where we can assist and educate those who need it the most. We see the eStokini project as an opportunity to experience and develop their latent ability to do things on their own. We wish the project much luck."
Adds du Plessis: "We have been operational in this market for 10 years, regularly sending camera crews to visit community groups. We have seen the needs developing on both sides of the spectrum: services required by our viewership, as well as the kind of marketing opportunities that are needed for advertisers. eStokini's are a natural outflow of this experience. We decided to design a product that could meet those needs on almost every level.
"Another vital need is user friendly seating areas where the people can access basic services and have a seat at the same time. The horrors of having to stand whilst waiting for a taxi can only be appreciated by those who regularly have to do so. Irritable commuters are not very receptive to advertising messages! As a result, the eStokini units provide seating while they wait for a taxi... and watch your message on TV. What they see on screen they have not seen before, and cannot see at home. Stokvel TV offers fresh programming produced in the marketplace for the market."
The new medium is so flexible that clients can decide where they want their eStokini's to be, how they want to dress their units, and how many units they would like to have working for their brand. In association with a local research group, CTN can accurately identify where the highest density of any desired LSM resides - and target them via the churches in those very areas. It is well known that the churches provide the central core of communal activity.
eStokini will bring brands to the very doorsteps of their chosen target markets - and that is the kind of marketing approach this country needs.