Google is coming to a local billboard near you. The implication of this might be dire for African advertising businesses.
From indications, it appears that Google is set to enter the out-of-home industry globally.
It will be doing this by leveraging Africa’s web browsing data, pairing this data to display advertisements across African public billboards.
It has over the years been testing programmatic ad technology (in which exchange algorithms bid against each other to secure digital space based on the target audience) for billboards.
With this market push, there would be a digital disruption to local OOH businesses in different parts of Africa and the world. African OOH businesses may be mopped up.
Google will either mop up small players or take a frontal, head-on attack on OOH businesses or even both.
The pie becomes shrunken for local businesses. There has been a large shift in technology but the necessary adjustments- strategy to capitalize on it are not being made.
Recall that Netflix dedicated resources to build a streaming service — even before household internet services had sufficient bandwidth to support it!
An alignment with telecoms players and data aggregators looks like a fine response to this attack to OOH businesses.
This brings to full relief the urgency for African businesses to develop a methodical approach to gathering and sharing climacteric information.
There calls for a need to build organisations that can anticipate change. If we are to survive the onslaught of the digital platform wars, we need to tap into a wide range of sources for information.
Information such as old and new customers, internal R&D staff, frontline employees, suppliers, our diverse stakeholders’ pool, university labs, boards of directors and advisers, media, and current and projected competitors.
More so, there calls for a need to keep making changes to our business models. And where necessary we need to develop proprietary technology infrastructure.
This will enable an unparalleled scale advantage over competing digital platforms. African OOH business would need to leverage IT architecture in order to create a highly profitable business.
They may need to make business alliances or consolidate their diverse players to respond to the Google threat and even attract the right capital to fend of this new emergent threat that may lead to their demise.
Furthermore, attacking digital platforms with new regulations and bizarre rules may slow them but can’t stop them.
African OOH businesses would need to copy these digital platform companies’ strategies and innovate to beat them at their game.
Data will be strategic and harnessing it would determine if African OOH businesses would thrive.
African OOH industry should develop visible processes and incentive schemes that encourage collaboration and interaction.
Most critically, it is clear that technological change is the chief engine of economic progress.
We need stress that without investment in R&D Africa and its businesses will remain vulnerable to what economists call exogenous shocks — unforeseen or random events.
As a people, we have to move our society from one that relies on trade and mobility to sustain its wealth.
This is because technology must form the fulcrum of our approach to our economy, business and societal development.
While wars and natural catastrophes can disrupt markets, commercial life, and the global economy, they seldom cause much corrosion of the knowledge base that has made advanced economy prosperous and productive like never in the history of mankind.
In all, the need for African OOH and industries to invest in technology cannot be overstressed.
As Africans, relying on markets, trade and mobility are insufficient to lead us into the future.
We must deliberately lead local R&D campaigns to compete and survive the digital platform onslaught.
This approach can pull us out of poverty and barbarism. Although building or investing in a knowledge economy can help Africa navigate disruptive/transitory shocks from digital platform companies like Google.
I belief its impact will be the entrenching of the belief that science is capable of a brilliant response to African challenges.
About the Author
Caeser keluro works with Nanocemtric Technologies
Featured Image: businessday.ng
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