Increasing use of the Internet, led primarily by the explosion in the availability of mobile handsets, is being accompanied by a revolution in the use of the worldwide web by marketers looking for targeted, measurable results for their marketing investments.
So says Gidon Alter, Chief of Play at JustPlay, the South African website that invites 'competition-crazy' South Africans to register free and compete for prizes that vary from cars, to lifestyle products, getaways-including a trip around the world for two- to jewelry and electronics.
JustPlay, with its consumer-driven approach, represents a major shift in the evolution of Internet advertising, says Alter. "The difference is active consumer participation. South African consumers can engage with leading brands, whilst corporate participants reap the benefits of niched, measurable advertising spend that engages with the primary prospects interested in their brands.
"The very base of the JustPlay concept is that while building brand awareness and simultaneously conducting consumer research, qualified business leads are generated.
This allows participating companies to directly contact consumers who have already expressed an interest in products or services offered. Cold canvassing, which relies on expensive human resources using purchased lists to phone potential purchasers on a 'hit and miss' basis is totally avoided."
To date, says Alter, at least 365 000 South Africans have voiced their approval of the proactive, competition-based concept by becoming JustPlay members. With about eight million South Africans using the Internet presently, and this number set to increase to 11 million by the end of 2012, the Just Play concept is expected to grow exponentially in-line with projected Internet user statistics.
"The success of the entire approach is built on the premise that South Africans logging on to the site are aware that to qualify for a prize, they are required to complete a short questionnaire provided by the sponsor. Participation is therefore voluntary by consumers and the benefits to competitors and sponsors are immediate, as opportunities are created to initiate one-on-one contact with people interested in a brand.
As such, says Alter, JustPlay has positioned itself as a pioneer in the South African on line marketing space with a concept that sees the initial promise of on line advertising reaching maturity years after it began internationally.
"Static on-line banner advertising that began the process of marketing on the Internet is still popular. This also applies to the 'next-generation' medium of 'pop-ups,' also called Rich Media, which incorporated movement, animations and video amongst other devices to attract user attention. Their ongoing popularity probably stems from the comfort levels these traditional mechanisms represent to marketers who view them as logical extensions of print and billboard campaigns with which they are all familiar," says Alter.
Effectiveness of these campaigns is measured by how many times a banner was shown against how many times users clicked on them. The increasing sophistication of the medium and the emergence of pop-ups, which provided 'click on' opportunities was the beginning of developing on line consumer interaction with brands.
"The level above these, now common globally, is the 'CPL' or cost per lead concept. This charges per actual lead or form filled in when a user has progressed to the advertisers website and engaged with the website. This exciting development, the beginning of performance-based advertising, allows advertisers to measure how many people are actively interested in products.
"Internet publishers have now taken the concept of performance-based advertising further with the introduction of 'CPA, or cost per acquisition campaigns. Further down the sales process, the user only pays when a customer signs on for a service. When viewed retrospectively, all the changes that have occurred within the industry have been focused on supplying relevant information required by users, when they need it as effectively as possible," says Alter.
Weaknesses, however, are perpetuated in the South African online advertising space by advertisers still relying on banners and the increasing use of Facebook to drive consumer awareness. These do not supply value added data on brand acceptance or usage. Instead of these channels, advertisers and marketers should be maximizing the value of their brands and using the equity embedded in a brand's market presence to create consumer interaction.
The offering by Just Play, restricted to South Africa, relies on constant all multi-variant testing to drive engagement on the site and testing of site material to ascertain ongoing consumer interest. This allows visual elements to be tested for their appeal and for changes to take place when required.
"JustPlay is unique in that it has attracted consumers who wish to create an account. Then, by clicking on a prize they wish to compete for, they enter a site where they are asked to answer questionnaires to qualify for entry. A bonus structure, and additional bonus entries for encouraging friends to join up, completes the interactive system. We are therefore able to offer our sponsors a qualified audience. All are South Africans, over the age of 18. They are people who are willing to engage electronically with brands. We are also able to provide demographic information."
"The loading of questionnaires allows sponsors to positively promote educational material regarding the sponsor to qualify the user and opt them into using the sponsors services or products. Responses from the sponsor can then be tailored to meet specific customer interests in these areas. Where we differ and offer measurability is that clients are only charged for a completed transaction-providing significant 'bang for the advertising buck'."
Is JustPlay's formula being recognised for its offerings?
"Well, says Alter, we are currently attracting about 900 new members a day and advertisers are showing more and more interest in our platform. I think that speaks for itself."