JOHANNESBURG: Marketers need to adjust from the common view that most South African online users are young and rich, as a recent survey has suggested that internet use is significantly more widespread and internet advertising is failing to reach these consumers. 

A report for the Digital Media and Marketing Agency (DMMA), entitled South Africa's Digital Nation, drew on a panel survey of 1,034 people and a survey taken by 2,263 users of DMMA-affiliated websites. It found that 91% of respondents claimed to go online every day and that most internet users were from the "working middle class".

Elna Smit of Columinate, a specialist online research group, had not expected the age profile that emerged.

"Most people think that it's mainly young people online," she told The Media Online, but "11% were older than 50 and the majority (60%) were 25 to 49."

She also stated that is was not necessarily a youth market. "You are accessing South Africans who work, who have disposable income," she said. "It's targeting the right people for advertising."

She went on to point out that marketers should not be asking the simple question of how many people they could reach online but rather what percentage of the people who spend money on their brand are they reaching.

As the survey found online consumers to be highly responsive to advertising – 69% searched for further information on the products they saw advertised – there are opportunities for marketers.

"There's a major disconnect between the time these consumers spend digitally connected and the amount of money being spent on digital advertising," said Gustav Goosen, DMMA head of research.

"This affords marketers a fantastic opportunity to reach these consumers while the environment is still relatively under-traded," he concluded.

Smit had a practical piece of advice for advertisers. Since most South Africans access the internet at work, she advised against using noisy, distracting video and instead opting for graphical ads with images and animation.

Data sourced from The Media Online; additional content by Warc staff