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Botswana has a small but solid and developing advertising and marketing industry. In 2009 the African Media Barometer stated that whilst the advertising market was large enough to support the urban-English press, it struggled to maintain a real diversity of media outlets. In 2008 total advertising spend was worth BwP 300 million.
The industry is dominated by multi-national firms. The local subsidiary of the global Saatchi and Saatchi brand, Dialogue Saatchi and Saatchi, is the largest integrated advertising, marketing and communications firm in the country. Other major players in the sector include the pan-African Alliance Media, the global advertising agency McCann Erickson, Horizon Ogilvy – a branch of the global Ogilvy and Mather – and the South African-based Primedia Outdoor. The marketing business is led by RMC Marketing and the global marketing firm Y & R.
There are also numerous local advertising firms, largely based in Gabarone, including Mudhut Sound Studios, Central Advertisers and CBS Advertising, which offers integrated advertising, marketing and PR services.
The industry is represented by the Botswana Association of Accredited Practitioners in Advertising, which was founded in 1998 in order to promote ethical standards amongst advertisers and protect their interests. Members are expected to adhere to its rules and regulations, and must have been operating for a minimum of two years in Botswana or five consecutive years if entering from another country.
The public relations industry in the country is growing, led by the largest firm – Hotwire Public Relations Consultancy. Businesses are increasingly outsourcing to specialised public relations firms. Other firms include the integrated advertising and marketing firm RedPepper PR and Communications Consultancy. The expansion of the industry was reflected in the introduction of public relations officers to government departments in 2009.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (2012-13) placed Botswana 118th out of 144 countries in terms of the extent of marketing, with a score of 3.3 out of 7, below the mean of 4.1. This suggests that companies are less likely than average to extensively utilise sophisticated marketing tools and techniques. This was reflected in the country’s ranking in relation to buyer sophistication, coming 119th with a score of 2.8 out of 7, compared to a mean of 3.5. This indicates that buyers are more likely to make purchasing decisions based on lowest price rather than on a sophisticated analysis of performance attributes.
Both the state and private media rely on advertising revenues for sustenance, although state sources often undercut private media. The government retains its position as the largest advertiser in the country and the greatest share of its advertising goes to the state-owned Daily News. There has been some controversy over the government restricting buying advertisements in private newspapers considered too critical of the government.
Radio advertising is a popular form, and can include commercials, outside advertising and advertising on the station’s websites. SMS advertising on mobile phones is increasingly taking off as a popular form.
Billboard and banner advertising remains the advertising media of choice for many businesses and a significant part of political campaigns.