Lessons Learned in Kenya’s Dynamic Media Landscape

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For people passionate about the media and advertising industry, Kenya presents an exciting landscape. Its astronomical growth promises much potential, but its challenges also force us to think of new strategies.

Among all these changes, one thing is certain: The audience is evolving. As a person who has worked in various fields from music production to advertising strategy, I have learned much about Kenya and its media landscape.


The Beginning of My Career

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by music and the recording arts. In my early years, I pursued music production. On a local scale, I actually made quite a name for myself, but at the time it was not a sustainable career.

The big bucks were in advertising. I eventually started by doing radio commercials. After two years, I was keen to know what happened on the other side of the station.  This led me into radio, where I started as an inhouse producer at Royal Media, a struggling media at the time.

Due to limited human resources at Royal Media, one had to serve in different roles and capacities. Thus I began getting exposure to creative writing, media programming, and strategy.

In terms of writing, I copywrite radio commercials. The challenges with writing strategy is when you might have to rely on gut instinct rather than hard science.

That’s why I admire the Well Told Story (WTS) approach to strategy development. The challenge is when a well thought out strategy does not resonate with the audience nor deliver the desired outcome. The secret is to keep focused on the consumer and not necessarily the client’s objective, which may be founded on a fallacy.

As I also have a background in music production, I develop commercial jingles, both original and incidental music for short to medium form content. I have made jingles for clients including Safaricom, Shinda Smart, Citizen TV, political candidates, and others.

I do a lot of Safaricom radio commercials, the music and audio post production for “the XYZ show” and “Ogas At the Top”, both of which are political satire shows. I derive great pleasure in hearing and seeing my work in public and having people connect with them.

The XYZ Show

The XYZ Show

Well Told Story

I had a long running relationship with Well Told Story (WTS), an Emmy Award winning social communications design, production and consulting house, based in Kenya. There, we consulted each other on various challenges in the media industry.

I was first introduced to WTS by the Chairman of Buni Media, Godfrey Mwapembwa. WTS needed some advice on their radio projects, so we kept in touch. This led to us realizing that if I joined on a permanent basis, we could achieve more and bring greater impact to our audiences.

Managing my time is a constant juggle. I definitely have not perfected it. But I ensure I deal with the most important issues and do continuous catch-ups with all my stakeholders. Also, the internet has changed a lot, so physically I am able to dedicate my entire day to WTS, then work with other partners during the evenings or weekends


Our Goals at Well Told Story

At Well Told Story, we have an amazing team of young, energetic, smart people. Together, we combine the power of good stories with strategy, creativity, deep analysis and hard science, to design and produce communications that spur positive social changes that can be proved and measured. For a big part of my career, I created and designed content to grow audience for commercial exploitation.

Currently, we are reformatting our radio show and working on launching a countrywide Shujaaz festival across colleges and universities. It is organised by Shujaaz FM which is a very strong youth brand, which engages its audience daily on broadcast media, supported by printed comics and energised by active social marketing.We want to connect with our audience, co-create content with them, and ultimately curate conversations that matter to them.

For the first time, am creating content that is truly changing lives for the better. I am chuffed!



Growing Along with Kenya’s Changing Media Climate

In Kenya, change has been dramatic, to say the least. We grew from ten radios, three newspapers, and three TV stations to over 150 Radios, 20 newspapers, and 20 TV stations and an emerging social media landscape in just 10 to 12  years.

The audience are spoiled in terms of content choices. But the biggest change was how the audience have taken the power back. They want everything on demand, and can now speak directly and influence the content producers. In today’s media world, we have to think of the audience first, not sponsors or bosses.

WTS builds everything from audience up. It is perfectly aligned for the new discerning youth, who will only consume media that is relevant and empowers their lifestyle. WTS is in tune with their fears and motivations. Most importantly, we do not talk down to our audience.


East Africa’s Homework for its Media Landscape

Such astronomical growth and audience maturity does not mean that it’s all good progress. For the media landscape to truly advance to a global scale, much still needs to be done.

Due to the sheer amount of talent, East Africa requires direct stimuli to grow further. This could be achieved by hardware tax reduction and more legislation compelling broadcasters to dedicate a budget to local production.

The bigger challenge is the cost of softwares and other tools necessary for content development and production. Indeed, rates have dropped, but they are still prohibitive.

The current broadcasters also need to stop making content in-house. This is retrogressive. You can’t sit at every junction of the production and value chain. Something is bound to fail with that much inbreeding.

The busier we get, the more offshoot industries develop. More people will set up facilities, and more people will open up schools and specialized institutions. Gradually, the content space will grow and improve.


Some Interesting Kenyan Campaigns to check out

There are many interesting campaigns, but these have left an impression on my campaign approach forever.


Shinda Smart 6969. This was a game show that revolutionized how lotteries are carried out in Kenya.


Coca-Cola’s “Wahi/kuwahi” campaign. This was electric. It was a crown based promo where you had to get matching crowns to win goodies.