Innovative branded content strategy turns AccessBanking into a radio star

Standard Bank South Africa's AccessBanking offering for the lower income market is fast becoming a radio star on the back of a new integrated marketing strategy that may mark the most effective South African use to date of branded content.

The vehicle is the afternoon 'soap' Iketsetse-Zenzele, broadcast by 11 SABC and community radio stations in six languages. The show's writers weave consumer information on AccessBanking into the storyline of every episode. Branded content has been part of the marketing toolkit for decades, but has recently attracted growing international and local attention as marketers explore executions that move away from advertising as an interruption toward advertising as interaction. Iketsetse-Zenzele may not be a totally new departure, but Standard Bank South Africa believes the use of so many stations and languages at once may make this campaign the most extensive use of radio-based branded content to date. The radio show is already linked to SMS and web-based platforms, mechanisms that help bank strategists assess impact and listener intake of key product messages. The show started in March 2013 and by July 2013 more than 290 000 SMSes had already been received for the show's weekly SMS competition. In addition, the Standard Bank South Africa blog enables Iketsetse-Zenzele fans to download their favourite episodes or episodes they missed. Four-and-a-half months into the series, episode downloads topped the 16 000-mark. Jacqui Carnelley, head of marketing for personal and business banking at Standard Bank South Africa, says: "These response figures are unheard of in this market and clearly shows that our stories resonate with our customers." She says that information on AccessBanking is educational and helpful rather than a hard-sell. The bank sees branded content as a useful tool for reaching a strategically important market segment. A recent Finscope survey indicates that 43% of South African adults are unbanked and 51% of adults have or use informal mechanisms for managing their finances while 19% have or use no financial products or services. Product information inserted into episodes of Iketsetse-Zenzele highlights basic consumer benefits such as how to obtain an AccessLoan or how AccessPoints at spaza shops and retailers can be used to send or draw cash, or pay for groceries and airtime. When it comes to educational drives in particular, fresh approaches are needed to keep the target market engaged and willing to participate.

"While branded content may be a novel concept in South Africa, radio dramas have been around for decades. Listeners enjoy the dramas as they are a great source of entertainment," says Carnelley. "However, a lot of information can also be conveyed in a way that does not detract from a listener's everyday routine.

"In looking for an innovative way to reach our customers, we tried to find platforms and channels that customers were already comfortable engaging with. We have seen a phenomenal response." "Whether listeners are tuned in while travelling, or while busy with household activities, they are listening to information that is conveyed in an easy-to-understand and entertaining way. "Our objective was to use alternative methods to traditional marketing to reach our customers. We found that learning about banking products and services is easier when you tell a story." Research on the target market and relevant messaging and story lines was carried out jointly by the bank, its media company OMD and RadioHeads, the specialist radio marketing agency that conceptualised and produced the shows. Standard Bank South Africa has invested in a range of interventions to support Iketsetse-Zenzele, including Standard Bank TV, radio, social media and the Standard Bank South Africa blog. "This is one component of a much bigger integrated marketing strategy that will unfold across various media in the next month," Ms Carnelly says. If you would like to watch a video of the making of this successful radio drama, go to

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