Tech savvy sangomas advertise spells online
- Published on 25 October 2012
Attracting a lover, eradicating debts, obtaining lucky spells and winning court cases are just some ‘services’ on offer from Dr. Thahai in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Apart from advertising in SA’s biggest newspaper tabloid The Daily Sun or with pamphlets stuck to traffic light poles along Joburg’s streets, Dr. Thahai has told ITWeb Africa he also aggressively promotes his traditional African services online.
Searching on Google for the word ‘sangoma’ - a Zulu term meaning African traditional healer - brings up Dr. Thahia’s sponsored ad on the search engine, and a link to his website.
His mobile phone number is also highly visible on his internet ads.
But Dr. Thahia is certainly not the only African traditional healer that is adopting to 21st century digital marketing.
A quick Google search reveals dozens of other tech savvy traditional healers with ad titles such as ‘ancestral healer for all’, ‘spell casting specialists’ and ‘witchcraft and muti - for love, marriage, divorce, life’.
Regardless of the nature of their business, all these healers form part of a surging online advertising market in South Africa.
Research on the size of the South African advertising market is done every three years. So, in 2009, research firm World Wide Worx estimated that the online advertising market size for that year was R419-million among conventional online media entities.
The growth forecast from World Wide Worx for the following two years was 35% per year, indicating online advertising revenues of R565-million in 2010 and R760-million in 2011.
However, South Africa’s Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) says this figure could be much higher.
“A general consensus in the market is that the conventional online media sites are matched in revenue by Google ads appearing on South African sites,” DMMA officials have said on their website.
“Since Google does not provide regional breakdowns of revenue this remains the best estimate for its contribution to the market, hence an online advertising market worth R1.52-billion in 2011,” the body has added.
ITWeb Africa has phoned four African traditional healers who market themselves using a combination of Google Ads and their own websites.
A snapshot survey has revealed that they all started promoting their offerings online within the last year.
“The main reason I use Google ads is because the site is very specific – because I sell a very specific product and all the people who are looking for that specific product can search for it,” traditional healer Chief Zimbe has told ITWeb Africa.
A Pretoria-based traditional healer, who goes by the name ‘Dr. Imran’, told ITWeb Africa that he prefers advertising on the internet as opposed to traditional media such as print.
“I prefer it over the previous advertising I was using; the online one works for me because I am able to advertise worldwide,” said Dr. Imran.
“It’s cost effective as well compared to newspapers,” he added.
One traditional healer, though, who calls himself Dr. Aziz, is not as happy as Dr. Imran with his online advertising.
“We’ve tried everything; we don’t advertise in one place: I advertise everywhere. We are spending too much; you put money but nothing comes out,” he said.
Yet Dr. Aziz has said there are advantages to online advertising, including that his customers who are far away can email him with their requests.
South African online marketing expert Walter Pike has said that traditional healers advertising on the internet appears to be a “new phenomenon”
But he has added that whether it be traditional healers or high powered business people, more Africans are turning to the internet to promote their services.
“It's a logical move,” Pike told ITWeb Africa.
“As more and more people in Africa get online - whether using desktop but more likely mobile devices - it’s logical that there will be a market searching for this type of service,” he said.
Out of a population of just over 1 billion in Africa, the continent has 167 million internet users, according to Internet World Stats.
Research firm Informa Telecoms & Media further says that by end of 2012, the number of mobile handset internet users could exceed 71 million in Africa.
Pike, though, has said that as the likes of African traditional healers head online to market themselves, they could even win business from the increasingly connected continent and even the global community.
“It seems that some of the ads I saw are directed at an international audience as well,” Pike said.
Ultimately, the act of going online to market one’s offerings is dependent upon how successful it is in raking in business, something that Pike says the online community should watch carefully.
“I would be very interested in learning about their success,” he concluded.