I want to become an advertising entrepreneur. How do I start a...

I want to become an advertising entrepreneur. How do I start a business in the advertising, branding and design sector?


Advertising Overview

What is advertising?

Advertising is bringing a product (or service) to the attention of potential and current customers. What is the best way to advertise in a saturated market?

How do I start an advertising agency?

To start out in this competitive industry you need to know it well so do your research and go into the industry with confidence. Be prepared to be innovative and work at a fast pace most of the time.

Showing clients that you know what you are doing and that you are able to take their branding and advertising needs into your own hands is key. Broadening your knowledge is never a bad start. There are so many resources to consult for further insight into the world of advertising.

You will find a number of great books at all leading book stores and taking a short course in advertising and media is another worthwhile option if you have the time. Take a look at the part time courses offered by Vega or Damelin.

Making the difference

You will need to decide whether you are going to specialise in a specific type of advertising or cater to a certain market before going any further. There are so many options to choose from when it comes to client brand delivery so take the time to decide which direction you would like to take.

If you are looking to cater to a specific market then ensure that you are specialising in an advertising medium that fits in with their needs and also their budgets. For instance you wouldn’t try and sell a large radio campaign to a small store down the road.

Advertising Terms

Above and Below the line advertising

What is the difference between above the line and below the line advertising? Below the line advertising methods are the techniques that tend to deal with direct communication such as email marketing while above the line methods promote brands to the masses such as television and billboards.

Once you have chosen your area of expertise, take the time to get to know the advertising medium and also what type of clients you will be appealing to. You will find that the needs of clients and their approach to advertising will differ greatly.

Many larger brands are more concerned with whether you understand their brand and where they are looking to take it while a smaller company might want to be more involved in the process. It might be a better idea to not cater to, too broad a market because you may be spreading out your focus and in the end not delivering as effectively as you could.

It is always advisable to start with one product until you manage to build up a sound client base as well as experience.

Building your Team & Offices

Hiring Help

As with many new businesses, you won’t always be able to hire too many staff members at once. Taking on a lot of the responsibility yourself is a reality and only once you start to see the company becoming busier can you then start building up your team.

By this time you will also know what kind of people you want in your company. If need be you also have the option of rather hiring a freelance employee instead of a full time person as this will allow you to better control your expenses.

Where to find the equipment and information to start an advertising agency

The best way to make an informed decision is to research the sector of interest. Start by contacting various associations that specialise in the industry of interest. Through their recommendations you will be able to find equipment suppliers.

Advertising Contacts

Advertising Media Association

The following associations fall under the Advertising Media Association (AMA) umbrella. Simply click on ww.amasa.org.za to source any of these associations:

  • Association for Communication and Advertising
  • Association of Collective Investments (ACI)
  • Cinemark (Pty) Ltd
  • Cosmetic Toiletry & Fragrance Association of South Africa
  • Franchise Association of Southern Africa
  • Furniture Traders’ Association of South Africa
  • Health Products Association of Southern Africa
  • Hospital Association of South Africa
  • Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use
  • Information Technology Association
  • Marketing Federation of Southern Africa
  • National Association of Broadcasters of South Africa
  • Outdoor Advertising Association of South Africa
  • Pet Food Institute of Southern Africa
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association of South Africa
  • Print Media SA
  • Printing Industries Federation of South Africa
  • Retail Motor Industry Organisation
  • Sales Promotion and Design Association
  • Self-Medication Manufacturers’ Association of South Africa
  • South African Optometric Association
  • Timeshare Institute of Southern Africa.


For more information on this industry you can take a look at what some of the other advertising companies are currently offering you can visit the Bizcommunity website and take a look through their business directory or you could visit the websites of a few industry resources:

  • Association of Communication and Advertising
  • Advertising Media Association of SA
  • Advertising Media Forum

Digital Advertising

Where do I begin when starting a digital advertising business?

Digital signage is a type of electronic display that shows electronic text information, images, animation, video with sound and messages. It can be a LCD or plasma screen, LED boards or projection screens. A computer with the help of electronic display software controls the content that appears on the screen.

Digital provides huge exposure

The aim of an indoor digital advertising business is to guarantee clients get lots of exposure for their products. If an ad is shown once every 45 minutes at six sites in a 12-hour day, the client is guaranteed their ad will be shown at least 96 times, depending on the operating hours of the business. That is a lot of exposure.

Good locations

One of the advantages of this type of advertising is that good locations are easy to source and there is a great deal of scope. Common venue choices are airports, stations, hospitals, restaurants, bars, sports complexes and arenas.

Equipment needs

The equipment that is required depends on the location or venue. Suppliers of LCD and plasma screens provide technical advice as well as all the extra bits and pieces you need to install and run the screens, such as cables, amps, speakers and so on.

Don’t mix up LCD and Plasma Screens. Outward appearances are definitely deceiving when it comes to LCD and Plasma screens. Although both types are flat and thin, they use different technology in an attempt to deliver the same result.

What is Plasma?

Plasma television technology is based loosely on the fluorescent light bulb. The display itself consists of cells. Within each cell, two glass panels are separated by a narrow gap in which neon-xenon gas is injected and sealed in plasma during the manufacturing process. Drawbacks include heat generation and screen-burn of static images.


LCD panels are made of two layers of transparent material, which are polarised, and are stuck together. One of the layers is coated with a special polymer that holds the individual liquid crystals. Current is passed through individual crystals, which allow the crystals to pass or block light to create images.

LCD or plasma?

“LCD screens are more reliable for long use. If you are running ads 24/7, LCD would probably be the best solution,” advises Screencom LCD specialist, Leonie De Vrye. Screencom is one of South Africa’s local distributors of LCD and Plasma Screens.

You can rent or buy screens

“Screens come in different sizes, 32, 40, 46, 50 or 65 inch screens. The most popular is the 40-inch screen. You can buy or rent. Rental costs about R800 per day including installation and cables for a 40-inch screen. To buy the same size screen would cost around R11 000 and installation and cables are quoted separately. As we are a visual communication solutions company, we provide technical assistance, amplifiers, mounting and control systems for both platforms,” explains De Vrye.

The Business Plan

When you prepare the business plan, calculate your costs carefully as you will have to pay the venue to use their space to install the LCD or Plasma Screen from which you are earning revenue.

Do as much research as you can

In your research, you need to speak to companies who develop their own digital signage software as they will be able to provide you with valuable information; you can also search the local sites of Sound Idea, Central Point Communications and Sign Africa.com for more information.

  • Sound Idea
  • Central Point Communications
  • Sign Africa.com

Manage your own digital signage

Create and manage your own compelling digital signage within the Microsoft PowerPoint® interface in a matter of minutes. Helius Media, a US based online portal helps you to create digital signage and rich-media presentations across a network of customer-facing digital signage screens.

Insurance is often forgotten

As these screens are located in public places they can easily be damaged or even stolen. Make sure you consult with a business insurance broker and arrange adequate cover.


The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is the regulator for the South African communications, broadcasting and postal services sector. ICASA will be able to give you more information regarding broadcasting rights.

Permission is only required if you are using the screens for live feeds, such as a sports match. If you are purely running advertisements permission from ICASA is not required. It is recommended you join the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). As a member, you are required to adhere to a code.

Your membership will provide credibility, which is a strong tool in this industry. The Code of Advertising Practice is the guiding document of ASA and is based on the International Code of Advertising Practice.

Top Tips

What is the best way to deliver content to screens?

The benefit of digital signage over static signs is that the content can be changed quickly and easily. Signs can adapt to the context and audience. To deliver content to indoor digital screens requires a strong, robust content management system.

Choice depends on location and client

The distribution technology and platform infrastructure transmits the digital video and audio from the server to the appropriate screen. It is important to remember that the distribution technology is a significant part of the project budget.

That’s why choosing the correct distribution technology is vital. The decision in choosing internet access depends on the location, signal strength and the client’s needs. Because ads are usually large files, having a fast network and a fast Internet connection as well as plenty of storage space on servers is critical.

Speak to other operators

Talk to companies that are currently operating in this industry and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of wireless vs. broadband with them. There are many companies and consultants that you can contact. It is best that you do your own research, as you know the details of your business plan better than anyone does.

Contact the Advertising Media Association who will be able to give you specific information. Go to www.amasa.org.za