For some, travelling through the endless miles of the hot, dusty Karoo is a journey to be gobbled up at speed, leaving a mere trail of dust between departure and arrival as fierce and wind-whipped as the dust devils that dance among the brush.
Photographer and author Louis Botha used to be one such traveler until the Karoo’s great silence and complex simplicity crept into his soul.
“It’s difficult to explain why, although I am convinced it is because photography taught me to ‘look differently’ at things but I started to plan my journeys to include the network of dirt roads that track through the various regions of the Karoo’s vastness,” he says.
Stopping as often as possible on his journeys, Louis Botha began to observe and appreciate from a new perspective: “I discovered a wealth of beauty and diversity I had never connected to before. This process gained momentum, pulling me in, until I realised I had lost my soul to the Karoo and I bought an old Victorian house in the 250 year old Prince Albert.
After a qualification in the field of commerce and several years in the corporate world as an executive, Louis Botha came to realise that Life is short, and Art is long!
“I decided to rearrange my lifestyle completely in order to make more time to express my vision and feelings through using light reflecting off my subjects. It’s only when one becomes part of the Karoo community that one fully appreciates the meaning of the words ‘less is more’!”
Captured by the quality of natural light available, the atmosphere of stillness, exposed human emotions and the character of its ancient landscape, Botha says, “In slowing down my life, my senses were sharpened. I was able to see again, to smell, to hear, to taste and to feel, almost as if for the first time.”
Photography of Voice
“For me photography challenges me to communicate without words, to evoke emotion without saying anything, to tell a story or to present the ordinary in an unordinary way, to make the viewer look again, think again, feel again, appreciate again. I am attracted by discovering the other side of people and things, the treasures waiting to be discovered in seemingly empty relationships and vast open spaces. The challenge is to remove the clutter and the pretention, to reveal what is real.”
Simple Images Big Photo Art
Using an old Hasselblad from the 1950’s Louis Botha’s new knowledge gave rise to his first book ‘SLOW DOWN look again’offering 148 pages of black and white storytelling portraits on film of the people of the Karoo, their ordinary lives and the mystery that will always remain firmly part of Karoo for those who are destined to be just visitors.
His second book ‘Karoo’ is an even deeper look into the wide open spaces, silence and timelessness of this unique and ethereally beautiful landscape.
“Why go to Tuscany or Provence for peace or photographic opportunities when we hold such treasures on our own doorstep. Here, in the Karoo you are offered a chance to discover yourself, to figure out where you stand in relation to your creator, your loved ones and your next of kin. Thinking about who you are, what you stand for, your purpose in life and what it means for others, it also then becomes easier to engage with the environment, to connect with people, with places, with weather conditions and objects in your everyday life.
Adds Louis Botha, “After a while, one’s images start to reflect back at you, the true spirit of the subjects, and of oneself. This experience corresponds with the saying ‘every photograph says something about the subject, and something about the photographer’!”
When shooting, Louis Botha uses digital photography in general. Occasionally, and depending on availability, he may opt for medium format film when doing portraiture or panorama landscapes. His preferred end product is an image that is printed on high quality fine art paper or canvas, to be displayed on a very special wall.
Gallery Showing at De Bergkant Lodge
To meet the many perspectives of the man behind the camera, step into 4-star De Bergkant Lodge at the top of Main Street, Prince Albert where Louis Botha’s framed images adorn the walls.
Says De Bergkant Lodge proprietor Michael Sönnichsen, “We are fascinated how Louis Botha has captured the essence of the region and its people and we are honored to be able to bring this beauty to others in the form of a gallery showing his photographic works.
“Visitors to Prince Albert are welcome to come in from the heat outside and view his selection of works or purchase one of his photographic works, or books. His first book Slow Down Look Again retails for ZAR 490.00, his latest book Karoo retails for ZAR 690.00 or you may purchase both for ZAR 1 000.00.”
Photographic Workshops in Prince Albert
Hoping to share a little of his gift of sight and the beauty of the Karoo with others, Louis Botha offers a four-day photography course in Prince Albert which includes a landscape and a portrait practical workshop and addresses both the visual and technical skills required to capture images with greater impact. It is a very special workshop designed to introduce visitors to the abundance of silence, space, timelessness and beauty of the Karoo and its people.
“It’s not about the camera. If you can see it, feel it, you can capture it,” says Louis Botha. “I am intensely aware of the importance of light and time, for our lives, for the longevity of the earth and everything on it, and for the impact it has on every image captured.
“In friendly Prince Albert, people are warm, humble, rich in knowledge and stories, kind and sincere. Here, there is an abundance of form, texture, structure, colour, contrast, solitude, emotion, space and safety, and an absence of clutter, pretentions, materialism and noise.”
Renamed Prince Albert in 1845 in honour of Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, the 5-star De Bergkant Lodge is the Fabergé egg in which would otherwise just be a dusty Karoo town if it weren’t for this vintage jewel in South Africa’s upmarket establishment crown.
Owned by Swiss couple Renate and Michael Sönke Sönnichsen, its 1858 National Monument building is a hotel firmly ticked on most international visitor’s watch-list, thanks in large part to German travel author Dieter Losskarn’s personal travel book exposés which cover the depth and breadth of the crème-del-a-crème of all which South Africa has to offer.
Today, De Bergkant Lodge’s large luxurious rooms enjoy full capacity; indicating that the original Prince Albert is not the only one to enjoy delicious affairs of the heart at the foot of the majestic Swartberg Mountains.
Find me a Prince
Descend the 27 km Swartberg Pass and the shocking pink and white bougainvillea-lined streets announce your entry into town. On the very first corner on the left, De Bergkant Lodge nestles on lush clipped lawns with sparkling white buildings that comprise its stately setting and the couple’s own heritage home and herb garden, together with 10 luxury guest bedrooms and not one, not two, but three emerald-cool swimming pools, appropriately bedecked with languishing guests of foreign-tongue all enjoying the heat and the gentle afternoon lull.
As much a part of its history, the courtyard is dominated by a flourishing vine tree, its sinuous roots exposed to eons of visiting faces and feet – including that of the Republic’s own past-President de Klerk with his wife Marike – and today followed up by frequent ANC government officials who enjoy this oasis managed to international standards of service and pristine comfort.
There on a love affair of my own, I couldn’t resist a stolen kiss under its mighty boughs which draped grandly above in lieu of my own African-style mistletoe; and surely more lucky than that of our Northern counterparts icy Christmas sprigs?
History repeats itself more categorically on the walls of the high ceiling reception room where there’s a wealth of period collectables, paintings and whispered descriptions of past lives. The dominatrix-looking Queen Victoria herself attempts to look light-weight and elegant with her lace gloves poised across her wrists. On modern observation, her jowled jawline deflects the whole affect, but ‘her’ Albert must have looked past this physical faux pas and seen into the very heart of her bosom.
Heart is what you get at De Bergkant Lodge. A heart that ticks with reassuring precision, one you can rely on to bring you a truly fabulous five-star experience. A complete restoration rendered by Renate and Michael, has revived the evocative scent of its history but also delivered classical touches that speak of an eye for understated luxury.
The Protea suite, our weekend boudoir, was a haven of cool white linen expanses stretching across king size extra length beds, monogrammed towels and soft robes and nearly; but not quite, matched in size by its vast black and white tiled bathroom featuring a him-and-her shower side-by-side and a six foot ball-and-claw bath tub beneath a vast stain-glass window.
Living in its genteel comfort with simple touches of modern technology, the rest of the world simply fades away as you slip into a time tracked only by the rise and fall of the sun in its trajectory across the azure-blue skies. Each day prepared for by a pool-side breakfast of Black Forest ham, luscious-red erotic figs and poached eggs with hand-crisped bacon. This, enjoyed in the presence of an exotic party of jostling Cardinals at the bird feeders; just as surely intent on their own breakfast victuals.
Your Dining Pleasure
Romantic dinner invitations are enjoyed at two notable restaurants on the town’s main drag. Hosted by Michael and Renate, our dinner at The Real Food Company saw local greetings called out to the town’s celebrated gallery owner Brent, another Prince Albert resident who frequents its casual atmosphere to enjoy a variety of exceptional dishes created by chef Jeremy, confirming it as a simple yet sublime eating spot popular with international foodies and locals alike.
At Olive Branch we met with Hendry, an up and coming celebrity chef who specialises in bespoke Karoo dishes compiled from his own home-grown roots. Newly-wed for the second time round, he puts as much love into his dishes as he would his new family. Find out where Hendry is currently cooking when next staying at De Bergkant Lodge.
The understated sophistication of De Bergkant offers you a holiday in the true sense of the word; a chance to take time out, and rest and restore your body and mind in elegant reprieve before you set out to face the hurly burly of the world once again.
Nestled in the ancient history of its surrounding rock formations, it offers a special ambiance that settles around you, that can only really be experienced, rather than explained. Powered by the flat desolation of the Karoo, it’s a journey to the heart of transcendent beauty in a landscape dominated by dust and rock and craggy aloe.
Small Town Secrets:
When in doubt say Darling
Look out for Pieter Dirk Uys’ latest show in February 2019 playing at Prince Albert’s Art Deco theatre The Showroom. As South Africa’s beloved entertainer on speaking terms (in cheek) with political high points of South Africa’s modern history, Uys or Tannie Evita as he/she is known, is a regular guest at De Bergkant Lodge when travelling on tour away from his home town of Darling and own bespoke theatre establishment.
Burning Black Rubber
If you’re looking for adventure activity, there is much to do from mountain biking to hiking. Take a Unimog ride up the pass and a cycle back down again from atop its 1, 583-meter peak back into town – expect some rubber to burn while holding hard onto those bicycle brakes.
When the ‘safe word’ is Die Hel
If you have 4×4 vehicle, chance a trip down into the depth of Die Hel. With its own rich settler history, it is a road not built for the faint of heart… the relief from your hairpin descent will be rewarded with a cold beer and home-cooked Karoo lamb chops at Fonteinplaas in the Oude Klowers Plaaskombuis, nestled at the bottom where you are pleasantly surprised and welcomed by the last remaining relatives of this lost community of long ago. Visit the Cape Conservation offices a few kilometers further along the valley to find out more about the flora and fauna of the region. We crossed paths with Kudu, Klipspringer and troupes of baboon while descending into its depths.
The Faberge Egg of the Karoo
While the rest of the town of Prince Albert might fade into a mirage of heat there is one other heart-stop you have to do… a trip to Avoova to claim a piece of local artisan work made from ostrich egg shell. Now an international name, Avoova produce a large collection of bespoke and truly authentic South African artifact gifts with which you can claim and return home with in memory of your Karoo experience. While there in its cool interior, ask about Obie Oberholzer’s book – you might even be able to pick up an autographed copy depicting a photographic history and the most expansive and creative production of an authentic Karoo love affair to tuck under your arm and share with friends and family back home.
Urban Slang or ‘your’ Prince Albert:
A Prince Albert is another term for a male piercing that sees a ring threaded in through the urethra and out behind the glans for decoration and sexual sensation. It’s so nicknamed from the modern legend that Prince Albert (1819-1861), had one. Perhaps more than just an affair of the heart, you probably won’t look at Queen Victoria quite the same again; or risqué Prince Albert for that matter…
Luxury Travelers of Europe:
Published in German and Dutch, find Dieter Losskarn’s travel books at www.lossis.com and explore more not-to-be-missed experiences such as that offered by the 5-star De Bergkant Lodge in Prince Albert.
Toyi-Toyi for a Toyota:
Our Prince Albert journey saw us test driving the latest 2019 Toyota Hilux in a striking humming-bird blue. Think solid work horse with futuristic fairings which saw us speeding up and down some of South Africa’s most rugged terrain… certainly a popular choice of South African adventurers, we encountered mostly Toyota 4×4 bakkies on the road, as we descended and then ascended the near sheer rock face in record time, something those first ox-drawn pioneers would have simply swooned for.
Content marketing puts the world in your hands
Use content marketing to your advantage when you are see your customers as human beings and not just dollar signs for your bottom line. Content marketing requires that we listen to our customers and respond to their needs in real time. When we provide solutions to our customers pain points via our content marketing drive we are mobilising our business and gaining a foothold in the thriving online and social media marketplace.
What is content marketing? Content marketing is the creation, publication, and distribution of articles, press releases, images, and video to attract and acquire a target audience.
Every business needs marketing, whether it is a start-up IT company or a tyre manufacturing business. Most of us are already using marketing strategies in some form or another through distribution of our marketing materials, our sales pitch, website and application of a database.
South Africa, having already embraced this relatively new trend, is experiencing a steep learning curve that is supported by an increasing understanding and uptake of its benefits. However, there is still a lot of confusion around what PMB is exactly. One such misconception is that programmatic marketing is only about real time online bidding.
Programmatic is a term that includes everything from behavioural and intent-based targeting to real-time bidding and exchange-based buying of media inventory. More specifically, it provides a brand manager with the ability to take a specific ad or campaign, set parameters on where, when, how, and who will see it. It measures impressions online and sets the pricing for what the buyer is prepared to pay to an online publisher or SSP (Sales Side Platform) to market the product.
With access to many digital publishers, such as Google, a Demand Side Platform (DSP) uses computer algorithms to maximise access to the different publishers’ space inventory to provide the best pricing, and most accurate audience optimisation for the brand.
Using a variety of data partners, the SSP identifies and buys a custom exchange for the brand, and so Real Time Bidding (RTB) begins. The bidding takes place in milliseconds for every digital ad space on the page, based on the product’s previously set parameters and price limits. The winning bid serves their impression. The important differentiator here is that the brand is ultimately targeting people and not properties. Each impression retains a value.
Digital media management agencies, such as Atmosphere Orange, track and control a campaigns performance through weightings, placement, dynamic creative and positioning in order to get higher impressions, click through or conversion rates. This means that campaigns can be optimised and spend adjusted following consistent, accurate feedback from granular targeting tools.
Craig Utermark, CEO of Atmosphere Orange explains further: “We micro-manage the outcome of a campaign based on the data that we collect on a daily basis. Digital media’s dramatically shortened response time allows us more transparency and the flexibility to quantify campaign successes, or identify what is causing a campaign to fail and rectify the issue within a very short period of time. Working with such organic data the client is given a meaningful view into their target market which then triggers further creative adjustment and refinement. Digital media advertising is accelerating in South Africa, especially with CEO’s and CFO’s demanding more accountability for spend from their CMO’s.”
It is necessary that South African brand managers wanting to stay ahead of their game, start taking advantage of PMB’s efficiencies, targeted reach and accuracy of data across all media channels.
Guidelines for brand managers eager to get on board will require a shift from the traditional negotiation skills of a media buying professional towards more analytical and technical skills, which is where digital agencies like Atmosphere Orange come in. Their industry knowhow ensures that via reporting, brand managers pay attention to quality by constantly refining, targeting and optimising advertising media. In this way brand managers are assured of not making a poor purchase or paying for un-viewable advertisements.
Atmosphere Orange offers an induction process where brand marketers are given a customised insight into the power of programmatic marketing for their brand, which includes training, strategy, reporting and delivery of dedicated digital buyers.
The technological advancements, control, and cost efficiency gained through programmatic marketing is shaping the future of digital marketing. Use of programmatic advertising has grown 20% in the last six months and as much as 65% of global publishers now sell their ad space through networks, with the rest coming online fast.
For those still resisting the age of digital disruption, there is always the comfort of the bottom line to refer back to, with brands such as Kellogg’s, experiencing digital media ROIs of as much as six times. It’s clear why South African media strategists are making calculated decisions and embracing the shift to digital media advertising.
In South Africa, digital advertising on smartphones and computers will generate 52% of the total increase in ad spending during the next five years, with over half of South Africa’s internet traffic on mobile phones, making it the greatest opportunity for growth in the immediate future, according to digital media buying agency Atmosphere Orange’s Media Director, Chanel MacKay.
She points out that, ”Ninety-five percent of South Africa’s major brands use Twitter and 92% use Facebook to advertise. With 53% more YouTube users and 65% more Instagram users over the past year alone, marketers are increasing their social media budgets as they grasp the potential for market share growth on their doorstep”. According to the Chief Marketing Officer Council digital ad spending across the Middle East and Africa is ripe for expansion and will skyrocket to $1.35 billion in 2015, more than four times the global average.
The Pro Shop is just one example of South African businesses forging ahead. Says Marketing Manager, Trevor Rebello: “Online spend now makes up about 8% of our total budget and we realise that even this is a low figure. We were very clearly shown that for less money we can target more golfers across all age groups. Our budget spend has to continue to increase in this direction. We are also putting more focus on our social media profiles and all have grown as a result, in just one year. We realise digital is the way forward, we definitely see the results.”
Media is consumed over tablets, mobile smart phones and desktop with the average South African spending five hours online. Digital advertising is bought and sold on automated and superior targeting tactics with as many as 80 differentiating measures, including age, geography, and gender, far more than traditional advertising. This allows advertisers to sharply focus their campaigns and reach and communicate on a one-to-one basis with their market wherever they are and at whatever time of day they are online.
PwC South Africa entertainment and media industries leader, Vicki Myburgh says, “By embracing digital as the engine of their business‚ companies can position themselves to meet consumers’ changing demands through any channel and format – and more effectively and more profitably than ever before.”
Atmosphere Orange identifies three major trends. MacKay says, “media consumption is moving to mobile, outbound marketing has shifted to inbound and content marketing, and there is an increasing understanding of the advantages of programmatic media buying’ and with that comes remarketing and cross-device targeting.”
Clear advantages are gained with the automation of the media buying process. Not only does it streamline the inventory process on the buy and sell side, it can compose new audiences on the fly, across different content properties. Marketers can access millions of data points as to who saw their campaign, who engaged with it, what message they were attracted to, and how they converted.
A host of new insights about their consumers offers the best value for marketers, says MacKay, improving a campaign’s effectiveness and answering strategic questions . “Psychographic, behavioural and lifestyle data adds dimension to marketing communications. For example, a retailer may see that while they are getting a high click-through rate, their sales remains low. We can understand why. Looking at criteria such as geographical areas and specific times of day we might find consumers are visiting the site while at work but waiting to get home to order the product or service; or that there is high demand for the product but no retail site within reach of that location. Using this information the brand can then decide on where to build a bricks and mortar store within reach of new markets; or plan for a digital retail store to reach and service the geographic area.
“Brandwatch highlighted Hyundai integration of digital into their traditional marketing campaign by changing their website for five minutes whenever one of their TV ads was aired. They built a new landing page related to the model advertised on screen at the time, with a call to action. Testing was done by alternating the old site with the new site whenever the ad was run. Conversion rates for a brochure download or to book a test drive went from 0.7%of visitors to the regular site, to 3.3% on the new site, showing a 480% increase.
“Brands must now be super agile and ultra-relevant across all digital mediums and on a minute-by-minute basis,” advises MacKay. “Digital has put the marketing channel on an upward trajectory. Its influence is everywhere and it is creating and cementing relationships with the core focus of any marketer, their customers.”
Digital advertising maximises the return on investment for brands, by giving brands greater control with reduced display advertising costs. The advantages of programmatic marketing’s fine-grain tactics, dynamic creative and optimisation, also allows the consumer to benefit as they are less likely to be served ads that are not relevant to them. With increased relevancy comes an upsurge in quality conversions for the advertiser.
“Programmatic digital advertising requires less budget as there are lower costs per ad and wider, more targeted reach. Using the campaign’s key performance indicators (KPIs) the campaign might start off small and grow according to which channels deliver the most high-quality leads. Working 24/7, data is analysed, optimised and reported on regarding traffic, pricing, impressions, clicks, conversations and the time between every action, allowing the brand to react dynamically to market changes and keeping the brand marketer front and centre of the campaign’s performance,” MacKay said.
A quick look at the pros and cons of entering the online retail market
Online shopping in South Africa has continued to hit record highs, especially during last year’s holiday season when online spending increased between 30-40% compared to previous years. The country’s internet economy has been projected to double to R103bn by 2016 from the R51billion recorded in 2011.
Recent studies reveal that the internet economy contributes 2% to South Africa’s GDP and this contribution is rising by about 0.1% every year, resulting in 2.5% increases by 2016.
What does this mean for South African’s retailers?
An increase in online shopping is driving structural changes in the retail sector, according to a recent report issued by PwC.
Online users in South Africa tend to fall within the medium to high-income sector of the population. “This group appears to have a strong pent-up demand for online services,” says John Wilkinson, PwC Retail and Consumer Leader in South Africa.
However, Wilkinson says that South Africa’s online retail market is still relatively small and niche with a strong focus on consumer products such as books, music and DVDs. “This is unlike many of the developed markets, such as Asia and Australia, where there has been an explosive growth of online retailers. Suffice to say there is huge online potential that has yet to be discovered and tapped in South Africa.”
Having already set up an important channel for their long-term future are Edcon’s CNA division, Walton’s with their e-store and Mr Price which are all already operating in the online retail market.
So how easy is it to tap into this market? Let’s consider the pro’s and con’s:
There’s no loss to theft
You have access to 24 hour sales
You have national and international reach
Less employees are required
You can collect more data and get better visibility of your customers buying behaviour online, from age and location demographics, initial search terms, related items they are interested in and much more, easily collected via a simple analytics program.
You look bigger than you actually are
You van stock more items. A retail storefront will perform better for a business that sells a select amount of products, while an online store may work better for a business that carries an extensive selection.
Environmental factors such as position, weather, traffic, parking or increased petrol prices don’t affect you.
No bottlenecks or customer queues
Your customers can easily promote your products via sharing on social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest at the click of a button. (Word of mouth marketing is very powerful and it is much easier for you to encourage this via an online store.)
There is more competition online – the web is where people go to get bargains and consequently competition is fierce. Margins in online retail tend of be lower than on the high street and so retailers need to compensate by selling more.
There is more admin required
There is less customer contact
There is no touch or feel of quality for customers and returns are time-consuming
There are lower margins. It has been found that consumers pay significantly more for products they can view in person and for the ‘experience’ within a retail store.
Postage and shipping costs can be expensive
There is no passing foot traffic
There is less impulse buying
There is a dependency on hardware
There is less trust of the brand or product.
The solution? To have both of course.
What you will need:
An online payment system such as Paypal for example.
You will need to pay for web hosting and technical support
You will pay for shipping and accepting online payments.
You will pay for your desired domain name and for someone to develop your website and e-commerce platform.
You will need to handle fulfillment and shipping
You will need to maintain it.
Building a customer base is one of the most-essential components of starting a successful retail business, online or offline. With a retail store, the potential customer base is limited to the surrounding area. Online, the customer base is limitless.