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IAB SA reveals the beating heart of digital SA

Day by day, what are the stories that most powerfully attract and engage South Africa’s internet users? How can brands, in the moment, find out what these stories are, react to their impact and start interesting conversations with consumers? These are some of the questions to which the IAB SA seeks answers as it pursues its vision of a vibrant, profitable digital industry in South Africa.

‘Trending content is the heartbeat of South Africa’s digital landscape,’ said Josephine Buys, CEO of the IAB SA. ‘In the midst of so much fast-paced information, there are particular stories that ignite conversations across the internet each day. Knowing what these are, where these are published and how South African users are reacting to them enables brands to be smarter and nimbler about starting or joining the conversations.’

In 2014, with this in mind, the IAB SA appointed integrated communications agency MetropolitanRepublic to create an attention-grabbing promotional campaign to demonstrate the power of the South African digital audience to both consumers and advertisers. The campaign also had to raise the profile of the IAB SA as a vital body representing more than 200 members, including online publishers, brands and educational institutions, as well as creative, media and digital agencies.

The resulting concept from MetropolitanRepublic is the Pulse, a 3D, heart-shaped manifestation of the main topics that are fascinating South African web users on IAB SA publisher members’ digital platforms. It uses data gathered within the past seven days to show where the buzz is, and plugs into Twitter to analyse South African tweets related to these topics.

‘The platform ingests RSS feeds, categorises the content, fetches tweets for those categories, processes the content for sentiment and renders the output as a WebGL-based 3D heart,’ said Jonathan Banks, head of technology at MetropolitanRepublic. ‘It has been quite a challenge, but we are exceptionally proud of what we have achieved.’

The Pulse measures the sentiment expressed in each data source through advanced analytics provided by Lexalytics and its US and Europe text-mining service, Semantria. Lexalytics software and services analyse more than 3-billion documents per day.

‘Conversations are happening all the time, whether we’re listening or not,’ said Seth Redmore, vice-president of marketing at Lexalytics. ‘Consumers expect brands to respond, react and be relevant. The Pulse is a great way of showing the trends and vibrant nature of the South African social media universe, and we’re proud that our leading text analytics service is a key part of “showing the buzz”.’

How does it work?
1. Go to the Pulse on the IAB SA’s website ( and select a current topic from the dropdown menu at the top of the page. The Pulse then fetches related news stories and tweets and turns each into a dot on a beating heart. The more dots you see, the more content there is on that topic.

2. Click on a dot to zoom in and see its source. The darker it appears in colour, the more negative the sentiment around the topic (check the legend box on the page for the meanings of specific colours). Click ‘Zoom out’ in the source box to go back to the heart.

3. As the buzz increases around a topic, the heart will beat faster. You can use your mouse to spin the heart around and reach other dots.
There is also a 2D version of the Pulse available on the page, although the 3D model will display in most desktop and mobile browsers.

‘Following the relaunch of the IAB SA website by MetropolitanRepublic, the agency was asked to create the IAB SA launch campaign. Converging data, sentiment and 3D visuals on no budget has been the ultimate geek challenge! We’d like to thank the IAB SA board and the publishers for giving MetropolitanRepublic the platform to demonstrate our digital skills and dynamism,’ said Bronwen Auret, head of digital operations at MetropolitanRepublic.

The Pulse will be advertised through a digital banner campaign across IAB SA members’ digital platforms to illustrate how the efficient use of innovative banners can drive web users to rewarding content.
Buys added, ‘Through this digital advertising campaign, the IAB SA aims to demonstrate the power of the medium and to educate advertisers about how to capture this valuable audience’s attention and keep it through the use of well-crafted content.’

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