Changing the face of townships, one mural at a time

Anisa and Kabelo Kale, the husband and wife team behind Keys Communications, want to enhance the existing township mural advertising space.
Anisa and Kabelo Kale, the husband and wife team behind Keys Communications, want to enhance the existing township mural advertising space.
Image: Xolile Mtshazo

In downtown Joburg - Newtown to be exact - there is an outdoor media agency that is changing the outlook of townships in South Africa and beyond.

Founded and owned by a husband-and-wife team, Anisa and Kabelo Kale, Keys Communications has been in existence since 2009, specialising in mural advertisements.

Anisa, who worked for advertising agencies from 1992 to 2009, said being in that space was something she was comfortable with.

"I worked for a whole lot of big agencies, from telecoms to alcohol beverage companies, but for personal reasons we decided - together with my husband - to start our own agency. Firstly, it was because we needed flexibility, we have two boys, we wanted to raise them, to be there for them when they need us.

"Secondly, advertising is something we know best, we also wanted to give back to the community because we work directly with people that we rent out murals from. We pay them a fee every month, whether there is an advert on their wall or not."

Publicity specialist Anisa said they could have easily put up billboards but that would not be of benefit to the locals. So they decided on murals in order to benefit the owner of the wall.

Kabelo said Keys Communications has a wide range of clients, from funeral undertakers to driving school owners.

"We cater for those with no money for big advertising spend, but want quality murals. When you go to big corporates, for instance, and tell them you're a township media specialist, the first thing you need to deal with is the stigma," said Kabelo.

"But we have proven ourselves, also to big corporates, and built a relationship based on trust."

He emphasised that being township media specialists does not mean they have to upset the existing township mural advertising space, but strive to enhance it. He said they assure residents or business owners that when the lease ends, the mural is returned to its original state.

Kabelo said they also work with graffiti artists, bringing them into the mainstream business of mural adverts.

Anisa, from eMalahleni in Mpumalanga, and Kabelo from Kimberley in Northern Cape, stay in Weltevredenpark, on the West Rand. They are proud of their growth and staff complement of 22 creatives at the Joburg office. They operate in all eight SADC countries, and have a satellite office in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Said Anisa: "The Zimbabwe office is uniquely productive on its own, it has 10 full-time staff members. They understand the market well and operate their strengths because not every area or township in southern Africa is like Soweto."

However, it has not been smooth sailing for the Kales as it took them two years to get their first client, Coca-cola, ordering 50 walls nationally. Today they have multinationals and premium brands on their books.

Kabelo said the lowlight was the ease at which others enter into the mural advertising business, as many think they can challenge and outsmart Keys.

"The quality of other murals reverses the process. We have become unmatched as we are innovative, we have made townships the place for big business."

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