Radio tunes into social virtual reality

Has South African radio evolved to satisfy consumers wherever they are? If you look at how the industry has grown into a digital arms industry and adopted online events, to facilitate social experiences that are completely virtual now, it’s a resounding yes.

From our homes to the car, to work, and even to the places where we shop: radio has been our constant companion for decades. Jacaranda FM has recently created another “space” to get to know consumers wherever they are.

We are in the eyes of the third wave as I write this from my bed. I’m positive about Covid-19, but as isolated as I feel in quarantine, I know we’re really all “here” together.

Fluctuating levels of blockade, delayed vaccine deployment, and our general fatigue and pandemic desensitization have completely changed the way we connect socially. We already know that social connection can reduce anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to greater self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune system.

Social connection is what we need, but we cannot do it as we normally would. So how do we connect in a safe space?

Our solution was Mzansi Quest, a free online game where players traveled to iconic South African places, collected virtual artifacts in hopes of winning the R 50,000 grand prize and connected with over 10,000 people who did the same .

The RV allows the connection to be multidimensional

Virtual reality (VR) can overcome natural limitations and present things that would not be visible in the physical world (where we cannot be social). This makes the RV a powerful connection tool, which allows users to immerse themselves a lot, as they would in real life. The connection also consists of resonating with what surrounds you, which is why Mzansi Quest not only facilitated the interpersonal connection, but the connection with familiar landscapes and landmarks of South Africa that we were not necessarily able to visit.

Mzansi Quest offered you, your friends and family the opportunity to enjoy live music events with some of our radio talents, such as Martin Bester and Jazzy D, who entertained the audience at the Jaca Lounge, further enhancing plus this important connection to our live talent.

The data point to virtual reality

Attention, hard plug! We have our own customer data collection service called SoundInsights, in which we offer research to customers to help you with marketing decisions, but we also use the service to report on our own campaigns. The data showed that our listeners transmit more radio and spend more and more time listening and participating on mobile devices, so our fire test: What do our listeners need? – was answered.

South Africans want better online interaction and RV can offer a deeper extension of what the brand is already doing digitally.

Virtual reality will be maintained and embraced widely

Remember when they said television would be the death of radio? Thank goodness we’ve had it and we understand how content consumption channels have diversified and don’t replace traditional ones. Not only is the RV experience more appealing and brands are likely to consider it part of their marketing mix, but RV has the ability to reduce prejudice against stigmatized groups.

Virtual reality can generate tolerance and acceptance

No other channel has allowed us to remove stereotypes and stigmas from the conversation as much as virtual reality has. In creating Mzansi Quest, the use of five avatars allowed us to create our own community that was represented by one of the five great characters. The characters were familiar, but no preconceived bias distracted and harmed the players from the virtual experience. I think this channel can be used successfully to get better tolerance and acceptance over time.

The RV puts the energy in the hands of the user

Virtual reality has to do with the end user and one aspect that really stood out to me was the measure against cyberbullying that we created. If someone from Mzansi Quest bothered you, you just need to select their name from a drop-down menu and disappear from their feed as quickly as they disappear from yours. Jacaranda FM has an audience of under 18 and virtual reality has allowed us to create a secure online space, where everyone has the power to disauthorize bullies.

We didn’t know what to expect when we delved into social reality and Mzansi Quest was a huge success, with many lessons learned to improve in this space in the future. Now what we are sure of is that social virtual reality experiences like Mzansi Quest were the first, but definitely not the last of its kind, and have successfully connected our listeners during the blockchain.


Deirdre King is CEO of Jacaranda FM. He joined Nando’s station from South Africa, where he served as general manager of the IMEA brand experience (India, Middle East, Africa). King has an impressive resume and has led key projects for some of South Africa’s largest brands. Prior to joining Nando’s, King worked as head of marketing and communications (Africa) for The Walt Disney Company.


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