Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Not just for laughs: 3D cartoons give Kenyan businesses winning edge

From Lillian Leposo and Nima Elbagir, CNN
updated 9:22 AM EST, Wed November 13, 2013
Kenyan companies are turning to 3D advertising to engage with audiences and lure investors. Kenyan companies are turning to 3D advertising to engage with audiences and lure investors.
3D animated ads take Kenya by storm
3D animated ads take Kenya by storm
3D animated ads take Kenya by storm
3D animated ads take Kenya by storm
3D animated ads take Kenya by storm
  • 3D advertisements are becoming increasingly popular in Kenya
  • Companies are spending more on advertising to become visible to international investors
  • They use animation to boost their profile and become competitive

CNN Marketplace Africa is a weekly show offering a unique window into African business on and off the continent.

(CNN) -- The bleary-eyed caveman is furious. He's been waiting for ages for a file to download only to be failed by slow internet speeds. Frustrated, he slaps his computer screen and then slumps down defeated on his seat.

Behind him, another caveman connected to high-speed internet pokes fun at him. Showing off, he clicks a button and downloads his favorite song in just a couple of seconds before bursting into a highly entertaining dance.

Featuring what has become one of Kenya's most popular TV characters, this catchy and memorable 3D ad for the Faiba internet service went viral in the East African country when it was first aired last year. And this was exactly what animator Michael Muthiga hoped to achieve when he created it for Kenyan telecommunications operator Jamii Telecommunications Limited (JTL).

"Firstly, it was the fact that it was a new medium of advertising and people didn't expect it," says Muthiga, director at Fatboy Animations, citing the reasons for the ad's popularity.

"Second, the creativity in it and the story, the whole concept, it was a funny one. Thirdly, we actually sat down to decide how we wanted this character to look and I think that went a long way also in making it a big success."

Read this: Kenya's politicians in 3D animation

The popularity of that first ad spurred the creation of a whole new series of cavemen ads, which in turn helped JTL to become a household name.

"I think it gave a freshness that then got people thinking and saying, 'these guys have brought on something that is new to the market, let's give them a chance,'" says Cyrus Sang of JTL. "That gave us the advantage."

But this gain did not come cheap. Creating a 3D animation commercial in Kenya will set a company back several thousand dollars.

'Banker of the Poor' transforms lives

"We spent, I mean, quite a huge sum on this advertising project and it was worth every penny that we put into it," says Sang.

Read this: Africa's mobile tech startups

Though 3D animation is nothing new in Kenya, it has not been widely used in TV commercials. But after the big success of the five-part animated cavemen series, Muthiga says that the industry is now growing at a fast pace.

"As far as advertising is concerned 3D animation is booming," says Muthiga. "Most clients want to go that way, animation -- whatever creates a buzz with the audience, that's what the client will want to go for," he adds.

The emphasis on advertising is also a sign of a changing and improved economic environment. According to the World Bank, the Kenyan economy expanded by 4.6% last year, in line with a wider trend that sees many African countries routinely among the fastest growing economies in the world. This big growth potential is increasingly attracting profit-seeking international investors.

As far as advertising is concerned 3D animation is booming.
Michael Muthiga, Fatboy Animations

Read this: Africa's smartphone future

Cynthia Nyamai, a Kenyan public relations consultant says that the new players in the field are shrinking the market share and forcing local companies to spend bigger sums to be more visible.

"For a very long time in the African markets, and also in Kenya, people didn't really take advertising that seriously," she says. "In fact, if you look at most companies, when it comes to advertising, when it comes to their budget, unfortunately advertising used to take a very small percentage," adds Nyamai.

"This is a market and new people are coming in so they need to be heard, they're fighting for the same market space so a lot of companies now have to spend more in advertising."

This can only be good news for people like Muthiga. The young animator says the only way is up for the industry as it has only scratched the surface.

"We've just tapped into a very small segment of the animation industry, very tiny," he says. "There's so much which we can do which we still haven't done and I believe in my lifetime, and the lifetime of my company we might not even get to do half of the whole industry."

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Africa
updated 6:00 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Fish from the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho are served in top Tokyo sushi spots.
updated 8:23 AM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
The world-famous waterfall is inspiring a local tourism boom as an increasing number of people is visiting Zimbabwe.
updated 5:07 AM EST, Tue November 11, 2014
Seychelles needed more than pristine beaches and choral reefs to boost its once troubled tourism industry.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
A general view of the Hout Bay harbour covered in mist is seen on May 8, 2010 from the Chapman's peak road on the outskirts of Cape Town. Chapman's peak road is the coastal link between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. When following the African coastline from the equator the Cape of Good Hope marks the psychologically important point where one begins to travel more eastward than southward, thus the first rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a major milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. He called the cape Cabo Tormentoso. As one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope has been of special significance to sailors for many years and is widely referred to by them simply as 'the Cape'. It is a major milestone on the clipper route followed by clipper ships to the Far East and Australia, and still followed by several offshore yacht races. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Abandoned workshops and empty warehouses are getting a new lease of life in Cape Town.
updated 6:37 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Inside a glove factory on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, busy laborers turn patches of leather into these fashionable garments.
updated 6:50 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
The Somali capital now has its first-ever ATM bank machine -- and it dispenses U.S. dollars.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Waves lap at the ships as they pull into the Port of Ngqura, but no swell is stopping the local economy booming.
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
In Uganda, a group of landmine victims are using banana fiber to create rope, profit and community.
updated 9:37 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
What does it mean to be Nigerian? That's the question on the lips of many in Nigeria as new national identity cards are being rolled out.
updated 7:05 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
 General view of an oil offshore platform owned by Total Fina Elf in the surroundings waters of the Angolan coast 15 October 2003. The 11 members of the OPEC oil cartel have agreed to slash output by a million barrels a day, the OPEC president said 11 October 2006, in a move aimed at shoring up sliding world crude prices.
Six of the top 10 global oil and gas discoveries last year were made in Africa -- but can these finds transform the continent?
updated 6:21 AM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
A South African app allows buyers to pay for goods using their phone, without having to worry about carrying cash or credit cards.
updated 7:27 PM EST, Thu December 12, 2013
African astronomers want world-class observatories to inspire young scientists and build a tech economy.
updated 10:23 AM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
A Zambian computer tablet -- known as the ZEduPad -- is trying to open up the country's information highway.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
South Africa may be the dominant force in Africa's wine economy, but other countries are making inroads in the industry.
updated 5:27 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
Eko Atlantic city design concept
A lack of infrastructure has hindered Africa's development, but a series of megaprojects could change that.
Each week Marketplace Africa covers the continent's macro trends and interviews a major player from the region's business community.