Transformation in advertising comes under microscope

The momentum established through the formation of the Association of Black Communications Professionals (ABCoP) seems to be gaining pace with news that the association is to host a business breakfast next week to be addressed by public enterprise minister Malusi Gigaba.

An invitation issued by ABCoP said the purpose of the briefing is to discuss strategic ways in which the department of public enterprises can aid black owned agencies change the ownership structure of the advertising industry through preferential procurement.

ABCoP was established a few months ago after a group of independent black professionals in the advertising and communication industry complained bitterly that the industry was yet to see meaningful black economic empowerment (BEE). They charged that the industry is dominated by a few multinationals living no space for the emergence of black operators which has serious consequences for the psyche of the South African publics. “All significant multinational agencies based locally are owned and controlled by four foreign-based media groups; WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic Group and Publicis”.

“This scenario has the effect of allowing large amounts of money to leave our shores destined for Europe and America”.

In a campaign largely led by Taelo Immanuel, the group charged that the industry was organized into a cartel of sort. And the procurement patterns of state owned enterprises have not helped the situation. They have argued that even the BBBEE scorecard and the Media, Advertising and Communications (MAC) transformation charter has been largely useless. These transformation documents have largely encouraged fronting more than anything else.

They have argued that the prevailing transformation documents serve to “further marginalizes black-owned agencies because of the stringent requirements of the BBBEE scorecard which in most instances only multinationals can satisfy resulting in local agencies being disqualified from handling accounts of a certain size”.

According to media reports their struggle enjoys support from veteran businessman Peter Vundla who launched a black owned and operated advertising agency, Herdbouys, in the 1990s. Vundla has been quoted saying “Absolutely nothing has changed since we made calls for the transformation of the advertising industry about 20 years ago. We have been singing the same song and are now beginning to sound like a broken record.”

“What is happening in the advertising industry is a microcosm of the lack of true transformation in the broader economy and mainly the private sector. The status quo remains.”

“I doubt if there is political will to do what is required to transform the economy.” He said this could have something to do with “poor depth of leadership. The leadership (on economic transformation) leaves much to be desired”.

“We had thought that parastatals would drive transformation of the economy, but they failed to pick up this role”

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