by Gugu Madlala. After the sheer number of WhatsApp messages and forwarded links received pointing me towards Jeremy Maggs’ recent Financial Mail article about the gazetting of the BBBEE sector code for our industry, I couldn’t help but think empathetically on behalf of the various ad bosses in the industry — the frustration and ‘ag mans’ or ‘flipping hells’ being spat at another frustrating move by the government to put them in the same corner Fikile Mbalula’s put Allistair Coetzee.

But then I got to thinking. I got to thinking of my time as a small business owner trying to crack the big time.

I thought of all the frustrations I experienced when trying to get the established agencies to give you a small piece for work so that you can prove your worth. I thought of the numerous resignations I’d seen because of people being overlooked for promotion. And it dawned upon me.

Years of non-action

The latest announcement is a result of years of non-action.

The truth is that the core of the BBBEE codes and their purpose is the desire to see more black people succeed. The key word here is MORE.

Now, you tell me: If an agency is owned 49% by a black person or entity but procures from 90% white suppliers, how many black people are succeeding? Likely one or three.

However, if an agency has only a black share trust holding 10% and 90% is held by white people, but the supply chain sees 50% being procured from black businesses, how many black people are then succeeding? Likely 15–50.

So I carried on thinking.

I thought of the number of low-risk jobs available in the ad process. Vox pops, behind the scenes, freelance capacity for existing clients, studio rental (a simple site visit should suffice), and so on and so forth.

Nothing scary here

I can almost guarantee you that, had agencies taken the previous nudges seriously and, by extension, taken supply chain transformation seriously, there would be such a high number of successful black people in advertising and marketing that the government would not need to gazette the industry specific codes which it has.

The truth is we sell hours, and those hours are bought based upon competence so, if you’re going to sell top management at top management rates, they’d better be bloody worth it in this environment. Here’s a warning: prepare the black leadership talent you need to stay relevant or face the prospect of having staff who run you at a loss because you can’t bill them out.

In the same breath, KEEP CALM.

There is nothing scary here. It’s another gentle nudge. There is ample lead time.

Train the people who have potential, develop loyalty with them by exposing them to the upsides. Bring new players into your supply chain. Not to clean the windows and fix the generators but to actually influence your product. Buy from black freelancers. And make deals with the best ones — trust me, there are enough of them (just open some unread mail).

Take a pleasant approach

If we take a pleasant approach to these requirements, we will be extremely surprised at how easy this could potentially be.

We’ll end up achieving all the requirements and then have the luxury of getting crafty with equity and letting an NGO vest in the business or similar. And you know what? Nobody will mind because the spirit will be in good faith and the real impact of MORE would have been achieved.

So, let’s do ourselves a favour: let’s keep calm and transform.


Gugu MadlalaGugu Madlala is the head of entrepreneurship for The Jupiter Drawing Room & Partners Group; he also works as the business development director at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Johannesburg). A passionate citizen of the continent of Africa, his personal mission is to champion a society in which all people work together to collectively evolve our social, educational, economical and spiritual way of life.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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