Beyond ownership & corner offices — transformation in adland
by Bongani Chinkanda (@) When the new BBBEE codes were gazetted in 2014, and earlier this year when minister Rob Davies singled out the marketing and advertising industry as the next frontier for transformation, a new day dawned. But, unlike telecoms, mining and banking, our transformation journey will have to be beyond ownership and the corner office.
Ours will be about culture and values; it will be about the creative and how it’s representative of our diverse population. As much as the targeted date is 31 December 2018, we have to accept that true transformation will take much longer than that.
Client’s face has changed
As an industry, we must acknowledge that the face of the client has changed. Just pick a few big spenders and you’ll see what happened in the past five years: SAB (Andrea Quaye), Vodacom (Mzamo Masito), Telkom (Enzo Scarcella). These new clients are not only demanding a different approach to creative but are grooming the next generation of talented black marketers who know their story. The era of dancing and singing blacks in TVCs, and roadshows with loud music and a few gazebos in Soweto, is over. They are — rightfully so — demanding a new approach to how we do things.
Ownership is very important in our industry, don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t be the end goal. We are about selling ideas; unlike must industries, our end product is very powerful in shaping consumer behaviour and influencing society. Boasting about how a consortium of black individuals owning 51% of your agency, which also owns a mine and other interests out of an office in Rosebank, just won’t cut it.
Our journey is about how these owners are influencing the culture of the agency and the ideas that are being presented to clients. It doesn’t help the transformation agenda when the majority black-owned agency still has a white MD, ECD, head of strategy and head of client service, with a sprinkle of junior black account executives and art directors. We all know the engine in an agency is the ECD; that’s where transformation needs to be primarily aimed at.
Medium of communication
Pardon me, oh English language, who appointed you the medium of communication in our industry? Clients should be able to brief a pitch in Xhosa and request the presentations to be in the same, as the product being launched will be targeted at the Eastern and Western Cape. It’s not enough just to have a payoff line in Xhosa that some freelancer ‘cracked’ in the brainstorm back at the agency.
Our clients are taking us along with them on their African adventure. We’re being briefed on campaigns that are going to communicate across multiple geographies, languages and cultures. Having grown up in Malawi, attended high school in Zimbabwe and settled in South Africa, I know first-hand how complex these three countries alone are. Now, when you’re asked to work on a campaign by Standard Bank or Shoprite, you know your work is cut out for you.
We need to start looking at talent from our continent. To transform might mean investing in a road trip for your creatives to drive and immerse themselves in these markets. We have to open ourselves up to recruiting and retaining talent from across Africa.
Back home, we need to sell our industry as a first choice for matric students. Our industry is for the ‘misfits’, the dreamers and the innovators. Parents need to have an appreciation of what we do and encourage their children to look into what we do, not just engineering and accounting. We need to go and look at students at the University of Limpopo and find that one talented creative.
Our journey has only started and it’s going to be about getting out of our comfort zones and creating new ones. We can do it. Why? Because we’ve created the same for our client and it’s what we’re good at. Happy transformation!!!
Bongani Chinkanda (@) is founder and MD of Dzuwa South (www.dzuwa.co.za), an ideas agency that is co-creating with brands to touch lives through the power of human truths. He is also business director at communications agency, Stretch.
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