The unholy alliance that stifles true transformation
by Ivan Moroke (@ivanmoroke) Slow marketing and advertising transformation is often attributable to two factors: backsliding by some black people, copping out by some white people. Together, these dynamics create an unholy alliance that may stifle real transformation.
Renewed progress is impossible without acknowledgment that some black people are complicit in the foot-dragging. Rewards for not rocking the boat may be sizeable, including the trappings of wealth and the reputation as the black guru fully attuned to black experience.
Those ‘working’ the system might deem a township setting and some banter in township slang as sufficient for street cred when ads are in production. They might even criticise the industry for stalled transformation. Ritual condemnation is easy.
Real transformation means rolling up your sleeves and making a contribution.
Change-agents must champion fresh ideas and insist the authentic black experience (varied as it may be) is properly reflected, even when it means a total rethink. Change-agents must insist that black staff work from the outset on campaign ideas, not as an afterthought when a black gloss has to be applied.
Jobs are good — jobs with power are better
Standard practice must be interrogated in all areas, including procurement. Placing orders out of habit will not drive transformation; black entrepreneurs deserve an opportunity. The yardsticks are quality, deadline adherence and price. If a black supplier lets you down, it’s is not because all black people are unreliable. It’s because this particular business is unreliable.
Rigorous efforts to find the best black suppliers will speed true transformation. Excuses should not be made because a business is black-owned. However, few new businesses start out great on day one. Potential must be identified, supported and grown, without negative self-fulfilling prophesies.
Transformation efforts must be authentic, as the truth has a habit of coming out.
For white folks, the problem is the cop-out.
Demanding the very best might mean rejecting work from black teams. This may be tough; it’s easier to simply accept the word of the resident black guru that the work will strike a chord with black consumers. In effect, you protect your own self-interest by accepting things at face value.
You’re consulting your black colleagues; some of whom hold senior positions. Surely this is evidence of transformation and nothing more needs to be done? Essentially, you’re being lazy while avoiding the philosophical leap necessary to make transformation real — the thought that black work is world-class and only the best will do.
Acceptance of mediocrity may also show cowardice
By saying ‘yes, no, well fine’, you avoid a reputation for being ‘hard’ on blacks. Someone might even think you’re racist for criticising a black team.
It’s time white professionals had the courage to challenge politically correctness at the black-white interface. Everybody’s work improves if it is subject to objective criticism. Some whites excuse their laziness and cowardice by saying they’re not sufficiently informed about the black experience to make a judgment. Nearly 25 years into post-apartheid South Africa and they’re still uninformed?!?
It’s time to wise up. Transformation must be more than a moral and legal imperative. It has to be a business imperative as well — a topic for another day.
The career of Ivan Moroke (@ivanmoroke) has shaped and has been shaped by brands, from running his family shebeen in Atteridgeville (many, many years ago) to starting a marketing consultancy, Co-Currency, 18 months ago. Consciously and unconsciously, his passion for what he does is rooted in the the power of authentic collaboration to create new possibilities.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.