Big Q: Transformation isn’t dancing for chicken, airtime or policies
by MarkLives (@marklives) The marketing and advertising industries are transforming. So why are so many black professionals disgruntled with the rate of progress? And is the quality of most of the work specifically directed at a black audiences still sub-par? We emailed a panel of key industry executives for their take. This week it’s the turn of Mxolisi Goodman Buthelezi of June15 Advertising.
Mxolisi Goodman Buthelezi
Mxolisi Goodman Buthelezi (@TheMxolisi) is the founder and CEO of June15 Advertising and an ACA board member. He started his career at Herdbuoys as an intern in 1996 and has worked for other agencies and media clients, including the Financial Mail.
Racial exclusion of black-owned agencies and black professionals
Yes, that’s correct. There seems to be a systemic and well-orchestrated effort to exclude black-owned and -run agencies from mainstream economic participation.
Nielsen figures show South Africa’s annual adspend increased by R3.5bn, or 8.8%, to R43,6bn in the first half of 2016. The market research company says the top four market categories accounted for 72% of all media spend in the first six months. At R10.6bn, the biggest — consumer goods — accounted for nearly R1 out of every R4 spent. Year on year, it grew R1.2bn, or 12.9%.
Black consumers account for 85% of the country’s population. Yet black-owned agencies are nowhere near managing these accounts. As matter of fact, from the Top 100 Advertisers list in the country (FM AdFocus 2015), none, not even a single black-owned black managed agency, services these clients as a lead agency.
Unapologetic, uncompromising and determined
In the early 1990s when, as a country, we were drunk on freedom, a few black advertising entrepreneurs ventured out of the multinationals and set up shop. Folk such as Peter Bunguza Vundla and company come to mind. They positioned themselves for this opportunity of being the perfect practitioners to talk to this market the way it should be spoken to. Unapologetic, uncompromising and determined. This didn’t go down well with the establishment, even though these multinationals didn’t even hire black people at the time, other than as dancing protagonists in the television ads.
Then entered the black economic empowerment (BEE) and affirmative action (AA) era in the mid-1990s. While the latter was ensuring that more and more young black people were coming to the industry (I’m the beneficiary of AA myself), the implementation of BEE policy ensured that politically connected fat cats benefitted as ‘shareholders’. For a moment, there was peace in the adland. Before you know it, being a black-owned agency didn’t mean much. Multinationals moved quickly to hire more and more black people. This was very good for transformation. Some clients demanded ‘black teams’ and they got their black teams. Problem solved; dancing buffoons were still there though. Suddenly black agencies didn’t actually matter.
What is it that they can bring that multinationals can’t? From time to time. there will be this transformation talk in the industry and then black staff will be promoted, together with a white counterpart to oversee them. For every black CD there’s a white ECD…and that goes for every department.
Recently, the Marketing, Advertising and Communication Sector Charter (MAC Charter) was gazetted and it is in full swing. It’s the open season to appoint black MDs… again, ‘problem solved’.
After 23 years of our freedom, there are hardly any black-owned agencies handling blue-chip accounts, competing and matching others pound for pound. This isn’t because black-owned agencies aren’t up for a challenge. You’re lucky to even get on the pitch list. Try and chase government-aligned business; you’ll get nowhere. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is actually no. 45 in the Top 100 advertisers and it employs a multinational agency, and the list goes on.
Of all the TV ad that the country sees every seven days, none are crafted by black-owned and managed agencies. It’s even frowned upon when you mention this. It’s become a taboo for black entrepreneurs in this space to own and manage their own agencies. It is very much accepted if black executives are senior employees at multinationals and local white-owned.
Dear clients, please stop asking for a ‘black team’ to work on your business and actually appoint a black-owned agency. If that black team is good enough to work on your business in a multinational establishment, imagine what they can do for your business on their own without some supervision that thinks the only way black people express themselves is through song and dance — dancing for a piece of chicken, airtime and a funeral policy.
- Big Q: Transformation — what you need to know & change — Herman Manson
- Big Q: Transformation needs buy-in on the demand side — Monalisa Sibongile Zwambila
- Big Q: Transformation — the proverbial workhorses have bolted — Grant Sithole
- Big Q: Transformation — clients must take road less travelled — Zibusiso Mkhwanazi
- Big Q: What we need to achieve true transformation — Masego Motsogi
- Big Q: Concept of transformation not embraced by our industry — Sbu Sitole
- Big Q: “Some” transformation is simply not good enough — Ahmed Tilly
- Big Q: Transformation apartheid plagues SA ad agencies — Ivan Moroke
Launched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the ad industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of potential panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.