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There’s the old adage that “the shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot.” According to the Oxford Reference, this is a proverbial saying from the mid-16th century, meaning that the family of a skilled or knowledgeable person is often the last to benefit from their expertise.

We think the advertising and communications industry is used to being the cobbler of this fable.

It has often been said that for people who work in the communications industry, we are among the worst when it comes to communicating with each other. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to recruiting talent in the communications space.

Our industry is full of people who “accidentally” got into advertising. Today, very few professionals have studied and obtained a qualification in marketing. For example, my first boss graduated as a teacher before joining the media industry. (She was a brilliant media person and a great mentor). Many people only learn media or strategy as a specialty after they graduate. It’s not a career they envision at school.

Ask a sample of undergraduate students what they know about the communications industry and you’ll be shocked to discover how little or nothing they know. At best, I suspect you might find the odd, “You make commercials to put on TV.” Our industry is unique, dynamic and, once young people know about it, it is very attractive to them. You can be really creative, you’re encouraged to think outside the box, the pay isn’t horrible, and the benefits are pretty good.

Yet, year after year, agency management tells us that not enough good talent is coming to our industry? We only have ourselves to blame.

Why don’t media owners, creative and media industries get together and really launch communication targeting young school leavers, students and graduates to try to join this crazy world? Surely there are brilliant minds out there who would like to one day build a brand, revolutionize the media and make a name for themselves as communication experts?

But we don’t, we are indeed like the cobbler – neglecting his own son.

Then, once young people have joined our industry, we communicate quite badly with them on an ongoing basis.

There are good tertiary structures in place that enable students from bright-eyed scholars to become industry-ready professionals. Type of. But this is still where we as an industry are failing our young people. Many young people working in our industry today will admit that they are not sure where they are going. Many would like mentorship and sharing of lessons. A few submissions.

If this lack of communication was a client brief – I bet we’d come back with plans to host webinars, speaker engagement sessions, partnerships with media owners, and much more. However, it does not work? This poor cobbler’s son finds himself at the back of the queue again instead of benefiting from dad’s expertise.

2021 has made us all look at how we do business in new, different and innovative ways. Encourage industry bodies like the ACA, AMF and AMASA to step up their efforts to spread the gospel of communication. Let’s work so that one in two students aspires to be the next Nunu Ntshingila, Pepe Marais, Zibusiso Mkwanazi, Koo Govender or Kevin Ndinguri.

As an AMF, we are committed to this challenge.


the Advertising Media Forum (AMF) is a collective of media agencies and individuals comprising media strategists, planners, buyers and consultants through whom 95% of all media spend in South Africa is purchased. The AMF advises and represents relevant organizations and aims to create open communication channels and to encourage and support transparent policies, strategies and transactions within the industry.


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