South African Authorities Decide ‘100% Black Owned Advertising Agency’ Campaign Isn’t Racist

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Here is an unusual story from South Africa.

It seems that an anonymous citizen of this country filed a complaint in February because he considered a billboard “a 100% black-owned advertising company” BWD (or Breeze Web Designers) to be racist.

We will not go into the logic or lack of logic behind this complaint, which we learned about today via South African news site The Media Online. But it appears the local Advertising Standards Authority had to consider the citizen’s opinion as part of its standard operating procedures.

This bachelor then facilitated “a two-month investigation”.

South Africa has a particularly horrific history, and in 2003, less than a decade after the election of its first democratic government, the country took the initial step of a large-scale black economic empowerment strategy. (or B-BBEE), a program designed to “advance economic transformation and enhance black economic participation in the South African economy. Phase 2 came into effect in 2014.

Filing a complaint with the South African ASA is quite simple, as you can see from this form. But it also forces one to go out of their way to visit the ASA’s website or look up their contact details, so it’s hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that the person who registered said complaint was very upset by this panel of particular display. We can’t help but wonder why.

We cannot claim to know in any way the regulations relating to B-BEEE. Corn in a tweet Sharing the story, The Media Online wrote, “What a ridiculous complaint in the first place.”

In a January blog post announcing the new campaign, BWD’s creative director Bongani Gosa wrote:

“So you make billboards”, you can say. “The same goes for thousands of other companies.” The truth is…these 1000’s are NOT ad agencies. Traditionally, advertising agencies do NOT advertise on billboards. So we chose to go against that tradition – to get noticed.

So he was just advertising his own business. From the original story:

The complaint was dismissed because the billboard message did not violate any government or advertising laws. The ASA said BWD Advertising was simply exercising its right to broadcast an achievement and “advantage” it has in the advertising business.

In response to the ASA decision, Gosa said, “I strongly believe in growing our country by empowering young people. Only if properly framed will they move the country forward without racism or corruption, which I passionately promote. No divided country can truly prosper.

In case you thought the US agency world is a bit strange.

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