The South African advertising industry still has a long way to go


The recent heckling of the Clicks hair campaign reminds us that every once in a while in our vibrant advertising industry, we see or hear about energy-sapping news, much to the chagrin of an industry that thrives on creativity and of exceptional originality.

The communications industry should not lose sight of the issues because “health” has finally won out, because such complacency has the potential to cause us to let our guard down where it matters most.

The controversial hair campaign may have been a blessing in disguise; it is a wake-up call for the entire advertising industry and for the brands it represents. If not, I don’t know how we as ad agencies would like to move forward. The dynamism and good health of our industry must be jealously guarded.

It is time to show that it is doing more to avoid the mistakes that are costing the development of the marketing and communications industry in South Africa. We should be proud of an advertising industry that prides itself on delivering racially and creed-conscious communication messages and carefully navigating the sometimes thin line between what constitutes offensive tone and what does not.

White-owned agencies

While I am of the opinion that ad campaigns targeted at the black community should be attributed to black owned ad agencies, some white owned agencies have their ducks in line when it comes to managing ad campaigns targeted at the black community.

There are white-owned agencies that have evolved since apartheid and demonstrate an unquestionable understanding of the race narrative, how far-reaching its consequences can be, and therefore how it must be avoided at all costs.

We all know that racism is a societal and institutionalized problem. It is refusing to be eliminated. In South Africa, we call for broad and sustained efforts and the will of individuals and organizations to come together to fight it, whatever the cost.

There is also the worrying and anti-progressive issue of some white-owned brands establishing their supremacy by circulating wealth around their friends and relatives. This trend shows that they have not yet fully understood the repercussions of entrenched racism and subtly discourages sharing the economic pie with black-owned advertising agencies, perhaps lest they become rich and powerful.

In a country that may never recover from the deep scars of apartheid, and also where marketing companies must stay clear of unforeseen storms, it is disconcerting to see Clicks-like messages. There are still remnants of apartheid in some white-controlled advertising agencies.

These white-owned agencies still view the employment of blacks at the managerial level with contempt. They are unaware that by including black people in their leadership ranks, they have a higher likelihood of picking up racially sensitive content and nipping it in the bud.

The lesson learned from the Clicks ad campaign debacle is that from now on ad agencies should entrust their teams with the role of reviewing content. This process ensures thorough verification of all sensitive materials in the final product. This approach is most effective when done at every stage of creative and content development.

Things to look for would be to avoid words and images that can be interpreted differently. However, I maintain that the best way forward is to assign all ad campaigns targeted at the Black community to ad agencies that fully understand the dynamics of the Black community. This means that the advertising agency must be wholly black-owned or mixed-race managed. Attribution of ad campaigns targeting the black community should also be an act of sharing the wealth pie with ad agencies founded by black people.

The Clicks saga is set to elevate the debate on whether ad agencies in South Africa should start employing more people of color in their creative management teams, so they can vet content that may not be suitable. to the black community.

However, a sensitive creative team should, wherever they have an advertising campaign aimed at the black community, anticipate likely scenarios when transmitting certain content. This is the purpose of brainstorming sessions.

As we strive to create a racism-free socio-economic environment, let’s all try to avoid gaffes that, in the eyes of the public, might be considered racism.

When red flags are raised and ignored, as happened with a former non-executive director of Clicks, who allegedly previously asked how the company communicated with its black community target audience, it may indicate that predominantly black companies white woman close her eyes. issues affecting the black community.

As companies call on crisis PR experts in these kinds of situations, the market will be negatively impacted for a long time. In most cases, the damage is usually too deep to repair.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.


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