Nkwenkwe Nkomo – Changing the Advertising Sector

Nkwenkwe Nkomo
Nkwenkwe Nkomo – Chairman of DraftFCB (SA)

TransformSA conducted a wide-ranging interview on transformation in the advertising industry with Nkwenkwe Nkomo, among South Africa’s pre-eminent role players in an industry which has been criticised for giving little or no opportunities to blacks in general.

In this conversation, Nkomo gives TransformSA an amazing insight into what is going on in the industry.

South Africa’s advertising industry has made some progress with regards to its  transformation in the past few years.But there is still concern for the sectors’ inability to attract and train young, black candidates.What do you think is the reason for the slow pace in developing and training of young, black candidates?

Frankly, I do not subscribe to the notion that our sector is unable to attract and train young black candidates. We are more than able and capable as we have demonstrated over the years.

A number of factors have conspired to deny us quality candidates and chief among those is the abysmal standard of education in the country. The quality of current matriculants leaves much to be desired especially from most of our township schools.

The search for trainee copywriters today is a real challenge, these youngsters just cannot write. They have no appreciation of grammar as the foundation for the creative craft and it does not matter what language it is.

How far have we come as a country in trying to address this problem?

We are actively addressing the problem. The Association of Communication and Advertising (ACA) has over the years supported the AAA School of Advertising in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Through the Apex Awards, the ACA is giving bursaries to students. The Red and Yellow School has been one of the major contributors to honing young talent and has made an impact and so has Vega.

These institutions now offer some language bridging interventions. Then of course most universities offer marketing communication and advertising courses as well as degrees.

A great pity is that institutions like Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) seem to have gone below the radar as creative arts centres.

In 1996, the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) embarked on a journey to transform itself which led to the launch of ACA Transformation Charter in 2000. According to a 2006 survey issued by the association, by 2006 black shareholding in the industry had risen to 37.6 percent and black managers accounted for 40.2 percent of total management.

Would you say that the association has reached its transformation targets? Which areas are lagging behind in terms of transformation?

Well, well, well… the entire process is actually now under the auspices of the Marketing Advertising and Communication South Africa (MAC SA) which also embraces the public relations and design industries.

Marketers play the advocacy role in MAC SA. Currently, the sector charter is in the process of being gazetted under section 9. This is a joint process with GCIS and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Yes, it has taken a little longer than we would have liked but we are on course. The timelines have been revised and endorsed by all stakeholders including the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication which has taken renewed interest in cajoling our sector along transformation road.

Has Affirmative Action produced enough black executive candidates who could be appointed as board members in top advertising agencies in the country?

Transformation is not meant to produce enough black executive candidates as board members, transformation leads to the creation and custodianship of truly great South African advertising that also resonates with the world. That is achieved at the coal face and not in boardrooms.

While black male representation has increased in the past few years, black female representation continues to be low. Has the industry made any efforts to create more opportunities for emerging black female professionals?

Is that a fact or is it part of the old “keep throwing mud at them and some will stick” mentality? I cannot believe that there is truth in that but I am willing to be persuaded.

Is it of any consequence that the CEO of the ACA is a woman and is black? Remember this is the association that governs the industry. Does it matter that the CEO of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is a woman and is black

She heads the institution that regulates all advertising in our country. Must we look at them as firstly black, then women and ultimately capable professionals or do we regard them, as damn fine ad professionals.

I can rattle off a number of great agency leaders who are black and female but I do not want to offend them by reducing their achievement to black for blackness’s sake.

Let’s respect them as best of class in their field and then let’s feel good because they have done it in spite of the disadvantaged background we share.

Perish the notion that women need to have opportunities created for them. Dash it all, they are doing it for themselves and they are doing a damn fine job of it whether we like it or not.

Nkwenkwe Nkomo is the Chairman of DraftFCB (SA). He joined FCB in 1983 as a trainee copywriter and rose within the ranks to creative director, a position he held for several years before being appointed Deputy Chairman of FCB Johannesburg.



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