[MEDIA COVERAGE] Why transformation is key to advertising industry success

Transformation is top of mind for the Creative Circle, the body corporate representing 63 agencies across South Africa’s brand communications industry. The body recently realigned its purpose “to inspire the transformation of product, people, and perception through the power of creativity.”

media update’s Adam Wakefield spoke to Xolisa Dyeshana, chairperson of Creative Circle and chief creative officer at Joe Public, about why transformation in advertising has been slower than hoped, and why the Creative Circle is focusing on the industry as a whole – from large agencies to freelancers.

What do you think are some of the challenges the advertising industry has faced in transforming?

 

In many ways, I think it is the lack of seriousness with which it’s been looked at by the industry as a whole. If you look back at the calls to transform the industry, it’s not something that has happened overnight.

It’s been years, and many agencies just didn’t take it seriously. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there wasn’t a proper focus on transformation until agencies had no choice.

Those that moved early have seen the benefit and those who dragged their feet are now scrambling. I think it’s really sad that, as agencies, many of us have done this out of client or government pressure and not out of our own volition.

One of the most unfortunate realities in South Africa is that as far as the schooling system goes, there is not much for the ‘creative child’. If you think of all the school subjects and how many relate to creativity, you quickly see that a creative youngster doesn’t have much of an outlet as far as subjects are concerned.

Added to that, we have been made to believe that only certain subjects – which revolve mostly around commerce – and career paths are what leads to success and prosperity. If a child has this creative spark and wants to study further, it’s often an extremely hard battle to convince parents, who have old-fashioned views that anything art related spells poverty.

When it comes to tertiary education, the institutions are extremely important. But more important than the institutions is the access to those institutions. It is a known fact that it is extremely expensive to go to university; hence the momentum we’ve seen with movements such as #FeesMusFall.

I think what is worse is that specialist advertising institutions are even more expensive than traditional universities. So it really is a battle for young black kids to get into the industry, and that is something we need to look at and something that we need to change.

We are also doing our best by partnering with institutions like Umuzi to ensure that we help young underprivileged learners gain access to the industry. Also, partnering with creative parties like Loeries ensures access to bursaries, scholarships, and internships. Lastly, we are using our award assets as training grounds for the young people in the industry who are in need of extra training, for example.

 

The Creative Circle is looking at broadening its scope from established agencies to smaller agencies and freelancers. Why is this important to the advertising industry?

 

The world is changing, and so is our industry. As the body that looks after the interest of the creative community, we have to be present wherever that change takes place.

The Creative Circle has a duty to make sure that when new agencies are starting up, it is there to represent and support them, as they will grow this industry. The same can be said for the trend towards freelancing – we have to stay ahead of what is happening and be relevant in all creative spaces.

To this end, we have introduced a freelancer fee, starting at R1 200 per year or R110 per month, and a small agency fee for two to five people for R4 000 per year or R300 per month, to ensure these creatives are catered for.

 

Why is creativity a business asset as much as it is a branding asset?

 

In the world that we are living in, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to differentiate and to show the added value to consumers’ lives. I don’t believe that is possible without creativity. When you think of the biggest brands in the world, marketing and advertising have been pivotal to where they are and how they are perceived. So creativity is not just a business tool – it is business.

More than ever before, consumers are bombarded with a flurry of information and, unlike in the past, they not only have the choice of what to listen to but whether they want to listen at all. So if brands can’t get a share of voice, we can forget about the share of wallet, and I believe that achieving this is impossible without creativity.