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Transformation in the ad sector has long been a contentious topic, with criticisms levelled at the industry that change has not happened fast enough. One agency putting its money where its mouth is The Creative Counsel, which has announced the launch of an incubator programme to support black businesses.

In the first phase of the programme, which will begin this month, five companies will be taken under the agency management team’s wing and provided with administrative, finance and infrastructure support and mentorship. “The companies will be supported and mentored for as long as it takes them to evolve into real, fully functioning businesses – we may even continue to grow them indefinitely,” says The Creative Counsel Group co-CEO Ran Neu-Ner.

The incubator programme was conceived as a way of achieving what Neu-Ner refers to as “true” transformation, characterised by successful and sustainable black-owned businesses. As long as the advertising industry employs practices of fronting and recycling the small pool of managers within the industry, real transformation will remain a pipe dream, argues Neu-Ner. “The industry will be able to claim proper transformation only when the largest agencies are those that have been started by black people, are owned by black people and are run by black people,” he says.

To date there has been little progress in transforming the industry – simply getting black colleagues or friends to pitch for business in order to be able to say that the agency ticks the black supplier box is not enough, nor is placing black CEOs in white-owned businesses, says Neu-Ner.

“Mentorship is absolutely key in this regard to ensure fledgling companies are given the best chance to succeed,” says co-CEO Gil Oved. “There are many small agencies starting up and fizzling out a year or two later because of lack of experience in business management.”

The case for transformation is both socially and economically motivated. “There is no doubt that transformation will benefit the entire industry as the quality of work will improve and be more reflective of the cultures and nuances of South Africa,” says Neu-Ner. “Increased competition means more effective campaigns will translate into increased spend and growth in the ad industry. The industry has to contribute meaningfully to economic transformation in this country.”

The big take-out: In order to drive much-needed transformation in the advertising sector, The Creative Counsel has launched an incubator programme offering support and mentorship to black businesses.


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