Bongani Gosa. Picture: BWD ADVERTISING
Bongani Gosa. Picture: BWD ADVERTISING

Twenty-three years into democracy, the advertising industry still requires regulation such as the Marketing & Communications (MAC) Charter to encourage transformation. The biggest impediment, says BWD Advertising founder and creative director Bongani Gosa, is the lack of support for transformation at industry level.

Even at government level there is little support given to transformation in the ad industry, he says, adding that Telkom is the most recent example of a government entity failing to adhere to the MAC code.

Gosa believes client education is central to true transformation in the industry. BWD Advertising, which was established in 2006, is one of the few black-owned ad agencies in SA. The agency was recently reported to the Advertising Standards Authority for a billboard it used to advertise the fact that it is 100% black owned. While the regulatory authority ruled that the billboard was not racist in nature, Gosa says the incident restarted a conversation around transformation in the marketing, advertising and communications industry.

The big take-out:

BWD Advertising’s Bongani Gosa believes the industry is not doing nearly enough to address transformation or the fact that multinational conglomerates are dominating the local industry.

He laments the fact that even when transformation does take place, for big agencies it’s more about meeting basic requirements than effecting any real change.

The SA advertising industry, says Gosa, is split in two: black-owned and -run agencies, and white-owned ones, which are often owned by international companies. He believes the challenges facing the two are very different.

For black agencies, one of the greatest challenges is that the big budgets and campaigns are generally awarded to the same few agencies. This means clients are often reluctant to consider emerging black agencies based on their limited experience in working on multimillion-rand campaigns.

According to Nielsen AdEx, total advertising spend in SA in 2016 was R43bn. Black-owned and -run agencies got less than 1% of this.

“We cannot grow in this space unless corporates are willing to award emerging agencies with larger campaigns, which would ultimately lead to more of these agencies creating award-winning work,” says Gosa. “It would address the issues of transformation, as well as some of the other challenges facing the industry, such as the fact that international conglomerates such as WPP, Omnicom Group and Publicis are monopolising the business landscape.”

To this end, Gosa and his advertising industry peers have created a directory of black-owned and -run advertising agencies (, which makes it easy for marketing managers and procurement managers to find such agencies.

Black agencies need to talk about the challenges they face and propose solutions that will benefit all stakeholders – both agencies and clients, he says. To achieve this, he envisages collaboration between traditional agencies – which have resources and expertise – and emerging black-owned agencies to leverage knowledge and ensure the growth of black practitioners.

Gosa points out that perhaps the fundamental problem lies with the fact that transformation is always discussed in vague terms, and anything vague is open to misinterpretation. “We need more clarity. We need to show that transformation is a win-win situation, for both black and white, as well as for the country at large,” he says.

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