Yossi Schwartz: The industry won’t disappear, it will just take a different shape
Yossi Schwartz: The industry won’t disappear, it will just take a different shape

Another high-profile advertising elder is quitting the industry. Y&R Africa chairman Yossi Schwartz is leaving the agency group he founded 16 years ago.

His departure follows that of TBWA chairman Reg Lascaris earlier this year and is a sign of the gradual changing of the guard in SA advertising leadership.

Schwartz is recognised as an industry maverick, famously shooting a high-cost television commercial in a weekend to win a pitch, starting his own whisky brand and managing the Pick n Pay account for decades before losing the business last year.

He believes the current structure of ad agencies won’t survive. "It’s an outdated format. Advertising disciplines don’t work in the digital space. The industry needs to change in order to keep moving forward and there’s a definite need for structural change within the industry," he says. "I also don’t believe in a special-purpose structure offshoot. It didn’t work for us as a retail unit within Pick n Pay and results in spreading agencies too thin and leaving them weak and vulnerable."

As he departs adland, Schwartz (58) also ponders the question of whether the halcyon days of advertising are over or if the best is still to come.

"Advertising was something to be proud of. We loved the process, the creative product and its influence and ability to change perception, but this will never happen again. The industry won’t disappear, it will just take a different shape," he says.

"In the next few years the ability to deliver a tailor-made message to the individual will be perfected and will rule the game. No doubt there will be less media-driven advertising such as TV, print and outdoor."

After the loss of Pick n Pay, it would be remiss not to ask Schwartz in what state he leaves Y&R. "The loss of Pick n Pay was a big blow to us, not only in terms of revenue, but also talent. That said, Y&R is in a better place, we are more independent, not reliant on one big client and pulled down by the magnitude that was the account. Our creative ranking has improved, we are producing interesting cross-platform work and are no longer run and managed by retail advertising."

Schwartz believes the local ad industry has failed in transformation. "If there’s one thing the entire industry has failed on, it is investing in transformation and skills development. We said 10 years ago this was critical and fundamental to the industry, yet here we are in 2017 and little investment has been made.

"As an industry we failed not through lack of intent but because we couldn’t afford to. Our ties to global networks meant that we needed to satisfy stakeholders driven by share price, and so investing in transformation and black talent became less of a priority.

"I find the industry as a whole extremely light on local talent, and I don’t see much work with true SA flavour coming through, which directly correlates with the lack of serious investment in local black talent."

Looking ahead, Schwartz sees more industry consolidation. "There are too many global advertising brands and the big holding groups are going to consolidate their brands for better economy of scale and better use of talent. Consolidation is a necessity, and should be a priority."


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