Wayne Naidoo.
Wayne Naidoo.

Transformation has long been a burning issue. It is one the ad industry has been grappling with for more than two decades. For some it has become an opportunistic play, while for others it’s a point of contention.  

It’s really sad, says Wayne Naidoo, founder and CEO of Duke, that for most people the term “black empowerment” is perceptually weighted towards a negative sentiment, because that was clearly not the intention behind the concept.

“Transformation, like many other noble ideas, has sadly drifted into murkier waters because of a morally bankrupt few,” Naidoo says. But he believes it should be resuscitated, and implemented with greater purpose and vigour.

Duke, which was established just over four years ago, was founded with a very specific approach, namely of adding business value to its clients. The only way it could achieve this, says Naidoo, was to ensure that it had right-minded people on board, those who embodied a culture of transformative thinking.

More than ever before, the industry needs creative transformation to ensure that it is future ready, he says. “We don’t know what the future [will hold], but we do know that our currency will continue to be ideas: bold, purposeful and invaluable ones that can move things powerfully forward. Without enhancing this rare skill, the advertising industry will be obsolete within a few years, and artificial intelligence will be lining up to collect our paychecks.”

The big take-out:

The advertising industry needs creative transformation to ensure it is future ready.

How can the sector own its destiny and remain truly indispensable and respected by marketers? The only way for the industry to stay alive and ahead of the game, says Naidoo, is to invent the future. “This means we need to transform constantly and create on-going bold ideas.”

Big ideas, he says, have power. “I’ve seen it work to transform sectors, companies and lives. It even worked when a courageous bunch of people had the idea to officially kill off apartheid. It was a great idea that transformed this nation and set a belief in place that anything is possible.”

The advertising industry has the opportunity to own change fully, he argues. “If we each take responsibility for transforming the space we inhabit, we could start to see that way of thinking extending to a macro-level, which can ultimately change our society for the better too.”