Ludi Koekemoer. Picture: Freddy Mavunda/Financial Mail
Ludi Koekemoer. Picture: Freddy Mavunda/Financial Mail

Four years after retiring from AAA, Ludi Koekemoer returns to the AAA School of Advertising, as acting CEO. Koekemoer previously led the organisation for 15 years. He returns to a different AAA, with new owners and a fresh outlook focused on attracting the millennial generation and beyond. For Koekemoer this is vital, particularly in light of the shortage of copywriters the industry is facing – a shortage that is exacerbated by the need for more digital writers.

“The lack of copywriting skills first arose as far back as 2010, when all advertising schools noticed a dramatic drop in applications for copywriting [courses]. The AAA, together with the Association for Communications and Advertising SA (ACA), conducted a thorough investigation into the matter and found that universities were at the same time experiencing a decrease in student applications for language majors,” Koekemoer says.

The rise of social media and technology, he says, has resulted in “social-media speak”, causing a whole new “text language” and a lack of proficiency in English. A whole generation of matriculants do not feel competent to enrol for a copywriting qualification. Learners are typically reading less than they used to between 2000 and 2010, and struggle with spelling and grammar.

In a bid to combat this skills shortage the AAA has introduced a BA degree in creative brand communication, with a specialisation in copywriting. It is also running part-time courses for those in the industry who wished to upskill. In 2019 the ACA began to award bursaries for copywriting students in Johannesburg, and another group will join the Cape Town campus later this year.

The big take-out:

The big take-out: The advertising industry needs to play its part in preparing graduates for the world of work through mentorship and skills sharing.   

Koekemoer adds that while there have been changes at AAA since his retirement, including the adoption of more digital technologies, the ethos of the institution remains unchanged – to produce students who are ready for the world of work. His almost five decades of experience in marketing and advertising, both in the industry and as an educator, will be pivotal in this regard.

The AAA provides students with an experience of a simulated agency environment, working, as much as possible, in collaboration with the industry. This includes the use of guest lecturers, projects and campaigns involving real brands, and a 30-day internship at the end of students’ studies.

Koekemoer believes the industry has a major role to play in terms of mentoring students and providing them with the skills they need to thrive in an agency environment. “AAA graduates are as work ready as we can get them,” he says. “Yet there is much they still need to learn in terms of advertising production, media planning, brand strategy, brand activation, experience on TV shoots and much more. This is where we appeal to the industry to get involved, challenging and teaching students and interns,” he says.