The Black Agencies Network Association (BANA) recently held its launch at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in Sandton on 4 August 2022, which was a leap forward for transformation in the marketing, advertising and communications sector. Among the honorable guests was the Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Thembi Siweya, who in support of the initiative asserted: “I’m hoping that the unity of black professionals in the advertising industry will become a critical platform, an entity that will address and tackle the issues outlined.”
In turn, Groovin Nchabeleng, Chairperson of BANA adds: “The launch of an entity like BANA has been a long time coming as this industry has remained untransformed and largely dominated by multinational agencies from other parts of the world.” He offers clear evidence of the inertia in transformation, explaining that there was only one black-owned advertising agency in 1991, about eight in the early 2000s, now nearly 30 black-owned agencies only receive less than 2% of spend in the R58 billion-rand industry.
The industry’s scope is vast, spanning across casting, production, creating, media planning and media buying. These services feed into above-the-line, below-the-line and through-the-line advertising. In this respect, says Nchabeleng: “There are over 6000 South Africans working in the sector and influencing over 60 million people. The least that can happen is that those people must be allowed a lion’s share of this industry. Furthermore, we call on clients to demand that local agencies be prioritised when dealing with the South African market.”
According to BANA, the main site of minimal to no transformation is on the side of clients who channel the bulk of their spend to multinationals. The implications of the dominance of multinational agencies in this space are social, cultural and economic. This means that the underrepresentation of black agencies has a knock-on effect that impacts upon the industry’s role in reflecting and redefining post-apartheid South Africa in its own image. Therefore, Boitumelo Mohube, CEO of BANA, maintains that “the time is always right to do what is right”
However, the establishment of BANA does not imply that there will no longer be competition among the member agencies, neither does it mean that their peers must defer to them. The problem is that black agencies cannot even get their foot in the door, as they operate in an environment that is not conducive for fair competition. The go-to argument of ten-years ago, claiming that black agencies do not have sufficient experience, expertise or capacity, is now redundant in 2022. It’s a new era for the industry and “the time for playing small has come and gone”, affirms Bongani Gosa, Vice-Chairperson of BANA.
The overarching problem that BANA aims to address is the issue of representation, in terms of black professionals and agency owners in the industry, and the authenticity with which black people are reflected by the industry. With the first aspect, multinationals may argue that they have been steadily absorbing black talent. However, advertisers and clients cannot make the same claim, as the 2% black agencies’ share of advertising spend proves. As such, argues Nchabeleng: “It is inconceivable that we have allowed multinationals to subvert local black-owned agencies and tell us about our own stories. We have to finally take the initiative and allow South Africans to tell South African stories.”
BANA, at the launch, acknowledged and honoured legends who drove the transformation agenda at the dawn of democracy. These industry pioneers include, Happy Ntshingila, Reuel Khoza, Peter Vundla, Dennis Mashabela, Beatrice Kubheka, Peter Vundla, Letepe Maisela, Dimape Serenyane, Jannie Ngwale, Nkwenkwe Nkomo, Beatrice Qubeka, Horace Mpanza, Madala Mphahlele, Nimrod Mkele, Gary Morolo, Tholi Ngwenya and Eric Mafuna, among many.
Going forward, the association pledges to become the driving force behind discovering, growing, and enabling the thriving of black young creative talent. Black young creatives will be given a reason to choose to enter, make it and stay in the industry because it is commercially viable for them.
The founders of BANA are Groovin Nchabeleng, Bongani Gosa, Boitumelo Mohube, Bra Willy Seyama, Lufuno Makungo, Malebo Lesejane, and Palesa Gcaba. Strategically situated between the legacy and future of black-owned agencies and professionals, they have grasped the baton from their forerunners, and through BANA, aim to champion the acceleration of transformation.