Ever wondered what happened to the Marketing, Advertising and Communications Charter? Well, it is about to have a huge impact on this industry, Beth Shirley discovers, on a story first published in The Media magazine.
The Marketing, Advertising and Communications (MAC) Charter is a legal blueprint for transformation in the industry. The charter has undergone a rather arduous journey towards its final promulgation, which should occur later this year.
South African advertising and marketing companies will have to meet the seven pillars of transformation as set out by the MAC Charter by 2016. In other words, in five years’ time, the industry is expected to have met its lofty transformation targets.
There is a dire need for transformation in the industry because media is everywhere, impacting on all (over 50-million) South Africans every hour. For a small industry, its power to influence South Africans is disproportionate to its size, hence the need to make it ‘truly South African.’
The MAC Charter, once written in law and established, is going to provide clarity and guidance to the industry as to how to reach its suggested targets. An industry-appointed MAC Charter council led by DraftFCB chairman, Nkwenkwe Nkomo has tirelessly worked on it over the last decade. The charter is believed to be more balanced now, focusing on much-needed skills development that is crucial to the legitimacy of the transformation process. The fact that it is an industry-led (rather than government-led) initiative is beneficial to the marketing and advertising sector.
If the industry did not formulate their own charter, it would have to follow the generic scorecard supplied by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that overlooks the complexities and timelines appropriate to this particular type of business. Also, all interested parties were consulted in the development of the MAC Charter.
This charter has been in the making for more than a decade after the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications, in 2001, found that transformation in the advertising and marketing industry was “unacceptably slow.” A common blueprint and value statement was signed in 2003 by both government and industry, ultimately seeking a collaborative approach to fast-track the transformation process. Since then, the MAC Council has put in a great deal of work. This culminated in a more balanced transformation charter, with an increased emphasis on training and social projects in an industry suffering from a skills shortage.
“The MAC Charter is a fantastic piece of work, driven mainly by the unceasing efforts of Nkwenkwe Nkomo,” says former Advertising and Media Forum (AMF) chairman Gordon Muller, who was a signatory to the original MAC Charter draft. Muller explains that while transformation of the industry has been in the pipeline for a long time, the MAC Charter, which is the benchmark against which the BBBEE status of advertising and media agencies is calculated, was promulgated only in 2008.
In the original MAC charter, the targets were set as follows: black ownership was to be 30 percent by 2009 and should be 45% by 2014; black management should’ve been 30% by 2009 and has to be 50% by 2014; employment equity for black employees in various categories (disabled, senior, junior and middle-management) was supposed to be 30% by 2009 and should hit 60% by 2014.
But, Nkomo told The Media that these targets are being pushed out to 2016, with a revised charter currently being written in law, and possibly promulgated before the end of the year.
“The deadline for achievement of the targets was extended to 2016 because of delays experienced in getting our Section 9 application (a renewal application so that a revised MAC Charter could be submitted) completed,” Odette Roper, CEO of the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) said. “These delays have been as a result of changes in personnel in government.”
Roper and Nkomo spent two days in June meeting with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications. “We stressed the industry’s desire to get our Section 9 application completed as soon as possible and we requested assistance from them to finalise our application to have the charter written into law,” she said.
Nkomo said: “The MAC SA Sector Charter is in the process of being endorsed and, hopefully, Gazetted as a Section 9 Charter. In the build up, a number of things happened chief among those was the review of the 2014 target date. By mutual consent, the ACA, Public Relations of Southern Africa, the Advertising Standards Authority, think, Design SA, Government Communications (GCIS), the DTI and other signatories moved the target date to 2016. Therefore, all the other targets have been adjusted accordingly.”
Paul Middleton, current chairman of the AMF and a key part of the MAC Charter process, explained that with the changing of the presidential guard (from Mbeki to Zuma in 2008), a delay in the final promulgation process occurred. So, government personnel who previously assisted the MAC Charter Council, resigned or changed departments. In fact, according to the DTI, of the nine industries that have published transformation charters, only five are truly active (five industry-driven charters are written in law, with another four in the pipeline, waiting for promulgation). Middleton believes however that things in the advertising and marketing industry are moving quickly in terms of reaching the seven pillars of transformation, as detailed in the charter. “The ACA members have made tremendous strides, especially in terms of ownership and employment equity,” he says.
In order to effectively monitor the transformation targets in the entire industry, as set out in the revised charter, it has to be written into law. But, the challenge at present, says Roper, is how the MAC Charter council is going to fund itself to carry out the specific research and monitoring process. Because MAC SA Sector Charter is not based on the generic DTI scorecard, it is literally on its own to ensure its transformation targets are met. The MAC SA Sector Charter has to function similar to a Section 21 company, as the Mining Charter does.
Importantly, in order for transformation targets to be met and for the entire process to be meaningful, many industry stakeholders believe skills development has to be fast-tracked.
Transformation, it seems, is sticky and confusing at the best of times. Again a real collaborative effort from all industry and government stakeholders is the key. Within the marketing and advertising industry, companies have to become truly familiar with the targets so that the MAC SA Charter is effective, meaningful and sustainable.