This week newly appointed CEO of the Marketing Association of SA, Sarel du Plessis, sent a letter – signed by the chairman of MASA, Brenda Koornhof – to stakeholders that asked them to imagine the unimaginable.
“Imagine if government took over the regulation of advertising? Imagine the cost if you had to take legal action over every competitor advertising dispute? Imagine if you had no media research data to plan media campaigns? Too terrible to contemplate? Please read the letter concerning the Pending Marketing Industry Crisis”.
Sandra Gordon, publisher of TheMediaOnline and The Media magazine, responded with some questions of her own.
I, along with many others, received a letter from The Marketing Association of SA (MASA) addressed to marketers, their agencies and media owners, asserting that the industry is facing a crisis. That crisis has its roots in the model used to finance two important aspects within the media and marketing sectors – namely self-regulation of advertising and media usage research.
I don’t disagree with the chairman of MASA – it is a crisis and it’s been a while coming.
Certainly as much as two years, during which countless talk fests have taken place and no consensus reached on where future funding will come from and who will collect it. Now the rubber has hit the road and it doesn’t smell so good.
Sometimes when the wood is so thick with vested interests it is difficult to see the trees. Uncomfortable questions need to be asked, not only about funding but also strategy and structure. I am sure many will claim to have shared a table where these basic business principles have been raised, but so far no clear path has shown itself. Hence we have a crisis.
Here are commonly known questions that require investigation, careful thought and bold decisions.
- Why is research funding being used to prop up the Advertising Standards Authority?
- Marketers gain from using the ‘cheap’ legal services of the ASA to fight competitor battles; shouldn’t they pay for these cases?
- How come the ASA budget has ballooned out of proportion in the recent past with no apparent check on costs versus income?
- When last was there a thorough investigation, including an analysis of the ASA business model, performed?
- Why, and who, agreed to prop up the ASA, instead of encouraging management to cut their cloth to suit the situation?
- Why has the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) insisted on adding questions to the AMPS/TAMS/RAMS surveys that have little or nothing to do with media usage?
- Why is SAARF determined to continue with brand research when the onus should rest with media owners to commission this (and many do)?
- How can MASA represent the marketing fraternity when there are major membership gaps in their base (notably retail)?
- When will SAARF address their convoluted structure and instead of blaming a lack of senior participation, step up to the plate and do something about it?
- Instead of blaming each other, shouldn’t we work together in the interests of all participants? Or have vested interests (notably power and money) overtaken this principle?
OK so I could only think of 10 questions. I am sure there are countless others as I am equally sure there are individuals who will retort that my questions have been raised in the past (and find someone to blame for a lack of answers and direction).
Come on guys, there are enough clever people in our ranks to take this crisis by the tail, swing it around and deliver a workable solution.
Sandra Gordon is the publisher of TheMediaOnline and The Media. She recently hosted a ‘talkshop’ titled Demystify: Newspaper Research at GIBS in Johannesburg that ultimately came to the conclusion that marketers, researchers, media owners and media bodies such as PMSA need to secure the future of newspapers through robust and sustainable research.