Dr Ludi Koekemoer maintains that while media educators teach new blood what they need to know, media agencies are responsible for training them and giving them a lucrative career.
Talent. Transformation. Sustainability. These are three key words in media education. It is the task of the Advertising Media Association of South Africa (Amasa) and the AAA School of Advertising to find the right young talent for the media industry. This is quite a challenge as most matriculants have a fear of anything that has to do with numbers. The schooling system does not provide them with confidence to be skilled with figures.
As a result, many AAA students are reluctant initially to embark upon a career in media planning. They fear the maths. The school system has failed our talented young South Africans. However, once the ‘media maths’ is explained, they grasp it and start to enjoy it.
Transformation is a process. We are proud to report that approximately 70% of the students who specialised in media management during the past five to seven years are black. We’ve largely overcome the problem of attracting young black talent to the AAA School to educate them, but the media industry is challenged with keeping them through life-long training and setting them on a viable career path.
Media people have a special culture and outlook. They need to be multi-talented. Our sector needs this kind of person, says Ebony & Ivory executive director, Paul Middleton. There needs to be a filter, which would help the sector retain talented staff, instead of them running for the hills when they see the work and cannot sustain the high level of energy and time required.
Sustainability is about recruiting the right talent, educating them at a higher education institution, employing them, training them on-the-job and developing the talent. The role players are Amasa, the AAA School of Advertising, media agencies and media owners.
Amasa’s core mandate within the advertising media industry is that of education and training. Amasa and AAA have been partners in the management and running of the annual media management course for more than 15 years and continue to produce graduates who leave with a high level of media planning theory in their arsenal.
Our mandate is to educate the students, provide a balanced curriculum and deliver well-rounded, knowledgeable graduates. AAA does this through its three-year BA in Marketing Communication. This qualification exposes students to marketing, business management, communications, research, multicultural issues, advertising and other integrated marketing communications (IMC) tools, entrepreneurship, strategic planning and IMC campaigns.
They specialise in media management and/or brand management and/or strategic account management and planning and/or digital media marketing, and at the end of their three years those who specialise in media management do a four-week internship at a media agency. The benefits are numerous. Not only are they exposed to a carefully selected, relevant bundle of subjects, but they also experience academic excellence through great textbooks and knowledgeable lecturers. They apply their knowledge in live IMC campaigns and receive extra training e.g. Telmar, TGI etc. AAA also focuses on the importance of new media, moving from traditional media to ‘tradigital’ media and the interaction of media. Virtually all traditional media options now embrace and use digital technology.
But education at a private higher education institution is education. It is not training. It can provide the foundation, the underpinning knowledge, but it can never provide on-the-job training. At present, AAA graduates leave with a sound understanding of media but the nitty gritty starts on-the-job where they will have full access to media data and costs, and learn how to optimise the budget. AAA can only teach topline and the principles of optimisation. A mentor and ongoing on-the-job training must do the rest.
Gordon Muller, media planning doyen, is right when he says that the Amasa/AAA course is not addressing that practical aspect necessary to the industry. What is required is a much stronger focus on the practical deliverables with particular emphasis on statistical skills using industry planning tools such as Telmar, TGI and Arianna. In 2014, we introduced a full-year course on analytical decision-making to teach students statistics, finance and data analyses.
Amasa’s Lyn Jones reported that one of our key challenges is translating graduates’ theoretical knowledge into practical know-how so that they are able to hit the ground running. The Advertising Media Foundation has brought much of this to our attention. To combat this, Amasa is developing focused practical workshops, by media type, that will commence in 2014 to equip delegates with the necessary skills to translate their theory into practice. Media agencies will be playing a key role in these workshops.
Media agencies must take in graduates and mentor them. It’s where they will learn. There is, however, no upside to taking people who cannot run and perform from day one. Therefore, the education, training and mentoring partnership will be crucial in the future.
Dr Ludi Koekemoer is the chief executive officer of the AAA School of Advertising.
This story was first published in the September 2014 issue of The Media magazine.