It has been a long time in coming, but there is a new industry body in town and it intends making its presence felt. The Black Agencies Network Association (BANA), launched a month ago, is a “leap forward for transformation in the marketing, advertising and communications sector”.
Led by chairperson Groovin Nchabeleng, vice chairperson Bongani Gosa and CEO Boitumelo Mohube, it plans to challenge the hold of multinational agencies over the local market. Nchabaleng, in a press release after BANA’s launch, says there is “inertia” in transformation of the sector. He says there was only one black-owned advertising agency in 1991, about eight in the early 2000s, now nearly 30 black-owned agencies – which receive less than 2% of spend in the R58 billion-rand industry.
“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,” the organisation’s leaders say. BANA, they say, has so far received a positive response.
Now that BANA has launched, it is set on recruiting members and engaging with key industry stakeholders, including prospective clients. It already has “close to 30 paid-up members and we have also engaged with some of the big brands. Actually, some of the brands have been reaching out to us to find out how we can work together, so that’s encouraging”, they told The Media Online.
While they are currently sharing many of the roles to get things done as quickly as possible, BANA has an executive team structure with roles for each founding member. “We will expand the team as we grow and aim to bring more people into our operational structure to ensure we are fully capacitated,” they said in response to questions.
BANA believes there are many misconceptions to address around how the industry operates, including the perception that small agencies lack the capacity to handle big accounts.
“The resourcing of the agencies is solely based on the business that the agency receives, and any agency can upscale as they get more business to work on,” BANA says. “Many clients are keen to work with black-owned independent agencies. As such, it is one of our key tasks to showcase those competent agencies to potential clients. We will also be doing trade workshops where we take clients through the profiles of our agencies and some of the work that they’ve done.”
Key to the task is developing an enabling environment for clients to be open to collaborations “with our competent member agencies who have complementary skills, and we will work with clients to match the required skill sets. This is common in the industry, and even the large agencies under groups such as the WPP do it all the time. Therefore, we do not believe it should be any different in the case of our members”.
Mentorship and talent development is a vital part of BANA’s mission. “We aim to make it easier for black talent to enter and stay in the industry. Part of the reason opportunities are limited for black talent is the slow transformation progress,” they said. “We have situations where black talent employed by the multinational agencies get frustrated and want to leave the industry as they feel unappreciated. With more black-owned agencies getting more business, it will open up the industry and allow for more black talent to thrive.”
BANA is an NPO, so relies on funding. “We are in discussion with a few partners to assist with funding and we hope to finalise the process soonest. Scholarships are part of our plan, and the timing and the scale will depend on the financial support we receive. We encourage everyone who shares our vision to also reach out and contribute how they can. Transformation means more jobs and more business opportunities, so we all stand to gain from living in a transformed society,” they say.
BANA membership benefits include access to potential clients. The organisation is lobbying advertisers to include BANA members in pitches. “We advocate for relevant government policy changes in line with our vision; we will provide skills development and mentorship; we support our members with litigation where necessary; and we will facilitate our members’ industry grievances with relevant authorities,” they explained.
Membership also allows direct access to competent and credible businesses to partner with. “As part of our growth, it’s important that we share work when we require support, so we encourage collaboration among members.”
BANA believes geing a member of a recognised industry association also enhances a company’s business reputation. “It provides a community where you have access to skills and resources that can help improve the quality of your work. This is something black-owned agencies previously lacked as they couldn’t find an association that fully represents their interests. BANA is filling that gap.”
BANA is still compiling a full list of black-owned agencies. “Our plan is to reach out to as many as possible so we can work together and contribute to their growth. Besides a few known ones such as Blueprint Group, Avatar, Mohube Media, Ethnolab, BWD, eNiate, Media Mix, BlueCloud, DNA, EthoLab, and The Odd Number, many of them are operating at a very small scale and we want to change that,” they say.
Earlier this year, the government formed a MAC Council to help drive the MAC Charter, which has been languishing for quite some time. “We are very encouraged by it and it’s a good start. Our plan is to accelerate the implementation of the charter in partnership with all the key stakeholders, and to also make additional inputs where necessary,” they said.
“We are also encouraged by the fact that government has endorsed BANA and wants our involvement to ensure that the MAC Charter is implemented. Previously, a large part of the discussions around transformation in the advertising and communications industry used to happen without a unified voice from the black-owned agencies, though we would hear that the industry was involved. With the formation of BANA, that has now changed. As those who have experienced exclusion, we better understand the common challenges we are faced with, and it’s only logical that we be part of the solution.”