Transformation of advertising & marketing industry: The corporate image of the industry

12 November 2002

- Mohale Ralebitso, Chair: Plenary Task Teams into Industry Image

Refer Appendix 10.6: Industry Image: Reflecting South Africa [PDF] 102 kb

Understanding industry image drivers, and Barriers to attractiveness for a career in marketing communications and related industries


  • This paper provides a perspective as to factors influencing the marketing and communications industry image among its stakeholders.
  • It so doing, it places emphasis on attracting new PDI entrants to industry who, for historical and sadly current dynamics, are likely unaware of and therefore less likely to pursue a career in the industry.
  • Rather than focussing on documenting in detail as to the historical dynamics, it focuses on a strategic framework for redressing the imbalances of the past.
  • More than anything, the paper provides a starting point for interrupting the patterns of old whereby only those in the industry serve as a major access point to the industry through largely informal and therefore closed networks.
  • The strategic framework that emerges aims to resolve imperfect market information and therefore access with a view to broadening access (demand factors) and facilitating skills development for those who wish to enter the industry (meaningful participation).
  • This treatise therefore focuses unashamedly on the qualitative issues and relies on widely accepted industry reflection rather than researched would be facts.


The report relies heavily on discussions held by the chair with leading industry players conducted on a formal basis through the auspices of the GCIS during the industry transformation plenary sessions as well as discussions with leading industry players and the would be victims of the exclusionary practices.

Observations Regarding Participation Patterns by Race group

  • The darker the hue of a person, the less likely they are to be active in the marketing, communications and related industries at a decision-making level. The corollary applies.
  • The darker the hue of a person, the less likely they are to be aware of a career in "the industry."

Key Findings

The industry's image can be deemed poor only because few South Africans are aware of the industry as an option and for those quarters that are, negative perceptions are at the fore, notwithstanding wide recognition of it being world-class.

To the extent that there are negative perceptions of the industry, they derive from the industry's homogeneity which leads observers to the conclusion, rightly, of the industry being closed, albeit through no manifestly conscious effort on the part of industry leaders and bodies.

Whether intended or not, the industry is exclusive rather than inclusive with the irony being that the very process through which industry deliberations on transformation, as convened through the GCIS, witnessed there being majority participation of whites as mostly senior persons within industry contributed to the process.


  1. The industry needs to embark on a communications drive to make people aware of itself as a career option targeting persons from disadvantaged communities using role models from within and without the selected target groups.
  2. Structural barriers to meaningful PDI participation in the industry can be addressed in part by launching learner-ships to afford said persons the opportunity to develop the requisite skills to participate in the industry, accepting that skills are NOT the primary barrier to participation.
  3. Access to training institutions, commonly restricted by a lack of financial means, need to be removed through fully funded scholarships for persons wishing to enter the industry to speed up the feeder network of capable candidates.
  4. Empowerment within the industry needs to be sped up broaden access, build a critical mass of credible black participants in industry affairs through which informal networks that'll impact on industry image can develop as they have around current industry participants.
  5. Parallel to the above, transformation of existing industry bodies in a pivotal imperative to create an enabling context for meaningful engagement and participation in driving the industry agenda and resource allocation towards 'transformative' ends.
  6. Industry margins need to be protected and enhanced so as to afford industry the capacity and ability to transform profitably.


The marketing communications industry cannot enjoy a positive image in South Africa while failing to or responding inadequately to the imperative to transform. While previously disadvantaged individuals remain at the margins or are left out altogether, the industry will lack credibility in its efforts to attract persons from those communities in the industry and for those who are already, the likely path will be an exit path (further compromising transformation).

Nothing short of an holistic and intense approach, rooted in end benefit for targeted participants and which allows them to South Africanise the industry rather than being assimilated, will resolve the industry's image problem. If after 8 years of democracy the industry is still broadly reflective of apartheid era dynamics, it is unlikely that it will come to look any different without a significant and extensive programme of action with specific outcomes. This should commit industry players to embrace any such programme beyond their will at a point in time but render such a condition of survival within the industry. Likewise, industry alone cannot address the structural problems that prevail within the broader society and therefore, government and other players' buy in and participation, especially related sectors and industries, is critical.

- Mohale Ralebitso: Chair: Plenary Task Teams into Industry Image