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MA(SA) meeting key message: unified voice is vital

Last week MA(SA), the latest incarnation of the Marketing Association of South Africa, hosted a meeting attended by some 180 marketing stakeholders to tackle the burning issues of instability at the SABC and the 1% industry levy paid by marketers. The outcome was that a unified voice is vital if the industry is to protect its interests and get back a stable and sustainable platform.
MA(SA) meeting key message: unified voice is vitalAccording to MA(SA), that the meeting was so well-attended, and that delegates largely gave full endorsement to MA(SA) to continue with its interventions, bodes well for the future of the association and for the industry.

SABC


The marketing industry has a current investment of R11 billion in the SABC (representing almost 30% of its total spend) so the stability of the corporation is a critical concern, reports MA(SA). The association's view is that the SABC is an essential industry partner and it has initiated interventions to protect the interests of the industry and to support the SABC on a path to recovery, all of which were unanimously endorsed at the meeting.

In May 2010, a MA(SA) sub-committee took charge of building a stronger relationship with the SABC, focusing on the commercial and group sales and marketing entities, with some positive results. The corporation has welcomed the association's offer to assist with skills upgrading and a commitment to turnaround has come from Anton Heunis, the acting head of commercial enterprise at SABC, and from Afzel Mohammed, recently appointed as head of TV sales. SABC board director Clare O'Neil is now dealing with their liaison with MA(SA).

According to MA(SA), the result of the renewed cooperation is that both parties are confident of reaching positive solutions on thorny issues, such as:
  • the analysis of numbers
  • transparency in pricing
  • the booking and flighting of spots
  • schedule changes
  • honouring contracts and negotiations
  • open communication
  • decision making
  • integrity of leadership and
  • skills upgrades
Addressed in detailThe issue of the 1% levy contributed by advertisers and, in turn, collected by media owners was addressed in detail. The levy is intended to fund the activities of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the SA Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) but the collection of funds is not as efficient as it should be and its administration requires urgent intervention.

MA(SA) chairperson Brenda Koornneef said that it is imperative that independent, objective and industry-approved media and product research databases be protected to the benefit of media owners, media agencies and marketers. Equally important is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the ASA as the recognised self-regulation of advertising body for South Africa. She identified three key challenges.

Three key challenges:
  1. The first is that the levy collection system requires new thinking and revision as some organisations are not contributing at all, or have chosen to make discretionary contributions directly to the ASA and SAARF. There is a lack of transparency and accurate reconciliation of funding is being hampered. There is no consensus on what constitutes advertising revenue, leaving huge chunks of advertising spend "unlevied".

    An example of this is the growing trend to integrate ad campaigns into sponsorship deals - and sponsorship does not attract any levy.

    The ASA and SAARF are experiencing budget uncertainty and a shortage of revenue, which prevents them from doing their jobs effectively. There is also dispute over who "owns" the levy - the marketers who pay the levy or the media owners who collect the levy.

  2. Second is that the scope of required research is growing rapidly and more funding is needed.

    The proliferation of digital television, outdoor media and digital and mobile media has added significantly to the SAARF mandates and budgetary requirements.

    Similarly, the scope of work required from the ASA has been expanded and budget pressures are apparent.

  3. Third is that there are too many industry structures. The existence of the three boards of the ASA, SAARF and the Media and Marketing Collection Agency (MAMCA) means duplication in administration and costs and confused communication to the industry.

    Furthermore, not enough captains of industry are represented and the industry does not get to hear the voices of the top leaders in marketing.
According to MA(SA), its proposed solutions are straightforward
  • Establish one industry body with one administrative structure and shared services, to eliminate all the duplication and confusion. Focused executive sub-committees should manage the ASA and SAARF affairs under the unified body.

  • Bring in the captains of industry and the absent organisations (Print Media and Out of Home) to be represented on the board. The mobile media industry body (Mobile Marketing Association Local Council: South Africa presumably) should also be welcomed.

  • Revert to a transparent add-on levy system and an equal 50:50 contribution from marketers and media owners. Agree on a differentiated percentage contribution from each media type, aligned to each industry body's value of spend.

  • Mandate the board to make joint stakeholder decisions on fund requirements. Establish a stabilisation fund to cater for economic downturns and reduced advertising spend.
MA(SA) points out that there is a great deal of work to be covered and the association needs to ensure that it speaks on behalf of all marketers in the country. It says it can't do this without adequate industry support and, in particular, MA(SA) still needs to make inroads in the retail marketing sector.

The meeting was held at the Bryanston Country Club in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 29 September 2010.

MA(SA) is chaired by Brenda Koornneef, marketing director for Tiger Brands, and managed by executive director Chris de Villiers. For more, go to www.marketingsa.co.za.

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