South African Parliamentary Committee to Investigate Racism in Ad Industry

06 July 2001

The South African advertising and marketing industry will be scrutinised for racism in a public hearing of a parliamentary committee due to be held before the end of the year.

The decision was revealed by the chairman of the parliamentary communications portfolio committee Nat Kekana, a vocal critic of “racism” in ad agencies, which, he claims, avoid buying advertising in black-targeted media.

Although the government has sold off state-owned radio stations and given licences to independent broadcasters, Kekana argues that the ad industry “has yet to come to the party. Advertisers are not supporting the new operators.”

The industry is also accused of being out of touch with the black population, which makes up 85% of consumers. Agencies, Kekana fumed, are “lily white”, with media buyers typified as “22-year-old white women who watch Ally McBeal.”

Currently, only 27% of agency staff are black, though this is well above the 12% in 1996. The government has also imposed minimum levels of black equity ownership on agencies which are awarded accounts.

News source: AdAge Global