For several years, the South African marketing industry has lacked a strong and united professional representation, with some regrettable consequences.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Association of Marketers (ASOM) was a strong organisation, representative of the most significant marketing organisations and recognised amongst the industry stakeholders and government as the voice of the marketing industry. ASOM played a critical role in the self-regulation of the advertising industry (ASA), the development of the independent media and product research database controlled by SAARF, the formulation of regulations and legislation impacting on the industry and in many other significant marketing spheres.
In a bid to attain a more comprehensive and unified voice for the industry, in 2003 the IMM, the DMA and the ASOM amalgamated to form the Marketing Federation of South Africa (MFSA). Unfortunately this amalgamation did not succeed and the MFSA closed its doors after only two years. It was a setback that severely damaged the professional image of marketing and marketers and left them profoundly disillusioned with representative bodies.
Since 2005, the marketing industry in this country lacked a strong and united professional representation, with some regrettable consequences. Thus, until the Marketing Association of South Africa, MA(SA) was founded by concerned industry leaders at the end of 2007, the industry effectively suffered a four-year gap in representation during a time when critical legislation was introduced. Marketing was not represented at any of the important forums and lost the opportunity to make inputs on BBBEE regulation, the Information Bill of 2006, the Consumer Protection Bill of 2007, and the Companies Act of 2008. It’s absence in fact drew criticism from parliament where the industry was accused of not participating in transformation.
Also neglected during this time was the matter of monitoring the levies paid by media owners on behalf of marketing companies to fund the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF), in particular how these funds were collected, controlled and applied. The negative consequences of this are becoming more apparent today.
Catching up on lost ground is an urgent imperative of MA(SA). Mrs Brenda Koorneef, chairperson of the Association, says that MA(SA) is driving a number of initiatives to get representation back on track and restore the industry’s professional standing. “It is imperative, she says, that the marketing industry should resume its rightful place amongst our industry stakeholders, and work towards the sustainability of our industry and the infrastructure vital to support our processes and decision making. There are several critical issues at present that need to be addressed urgently.”
The Association is utterly committed to avoiding the divisions and misjudgements of the past and has introduced rigorous measures to ensure transparent and compliant corporate governance, the accountability of its board members and strict monitoring of financial viability and sustainability.
However, Koorneef says that while the association is steadily gaining credibility within the industry, its authority ultimately rests on the shoulders of the stakeholders who support it. “Strong membership is critically important for the association’s success,” she says. “There is much damage to be repaired and more members of the industry need to come to the table. If there is another lapse in representation, it is unlikely that the industry will ever regain its clout,” says Koorneef. “That would be a tragedy for marketing as a profession in South Africa, particularly in the light of declaration by the King III report that the marketing function of a company is integral to its sound corporate governance,” she says.
The association is urging senior marketers and marketing directors as well as chief executives to renew their support for the professional representation of MA(SA). MA(SA), together with allied industry organisations such as the ACA, AMF, OHMSA, PMSA, and NAB are currently engaged in a process designed to agree on the way forward on issues such as the existing industry structures and the collection of the marketing levy which supports advertising self regulation and independent research. The process includes the implications of the status quo at the SABC and the process of engagement which has been established to address this matter.