2012 … The Year of Living Dangerously!

The year 2012 looms over the eastern advertising horizon, just like any other year. Except, it’s not like any other year! This is the watershed year which determines whether the local industry continues on the high road of media leadership in Africa or succumbs to the rapacious self-interest of media-owners, each convinced that the other is getting a better deal out of AMPS. Or perhaps more disturbingly, each convinced that they can do the job more cheaply.

The situation is dire. With the initial rejection by PMSA & OHMSA of the central SAARF levy funding principle and the subsequent, and understandable, withdrawal of NAB, de facto MAMCA (the industry body charged with effectively distributing the collected levy to SAARF and ASA) does not exist and must be disbanded.

In practice what this means is that, from January 2012, SAARF and ASA will have to be directly funded by media owners. Or to be more specific, those media owners who are prepared to pay into SAARF and ASA. After all, as Forest Gump says … cheaply is as cheaply does! Or something like that anyway.

Media owners will decide what they want to pay and what they want out of AMPS. Of course, whoever pays the piper calls the tune, so inevitably there will be a continuing erosion of quality data and ultimately the collapses of AMPS as objective media measurement tools. No, that’s not a grammatical error! I’m talking AMPS as in RAMS, TAMS, PAMS (Print AMPS) and OHMS. That will herald the end of the media industry as we have come to know it in Mzansi and we will be no better off than the rest of Africa when it comes to data and objective insights.

The ASA presents a slightly different conundrum, which I believe requires an objective industry investigation into the scope of ASA activities and its corresponding financial requirements. Somebody has to pay for ASA and media owners say that offensive or noncompliant advertising content is not their problem. After all, argue media-owners, they don’t make the advertisements. From their perspective, it is the marketers and the advertising agencies who should pay for the ASA. They certainly have a valid point but it’s also a point that has strong contra-indications of a severe bout of Pyrrhic victory.

Unfortunately, for some years now, the senior management of major media agencies has not vigorously participated in the various forums which manage this funding process. This fact, coupled to the reality that the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA) does not yet have the all-encompassing bite of its defunct predecessor (MFSA), means that media owners will, for the moment anyway, continue to do pretty much do as they please.

So, as you reflect on the year ahead, and on the assumption that you still have a sense of the shared burden of responsibility for our local media industry, could I please urge you to visit http://www.marketingsa.co.za and read the document Pending Industry Crisis. Without direct involvement of local media decision makers at the highest level, we in Mzansi media are all, like the rhino, officially on the endangered list. The only difference being that we will have deserved to be there.

Happy New Year!