Start training now – or go live in Orania.

In a recent blog (Stick em in the naughty corner or learn to play darts) I suggested that the best way to deal with the latest media insurrection would be to take the ringleaders and stick them in the naughty corner. Isolationism certainly works with little kids but unfortunately when you use child psychology on adults it seems to have the opposite effect. It stimulates delusions of independence rather than acting as a socialising agent.

Take Orania for instance.

We all know about the little town somewhere in the Karroo that has been created as a last bastion of Afrikaner identity. But how many of us know that it has its own currency? The Ora! First issued in 2004 the currency is not recognised anywhere outside Orania itself, nor is it sanctioned by the SA Reserve Bank. So basically, the Ora has the same value as Monopoly money. Probably less because if you have nobody to play with, you won’t even bother taking the Monopoly board out the box.

So good luck all you exponents of the “stuff the media industry it’s our money” school of thought. I hope you find someone to play board games with other than yourselves. Otherwise you might end up celebrating “Bittereinder Dag” on 31st May with the rest of Orania.

For a moment though, let’s just assume that there will be an outbreak of sanity in the coming weeks. That the various industry bodies will play the long game and do what’s best for the entire media economy, and not start printing their own banknotes. Let’s assume some form of unitary single source establishment survey actually survives and that the local market continues to have access to a free media trading currency. That currency is called Data and unlike the Ora you can trade with it globally.

Here’s the problem though.

You can have all the data in the world but if you don’t have the right people to interpret the data then you’re no better off. All you’ll have is an Excel spread sheet full of a different set of numbers.

In South Africa, we have become so preoccupied with our own internal standards and the shape and composition of the local industry that we are very close to losing sight of the real performance issue, which is demonstrating our ability to deliver against increasingly demanding international standards of media planning and strategy.  We don’t have a right to be listened to when we protest that planning media South Africa is different. That we have special needs. We have to prove to global clients that partnering with local media decision makers is in their best interest, strategically and financially and that nobody understands this process better than the media planners in South Africa.

Employment is not empowerment any more than buying a pair of running shoes makes you an athlete. It’s just the first step that signals your intention. What empowers any individual in the commercial arena is the ability to do the job. What makes world class athletes is natural ability, guts and commitment. Funnily enough, that’s pretty much what makes great media planners as well.

So while we argue about AMPS and SAARF and “whose money it is”, the industry continues to neglect the biggest challenge of all. The growing skills shortage in media!

It is time to put aside the squabbles and start developing the talent. The whole FET SETA set-up has been a dismal failure and as a result, industry initiatives are failing to match the need for skilled media decision-makers. We need an urgent consolidated effort, under one umbrella body to tackle the issue of skills development in the media industry. And we need to make it our number one priority.

Otherwise you’ll have to take your new media currency and go live in Orania. At least they understand Monopoly money there.