Deepening Diversity in South Africa’s Heartland
South Africa has more than 10 official names, three capital cities and the people speak more languages than you can shake a vuvuzela at. The nation is one of the most diverse on the African continent, and yet diversity, or the lack thereof, remains a serious issue throughout the creative industries.
Since the end of Apartheid in 1994, the country has been repeatedly knocking on the door of possible economic and creative booms, but has continually come up short. For the advertising industry, the vast majority of agencies remain predominantly white, and the black community, who make up 80% of the national population, are still finding it an uphill struggle to secure real positions of influence and power. However, the One Club is trying to help level the playing field and make the South African advertising and creative industries as diverse as country itself.
In 2015, the One Club took their immensely popular Creative Bootcamps to Cape Town for the very first time – and this year they not only returned, but also expanded. Traecy Smith, Diversity Director at the One Club, explains why she felt it was so important to return to South Africa, “We were testing the waters with last year’s Bootcamp. It was such a great experience that we knew instantly we’d be looking to come back this year. Cape Town 2015 was incredible, but this year has been something else.”
Bringing Adland to Africa
One Club Bootcampers get introduced to the advertising industry, learn about the creative process and are thrown into the deep end with the opportunity to create and present a campaign to a real client. This year, following the success of Cape Town 2015, the One Club decided to not only return, but also open up shop in Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest and most diverse city.
"In 2015, we were helped so much by Xolisa Dyeshana, ECD at Joe Public, and he was one of the major reasons we decided to come back and add Johannesburg, Xolisa's hometown, to our Creative Boot Camp roster. He was so inspired by our efforts in Cape Town last year that he motivated us to return. He even secured Vodacom, one of Joe Public's clients, to sponsor the Jozi Boot Camp."
Beyond the personal ties between the One Club and the creatives on the ground, Traecy knew there were massive issues to tackle. “South African agencies have the same diversity problems that agencies in New York and London have – there’s simply not enough people of colour, So, for a country that is predominantly black, we knew after last year that we had to spread this opportunity to more people, in more cities – and the support we got from our sponsoring agencies and clients was overwhelming.”
CEO of the One Show, and native South African, Kevin Swanepoel believes in the importance of bringing the opportunity to locals. “South Africa has a history of inequality and segregation. Those issues didn’t just disappear. They remain, just in a different iteration. That at means that it’s especially important to provide a non-traditional avenue to success so that anyone, regardless of class and race, will have an opportunity to showcase and capitalize on their creative talents.
“The country is full of creative potential that just needs an opportunity and a little direction. That’s what the boot camps provide.”
In both Cape Town and Johannesburg, The One Club were supported by some of the world's most renowned and powerful creative agencies. “The agencies were so keen on supporting this initiative,” continues Traecy, “and asked what more can we do to create change. This was a great position for us to be in knowing that we could offer more opportunities to participants.”
In Cape Town, the One Club were supported by global agencies like TBWA, Ogilvy, Grey, FCB and Joe Public, whose expertise were complemented by local South African agencies including King James, Grid and Jupiter Drawing Room. For Johannesburg, the agency sponsors were equally prestigious, as Y&R joined local agencies ninety9cents, MC Saatchi Abel, Publicis Machine, and the returning King James and FCB.
“The agencies were there to sponsor the event and ensure the students got to see the inner workings of our industry,” says Traecy. “But in reality they did so much more. They really went above and beyond because they could see that the students in South Africa, in both Jozi and Cape Town, were something special.
Despite many of the students having limited schooling, their creative output was as surprising as it was encouraging. As Traecy continues, “We were giving these kids their first real exposure to the advertising industry, but the way they approached every task was truly inspiring. I’ve never seen such hunger and drive. They absorb ideas so quickly and the students are so kind and supportive of each other. I’d honestly say that I would have hired any of the kids who attended this year’s event.”
Kevin was equally impressed with the efforts of the students, “The boot camps in South Africa are one of the most inspirational boot camps that we put together. The ambition and creative energy is palpable. These are students and young people brimming with enthusiasm and thirsty for creative outlets.
Even Brandon Rochon, CCO of Kastner and Partners and Perry Fair, Vice President Brand Creative at Beats by Dr. Dre, the experienced and knowledgeable creatives the One Club flew in to mentor the students, commented, “We came here thinking we were going to teach you something, and you have ended up teaching us.” A sentiment that was shared by the South African mentors, Neo Mashingo, ECD at I See A Differnt You, and Tseliso Rangaka, ECD at Ogilvy.
The Creative Character of Joburg & Cape Town
Although both Bootcamps were hugely successful, Traecy and her team did notice an interesting difference between Johannesburg and its south-western counterpart. The scenic and coastal Cape Town not only differs geographically from landlocked Johannesburg, but creatively too.
Traecy explains, “Jozi is more of a concrete jungle like NYC or London, whereas Cape Town is a real beauty spot. Underneath this visual veneer, both cities approach creativity in truly original ways. The Cape Town students launched themselves straight into each task with such originality, such flair; the Jozi kids were more methodical, intellectual and driven by an amazing sense of teamwork and community.”
The differing approaches are not surprising when you consider that much of South Africa’s great history of social and political movements has its roots in Johannesburg. After training as a lawyer in the city, Nelson Mandela realised that a career in politics and fighting against Apartheid was his destiny, rather than returning to his Eastern Cape homeland, and the people have not forgotten the significance of this.
“The students in Jozi realise they have to fight for change,” describes Traecy. “You can feel an atmosphere everywhere in the city. Powerful street art is everywhere, so you get to experience this strong sense of community and inner-strength even when you’re just walking around.”
By spreading their Creative Bootcamp events throughout South Africa, the One Club is reaching a diverse range of youthful creatives, providing them with the skills and training they’ll need to make a career in advertising a possibility. And this possibility has become a reality for some of the students.
“Woolworths and Vodacom, this year's client sponsors, showed a real commitment to supporting the development of young creative talent in South Africa,” Traecy goes on. “Woolworths even went so far as hiring some of our students straight from the Bootcamp. Every year, the clients have been phenomenal. The clients in both cities were sincerely interested in the students and I believe they too benefited hugely from absorbing some of the students' creativity and fresh ideas. I can't wait to welcome the clients back for another successful year.”
Other success stories include Timothy Jody, who attended the very first Cape Town Creative Bootcamp. Here, Timothy learnt about importance of commitment, as he explains, “The Bootcamp taught me to work hard, and never ever give up on your ideas because, even if they are simplistic, they can result in the big idea coming to life. The 2015 brief was intense, but I had all the fun in the world and that intensity unlocked the creative side in me more than ever.”
Today, Timothy works for iJava, a creative agency he and three fellow Bootcampers set up with the help of their professor Sharon Worrall. The new agency has already secured accounts with several global firms, and is tapping into the local black markets that many of the larger agencies still struggle to crack.
Sharon comments, “iJava is run by people who understand the local markets and have the skills and drive to deliver what they want. Many of these skills, like pitching and presenting, were honed at the One Club’s Creative Bootcamps, especially at this year’s event.”
Although the program has gone from strength to strength, Kevin is always looking to improve: “The format has worked very well. We just need to return, and possibly expand, so that the program becomes a known quantity beyond the creative industries. We’re particularly looking to develop talent that might not have considered advertising and design as a career option.”
Remaining humble as to the impact of their efforts, Kevin adds, “There are some foundational professional inequality issues in South Africa that we won’t be able to change. All that we can is play our part in our corner of the industry.”
With the One Club returning to the US for October's San Francisco Bootcamp, before heading to London in November, Traecy sums up the success of their second year in Africa, “Everyone from the agencies, the clients, the mentors and the beautiful Protea Hotels who kindly hosted the events again, have been fantastic. The One Club cannot thank them enough. But mostly it was a privilege to see the students in South Africa at work, and I can't wait to return next year to see if we can help more talented South Africans from diverse backgrounds get into this important and burgeoning industry.”