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The Martini Shot: Trade associations (& members) in an unfamiliar world

by Bobby Amm.Here are five key challenges the Commercial Producers Association (CPA) faces in 2019 and how we plan to overcome them.

No exception

Industry trade associations active in the media Industry in South Africa have experienced a fresh set of challenges over the last few years and the CPA, which represents production companies which make TVCs for both the SA and international industry, is no exception.

The value of trade associations is well-established: they play a vital role in social and economic dialogue, they bring competing organisations together to protect and promote entire industries, services, and workforces but, as with most other organisations, trade associations are going through a transition period. Their role is becoming muddied and complicated as new competitors emerge, industries contract and expand, and technology reshapes how the world does business.

The changes in the SA economy and advertising sector have significantly shifted how the industry works and have, accordingly, impacted the CPA and its membership. Although change may be challenging and unpredictable, it also provides an opportunity to make industry associations and their memberships stronger, more efficient and more effective — but only if heads remain cool and hearts committed.


1. Change in industry

Both the local and service industry have seen huge change over the last few years. Technological processes have shifted from film to digital and the roles of the players have morphed from the traditional roles previously fulfilled by agencies, production companies and suppliers to one in which every company may compete for the same business. In the new world we find ourselves in, anything and everything goes.

The best way to deal with the industry shift is to get out in front of it and start to change the game. This is already happening, with production companies starting to diversify their offering to clients. From moving into other industry sectors such as reality TV to working directly with clients and adapting their offering to reach a broader base, production companies are reinventing themselves like never before. The CPA is doing the same by collaborating more closely with international organisations and looking at ways in which industry disruption may create greater opportunities for the production community.

2. Building connection & consensus

Connections are always formed by people, which is why it’s difficult for associations to get members to connect and reach consensus — they’re dealing with entire organisations with different ideas and values, not just individuals. Uncertain times mean that there’s more pressure on associations such as the CPA than ever before, and more competition by members to get their point across effectively and to be involved in charting the way forward. This often leads to increased debate and sometimes animosity between competitors as they battle to find common ground and agree on new strategies.

Greater awareness and engagement will be a crucial part of meeting this challenge, be it though increased social or networking opportunities or online communities which promote communication. By bringing individuals together and promoting greater discussion around pivotal issues, CPA members are able to form and continue lasting and meaningful connections which ultimately serve to strengthen the industry.

3. Defining the fundamentals of membership

Membership has been the fundamental frame for trade associations for over 100 years but, in recent times, things have changed in that many of the processes, protocols and regulations that associations traditionally make use of have been perceived to be outdated, particularly in industries with a proliferation of creative entrepreneurs who favour a more-flexible and -unconventional approach. The challenge is to combine what works well and has been institutionally successful with a more-modern perspective which resonates with members.

The CPA is looking at redefining the fundeaentals of membership by making the association look and function more like a business and less like an association in the future. This may make it easier for members to understand how things work and why certain processes are important, thereby bridging the gap.

4. Managing the generation gap

The commercial production community is ageing in SA and this presents a challenge: different generations tend to have different expectations, preferences and habits. Managing this challenge is important for both the association and the wider industry, as to ignore it will impact the sustainability and future success of both. The challenge is to balance the needs of the generations within the industry and use the best from each to lead the way forward.

The fastest way to achieve this is to start a conversation with new and prospective members, particularly from younger generations, to find out what they value about the association and what they would change. The association need to be made more accessible to younger generations and become proactive in engaging them and enabling them to become more vocal and influential.

5. Great expectations

Members’ needs and expectations are changing as we now see information in a different light. Thanks to the internet, information is now widely available in multiple formats and the public expects to access to it free anytime and anywhere. Social media has also facilitated the concept of membership and belonging, and these new expectations require associations such as the CPA to examine how they are playing out their roles more carefully.

The solution is to create membership models that offer greater experiential value, be it in person, online, at events etc. Modern associations that want to grow need to generate many experienced-based opportunities for members and so more workshops, award ceremonies, lectures and networking functions are required. Financial pressure on self-funded associations such as the CPA make this more difficult but the challenge is to find a way to meet these requirements at a low cost and on a more-regular basis.


In a world where all organisations either need to adapt or die, it’s incumbent on all industry associations operating within the SA media landscape to reevaluate their relevance and efficacy, and assess how they can meet the ever-evolving requirements of members who find themselves under increasing pressure from all sides. Such introspection is positive under the current circumstances and, although changes may be hard to implement, they’re essential to the continued wellbeing of our industry.

Bobby AmmBobby Amm is chief executive of the Commercial Producers Association of South Africa (CPA), the trade association of production companies that produce television, cinema and internet commercials for the local and international market. After a brief stint in journalism, she began her career in the industry at the Consultative Committee for the Entertainment Industry in the early 1990s. She first joined the CPA in 1997 but left three years later to join a production company. After finding that she missed the big-picture perspective of the CPA and the interesting issues which continuously perplex the production industry, Bobby returned to the CPA in 2003. She contributes “The Martini Shot” column monthly, covering developments, trends and insights into the commercial production and film services industries in South Africa, to MarkLives.

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The Martini Shot: Trade associations (& members) in an unfamiliar world


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