Wits highlights how digital platforms, through marketing, can be used as a tool to combat issues that society faces  

The Wits Business School hosted Africa’s first social marketing Association Conference at the professional development hub on east campus, last week, from April 24 to 26. 

The conference was held to promote the use of social marketing — an advertising approach which focuses on influencing people’s behavior with the primary goal of achieving a common good.  

The aim of the conference was to highlight how this form of marketing can combat some of the serious health, social, and environmental issues Africa faces, especially South Africa. 

The event brought together hundreds of academics, practitioners, and social policy makers from across the world to discuss the work they do; and how social marketing is practically solving real life issues. 

Andy Du Plessis, managing director of Food Forward SA discussed how their non-profit company uses a system of virtual food banking to reduce hunger. This is a digital platform that links its beneficiary organisations to the closest participating retail store to collect perishable and non-perishable foods, which in turn is used to feed thousands of people daily.  

The conference included discussions around corruption, which is an extremely prevalent issue in South Africa. Social justice activist Kavisha Pillay at Corruption Watch said besides working to provide a platform for reporting corruption, the organisation has also done campaigns that allow people to denounce wrongdoing.  

One of those campaigns is the “My hands are clean” initiative which encouraged South Africans to post a photo of themselves online holding up one hand, which is a sign that they are taking a stance against corruption. 

Pillay said they did this because, “confronting corruption begins with behavioural change.”  

Head of the Wits Business School, Helen Duh told Wits Vuvuzela, that the conference created opportunities for social marketing scholars to learn “from practitioners and practitioners to learn from scholars”. 

Duh then said that the school’s focus area of research was, “sustainability and well-being,” and that the conference allowed for scholars to, “reflect, debate, discuss, and recommend solutions to the various societal and environmental problems.”

She said she hopes the discussions will attract more workshops and seminars in these areas in the future.  

Chair Head, Professor Debbie Ellis from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Professor Gael O’Sullivan from Georgetown University, USA, and Leah Taub from Premise, USA preparing to engage in a discussion with scholars at the African Social Marketing Association Conference on April 25, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

FEATURED IMAGE: Leah Taub from Premise, USA giving a talk on Crowdsourcing and how it can be used to gather useful information at the Social Marketing Conference on April 25, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright