Young, Gifted & Killing It: Grant Sithole
by Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) Young, gifted and killing it!” is how I describe a new breed of creatives in our adland and marketing worlds. I’ll be coming face-to-face with them in this new monthly column to find out more, starting with Grant Sithole, creative director at Ogilvy & Mather. Sithole is a rising star who has executed great work for leading brands. What makes him stand out are his extensive local knowledge and insights, which enable him to engage intimately with consumers.
Veli Ngubane: Where did you grow up and how did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be a creative?
Grant Sithole: I grew up in Meadowlands, Soweto, and advertising as a career path was pretty much unheard of. Unless you were talking about being an actor/model in advertising, it wasn’t a real thing. Fortunately for me, I have an uncle who was already in the industry, so the idea of me getting into the game was not entirely shocking.
VN: How did you get interested in advertising, break into the industry, and land your first job?
GS: I went to the AAA School of Advertising and signed up for their two-year diploma in copywriting course. That was great fun and a complete eye-opener. I was then afforded an internship at FCB and went on to spend close on 11 years at the agency.
VN: What are your specialisations/creative processes/most important tools of the trade?
GS: I am a writer, so I think it’s important to keep quite a healthy relationship with words and concept in as many languages as possible. So I’m constantly reading up on different industries, ideologies, genres and pretty much everything. This familiarity with words, I believe, aids in making sure that I can articulate and judge work with more to draw from.
VN: What is your take on transformation in adland/creative departments?
GS: This is a conversation that could take up this entire interview but we are nowhere near where we need to be and it shows. We simply need to take a long hard look at ourselves and why this is so. It doesn’t help to just find a corner in your studio, fill it with black graduates and not have ways to inspire and mentor them. They are not a resource for you to go looking for ‘a lekker colloquial way to say this’. It is very frustrating to watch. But this also seeps into the boardrooms where the decisions are made. There are simply not enough people of colour and we need to be honest with ourselves in order to start fixing it.
VN: Any advice to youngsters wanting to enter the industry?
GS: Just like with any other industry, when you get into the agency is when the real learning starts. But, just like every other industry, it has its bullshit. Knuckle down and make sure that your unique view on the world and your influences shine through so that we can make better work. This is particularly true for the black graduates. We will only make strides away from ‘Dancing Blacks in ads’ when we have your brand new experiences to draw from.
VN: Interesting hobbies/second jobs/bits of information that make you pop as an individual?
GS: Well, over and above being a spectacular footballer (heh heh heh depends who you ask), I also dabble in music. But my brand new love is radio, and broadcasting as a whole. It’s blowing my mind what I’ve been learning about that world recently.
VN: You have previously served on a Loeries judging panel. What are the motivating factors for award-winning work?
GS: Winning work is always going to stand head-and-shoulders above the rest because it has a certain energy about it. Good, honest work that has been given the love of craft always has an energy.
VN: Please supply two or three pieces of work in which you have been involved?
Ogilvy & Mather
Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) entered the world of advertising with a passion after completing his BSocSci (law, politics and economics) at the University of Cape Town and a post-graduate marketing diploma at Red & Yellow, where he also currently serves as advisory board chairman. He is the chief creative officer and founding partner of one of the fastest-growing agencies in the country, AVATAR. A full-service marketing agency with digital at the core, its clients include Brand South Africa, FOX Africa, National Geographic, SAA and Chevron. Veli hails from Kosi Bay in the rural KwaMhlaba Uyalingana area of KZN. In his monthly column “Young, Gifted & Killing It”, he will profile award-winning, kick-ass black creative talent in South Africa.
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