Young, Gifted & Killing It: Nkanyezi Masango
by Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) Nkanyezi Masango has come a long way since he started out as a “shameless stalker” who identified the best creative directors and cold-called them for job interviews. We find out more about this young and gifted creative director, including the astonishing discovery along the way that the most important tool of his trade is.… pen and paper.
Veli Ngubane: How did you a) get interested in advertising and b) break into the industry and land your first job?
Nkanyezi Masango: I wanted to be a filmmaker. Then I discovered how long it can take to make a movie. So I decided to try advertising, where it’s much quicker to get your ideas produced and seen by the public. After graduating, with a very thin portfolio, I would to go to Exclusive Books and look through the latest Loeries annual (there were no ad blogs back then). I memorised all the creative directors credited on the best work and just cold-caledl them for an interview. Eventually Taelo [Mokgalagadi] at Hunt Lascaris agreed to see me. And the rest is history.
VN: What are your specialisations/creative processes/most- important tools of the trade?
NM: Media and technology are evolving every day. But the most important tools are still a pen and paper.
VN: What characteristics do you need to have to succeed in the advertising industry?
NM: Passion for advertising and a positive attitude.
VN: Any interesting hobbies/second jobs/bits of information that make you pop as an individual?
NM: I love trail running and getting lost in the wild.
VN: What advice would you give to youngsters wanting to break into the industry?
NM: Study the best work. Go online and become an ad geek. Look at BMW “Mouse”, Carling Black Label “Be The Coach” and every great South African ad ever made. Then find out who made those ads and call them for an interview. Basically, be a shameless stalker.
VN: What is the South African advertising industry doing right? And what needs to change?
NM: We’ve become the ‘radio country’ at Cannes. Now we need to get out of that comfort zone and create powerful integrated ideas. We need to pose a serious threat in the tough categories such as Film, Cyber, Mobile and PR.
VN: What is your take on transformation in creative studios and adland as a whole?
NM: Everyone is well-aware that the industry lacks diversity. I think the question we need to ask ourselves is: “What are we doing about it?”
VN: What do you like most about advertising? What is most challenging?
NM: Advertising is the only industry that encompasses every facet of creativity. Music, film, photography, illustration, product design and so on. The challenging part is being consistently great. It’s tough but you just have to keep trying.
VN: What is your favourite ad campaign, past and present, and why?
NM: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s almost impossible to engineer that kind of impact. I wish I’d done it.
VN: Where and when do you have your best ideas?
NM: Anywhere outside the office. The best time is when I’m jogging.
VN: You have created award-winning work; what’s your secret?
NM: I owe a large part of my success to my mentor, Graham Lang. He gave me the platform and the resources to produce great work. You can have all the talent in the world but, without the right mentorship and brave clients, it all means nothing.
VN: You were the only SA creative director selected to judge on the Advertising Jury at the 2016 Art Directors Club (ADC) 95th Annual Awards; tell me more about that experience.
NM: It was the best judging experience I’d ever had. The work was absolutely astonishing. But the best part was judging alongside a panel that is 50/50 male and female. Every award show should do that.
VN: What has been the most-exciting project that you’ve worked on?
NM: #Operation45, an integrated campaign for Operation Smile. I had the privilege of seeing children’s lives transform right before my eyes.
VN: What do you consider the most effective current form of advertising in SA? And why?
NM: Film is still the best medium. It can be viewed on TV, at the cinema and shared online.
VN: Do you think you would ever decide to put your pen and paper down?
NM: No, creativity is not a job; it’s a way of life.
VN: What would you like to be remembered for if you decide to retire?
NM: Hopefully, for contributing to the country’s portfolio of iconic work. But I’m not there yet.
VN: Do you have any new exciting projects you’re working on at the moment that you may share with us?
NM: There’s some work in the pipeline; it will be revealed soon.
VN: Please would you supply two or three pieces of work you have been involved in?
First Kiss — Big up to Jason Fialkov, Graham, Lubby and our legendary client, Hector.
Hope Soap — Thanks to the buggers Graham, Gumby, Rowan, Justin and Gareth
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 profiles award-winning, kick-ass black creative talent in South Africa.