by Herman Manson (@marklives) Odette van der Haar, CEO of the Association for Communication and Advertising of South Africa, recently handed in her resignation after just over a decade with the organisation. She will be joining J. Walter Thompson Johannesburg, also as CEO, as 1 July 2018. MarkLives caught up with Van der Haar to find out more about her career move.

MarkLives logoWhat prompted the move back to agency side?
Odette van der Haar: Change is healthy, and for me, personally, it was time. I’ve been at the ACA for more than 10 years and that has been a tremendous experience. When you look to grow your career, it is necessary to challenge yourself whether inside or outside your existing organisation. The move to JWT affords me precisely the new challenge I’ve been after. I’ve talked a lot about how our industry landscape has evolved, and how agency models need to change in order for agencies to survive and thrive in the current economic climate and digital era. So, now, I have the chance to be part of the transformation process at an agency that has already adapted, with capabilities in e-commerce, experience design, social, multi-screen campaigns, performance marketing and other disciplines needed to match today’s business environment. It really is an exciting time to be part of the industry.

MarkLives logoHow did the JWT JHB approach/offer happen?
As the ACA CEO, I often engage with agency heads and/or owners regarding vacancies in their business and, this time, it happened to be JWT, which is an agency that I have always had the utmost respect for. The agency boasts some of the best brains in the business and I could not resist the chance to work alongside people I have always held in high regard and admired.

MarkLives logoWhat will your short- and medium-term strategy for JWT Joburg entail?
OvdH: In the short-term, I aim to get to the know the talent and clients, and build mutually beneficial relationships with all the agency’s stakeholders. In the medium term, I would like to assist in growing the agency and its clients’ businesses.

MarkLives logoWhat do you consider your career highlight at the ACA?
OvdH: One highlight? The past decade has been filled with so many highlights at the ACA but leaving the company in a much-healthier, -successful and -respected position than when I first arrived makes me immensely proud.

MarkLives logoWhat is the most-valuable learning you take from the ACA with you to JWT Joburg?
OvdH: The business of advertising and communications requires creativity in every sphere, not just in content generation. That said, creativity in business can never be at the expense of good governance and devaluing the currency of the business – our intellectual property.

MarkLives logoWhat advice would you offer your successor at the ACA?
OvdH: A: Ensure that you develop mutually beneficial relationships with all the ACA’s stakeholders because these relationships will ensure the success of all the endeavours of the ACA. There is still a lot of work to be done at the ACA and this will require continued support from the agencies, Government and the broader industry players.

MarkLives logoIf you could offer one piece of advice to SA’s ad industry at large?
OvdH: Continue to support the ACA because self-regulation is what has created an environment in which agencies have the opportunity [to] thrive commercially. Times may be tough at the moment but there is no better time than the present to be innovative, creative and disruptive in terms of the status quo.


Herman Manson 2017Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of

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