Young, Gifted & Killing It: Tshegofatso Phetlhe
Veli Ngubane: Tell us more about yourself: where did you grow up and what did you want to be when you were growing up?
Tshegofatso Phetlhe: I grew up in the south of Johannesburg in Naturena (there by Kaizer Chiefs) for a few years, then my family relocated to Diepkloof. Growing up, I wanted to be everything, from Oprah to Beyonce to a Picasso to Brenda Fassie. I wanted a career that meant I could be everything and anything.
VN: Tell us what you do and what does a typical day look like for you?
TP: I am currently an art director at M&C Saatchi Abel and a typical day involves being in way too many meetings, stealing moments in between to brainstorm around very tight deadlines and doing some post- or pre-production on any upcoming campaigns. Our days are never the same, which is a blessing and a curse, ’cause you never really know what’s coming.
VN: Your educational background, where and what did you study?
TP: I studied at the one and only greatest college in the world, Red & Yellow School in Cape Town, and I did both art direction/graphic design and the post grad in strategic marketing and communications.
VN: How can the creative industry attract and keep more black female creatives?
TP: The industry can attract and keep us simply by putting us in the ring. Put the black girls in the ring and see what happens. Too many times I have witnessed and experienced instances where black female creatives are acknowledged as a part of the quota but not further than that. Get us in the ring and let us show you what we can do.
VN: Why do you think the advertising industry is struggling to transform and what do you think should be done to fast-track transformation in the advertising industry?
TP: The industry is struggling to transform because it is still obsessed with the word[s] “transformation” and “diversity” as buzzwords and not what they actually mean. Just because you’ve hired the right people in the right amount of numbers doesn’t mean that the job is done. That’s where it starts. Transformation is also not just on the bottom of the food chain in the form of juniors and interns; it’s also a change in appearance of the ‘people’ tab on your agency’s website. Representation matters, on the studio floor and in the work and those doing it. We say it all the time but, until people who want to join the industry actually see versions of themselves there, it’s going to be a steep mountain to climb. But we’ll get there. We have no choice but to.
VN: I’m interested in your thoughts on how women are portrayed on TV and in adverts, and what you as a female creative are doing to change how women are represented in advertising?
TP: I don’t think I’ve done enough (yet) to completely alter how women are portrayed, as the South African consumer is actually still a lot more conservative than people think. So, we still have a whole lotta ways to go. But I do believe that when we speak of women, especially black women, we need to shake off a lot of the beliefs that we’ve been holding on to for so long. So, my hope is that we show the strong woman, the depressed one, the joyous one and the smart one but also not confine her to being just that. Let her be multifaceted. It’s who we are.
VN: What advice would you give someone completing their high-school education this year and looking to follow a career in the creative industry?
TP: Connect with the first person [who] exposed you to the industry. Don’t be afraid of connecting with them on what you want to do and where you want to go. Chances are that they will always want to help you get to where you want and help you focus in on which part of this lovely industry of ours you want to be a pro at. And research, research, research. The internet is in the palm of your hand and, if not, it’s on your mom’s phone, so do best.
VN: What do you feel is missing in advertising industry today and what should the future look like in South Africa and the rest of the continent?
TP: The industry is way too comfortable with the way in which it has always functioned. It’s missing that startup culture that disrupted the technology industry and the transport industry alike. That energy of disruption is what’s missing but it’s also a burgeoning culture that is growing on our continent. Especially with the growth in access to digital knowledge. I see the agency model that we have today completely disappear as roles become more fluid, giving birth to better and more powerful ideas for change [and] empowering both client and agency.
VN: Where and when do you have your best ideas?
TP: Just before I fall asleep and as I wake up. Those are the moments when I’m at my most unencumbered from doubt and the outside world. It’s the best.
VN: If you had a super power, what would you want it to be?
TP: Time travel. I’m currently getting obsessed with learning how to do the same thing but doing it better every time. Imagine having the luxury of time to try out different ways of working, thinking and living to see the best way of doing it. I’d be a better pro than I am now, at living this one life that we have.
VN: Tell us something about yourself not generally known?
TP: I can sing. In my next life, I’m doing a visual album and harmonising and creating songs that my friends and I can listen and jam to. I’m getting excited just typing this. Ha.
VN: What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?
TP: A lot of the exciting things are currently in motion so I can’t say much but keep your eyes peeled for some stuff in the new year.
VN: Brag a bit: what is your career highlight to date; awards, brands you’ve worked on…? Don’t be shy, tell us.
TP: Career highlight would be winning a Loerie Grand Prix on #rightmyname, a campaign my partner Thomas Kratz and I worked on for Nando’s. To be able to win so big on a brand that literally every creative I’ve ever known has wanted to work on is crazy beautiful. And, of course, the Golds and the Silver etc. Ja no, 2018 has been one helluva year of blessings and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’ve never flexed like this before but I think I’m allowed to here, right?
VN: Please would you supply two or three pieces of work you have been involved in?
TP: #rightmyname, a Nando’s campaign aimed at removing that annoying red line that appears under non-English names. Probably my favourite piece of work to date.
Show Them. The Superbalisty Brand ad that we did to establish the brand for the year and the future. In the height of Black Panther and before that, the world has been keeping an eye on Africa and watching what comes out of it. This ad was a response to that.
For more, go to behance.net/TshegofatsoMo.
Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) entered the world of advertising with a passion after completing his BSocSci (law, politics and economics) at UCT and a post-graduate marketing diploma at Red & Yellow, where he’s currently advisory board chairman. He also sits on the IAB’s Transformation & Education Council, is a DMA board member and has judged Loeries, Apex and AdFocus. He is the Joburg MD and founding partner of the largest black-owned and -managed full-service agencies in the country, AVATAR. He is also co-founder of M&N Brands, which is building an African network of agencies to rival the global giants. In his monthly column “Young, Gifted & Killing It”, he profiles award-winning, kick-ass black creative talent in South Africa.
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