by Herman Manson (@marklives) Grey Africa has appointed Fran Luckin as its chief creative officer, effective Monday, 1 February 2016. She joins the agency from Quirk, where she served as executive creative director from 2013; prior to that, she was ECD at Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg. We get the scoop straight from her.


MarkLives logoHow did Grey manage to nab you?
Along with the rest of the advertising world, I’ve watched the global Grey culture and creative output transform over the past few years, and I was very aware of the work they were winning with in the awards shows — things like Volvo Life Paint, and The Gun Shop.

A friend introduced me to Paul Jackson, the group MD of Grey Africa, and creative director, Glenn Jeffery. I was writing my MBA thesis at the time, a large part of which was concerned with how agency structure influences culture, and how that in turn influences creative output. So I wanted to meet with Glenn and Paul to find out more about the Grey culture and structure. I’ve witnessed so many agencies try to adapt; to integrate their disciplines to produce work for the new platform-agnostic, digital world — and fail dismally. Grey is getting it right all over the world and so I wanted some insight into how they were succeeding.

I got on really well with Paul and Glenn — we clicked from the first meeting. I felt like we had the same values, and that’s crucially important for me. And so one thing led to another.


MarkLives logoWhat is your brief stepping into your new position?
To work with the leadership team to organise the agency structure and create an agency culture that fosters truly integrated work. Work that makes our clients’ brands famous, achieves business success and becomes part of popular culture.

Grey Africa building, Johannesburg

MarkLives logoWhat attracted you to the agency?
Firstly, I love the work that Grey is doing all over the world: big ideas that don’t look like advertising; ideas that solve real problems; integrated brand storytelling that becomes part of popular culture. I was also very attracted to the internal Grey culture. As an agency they have a very clearly articulated culture called Open — and what’s more important is that they actually live that out. They’ve abolished all the internal silos and it shows in the work.


MarkLives logoWhat are the most valuable lessons you learned at your previous agency — Quirk?
I got much closer to the rock face with regard to the actual commercial business of how an ad agency makes money. This was partly also due to the fact that I was doing my MBA at the time, but also because it was a smaller company, with more project-based work, and so I was just much more involved at that level. Rob Stokes and the Quirk exco team gave me a lot of freedom to make changes to the agency structure; as a management team, we made the agency more integrated and made other, quite brave operational changes that really helped us do better work.

It was really gratifying to see how changing the structure of an agency can improve the quality of the creative work.


MarkLives logoHow difficult was it to walk into such a technical environment from a very creative one, and would you do it again?
I was fortunate in that everyone at Quirk knew I was from a traditional-above-the-line ad agency and knew nothing about digital. I didn’t pretend to know anything either, because I knew I couldn’t fool anyone — I just went in there and asked dumb questions and was very open about admitting when I didn’t know what was going on (which was a lot of the time).

Everyone there was amazing — they welcomed the chance to explain things to me and never got impatient. I’m passionate about the potential of technology to transform storytelling and create brand experiences, and I loved working with such smart people.


MarkLives logoHow do you successfully integrate digital into creative departments at agencies such as Grey and its peers?
Grey logoThere’s a growing understanding (which is recognised by and brought to life in Grey’s Open culture) that agencies need to do away with the silos. If every consumer touchpoint is produced in a separate part of the agency with its own bottom-line and its own culture and leadership, in an atmosphere where all the silos compete with each other for revenue, we are going to end up with — well, with what we have at the moment. Fragmented, dislocated brand communication that doesn’t add up to a coherent and compelling brand story.


MarkLives logoThere is a lot of criticism in the industry around the lack of female representation at a senior creative and management level. What do you think can be done?
I’ve been really fortunate in that all the agencies I’ve worked in have had a lot of strong female leaders. About half of the creative directors at Ogilvy were women, and the Ogilvy board was about 50% female. I’ve worked under two very strong female MDs and a female CEO.

I do tend to hire a lot of women. I’ve said this before but working mothers make really great creatives because they don’t mess around. They’re incredibly focused and effective.

So my experience in South Africa hasn’t been of a workplace lacking in female leadership. It’s when I go to global creative conferences, however, that I start noticing that I’m one of maybe two or three female creative directors in the room.

I think we maybe need to bet on women more. By that I mean give them chances to lead and participate earlier, instead of waiting for them to put themselves forward.


MarkLives logoWhat advice would you give young female creatives just entering the industry?
The same advice I give to all creative people: Don’t let self-doubt hold you back. All of the most-talented creative people I know have days where they go home and seriously wonder if they might be rubbish. And the more you try to do original and unexpected things, the more insecure you’re likely to feel. Every top creative in the world has had that moment where they show an idea and people look at them as though they’re crazy. The really great people don’t let it stop them from putting themselves out there creatively. They just keep going, despite how they feel.

I compare it to being an actor: you’ve got to just keep auditioning, keep showing up. Because the audition you don’t go to could be the role that would have made you famous. You never know if you don’t show up.


MarkLives logoDo you think creative departments really deliver channel-agnostic solutions to clients — or is it still more talk than actual walk at the moment?
I think there’s a genuine effort within most creative departments to break the mould of traditional advertising and deliver big trans-media ideas. But all too often those ideas never achieve life outside the Power Point presentation because it’s not just agencies that are siloed — the clients’ marketing departments are siloed, too. And each marketing team has a different agency, and if there isn’t a deliberate push from the top to drive integration, then the different teams and their agencies produce work in isolation from each other. And then you all get to the annual brand review and each agency/client team gets up (separately) and shows the work, and there’s no consistency.


Herman Manson 2105Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of He was the inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has, over his 20-year-plus career, contributed to numerous journals and websites in South Africa and abroad, including AdVantage magazine, Men’s Health, Computer World and African Communications.

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