by Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) Sowetan-born Masego Motsogi (@masegom) is an anomaly in the ad industry: a black woman leading one of the hottest agencies in South Africa. The newly appointed, jingle-loving managing director of Loerie Grand-Prix-winning agency, Grid Worldwide, is looking to transform the industry the best way she knows — by nurturing young creatives into superstars. With a degree in community and health psychology, as well as a higher diploma in integrated marketing communications, she is well on her way to achieving her goal.

Masego MotsogiVeli Ngubane: Tell us more about yourself: where did you grow up and what were your dreams when you were growing up?
Masego Motsogi:
I’m born and bred in Soweto. Until I was about 13 years old, I’ve always thought that I would be a social worker. Later I developed a deep love for maths and science in school. I had an obsession with trains so I thought I would be a mechanical engineer. Things changed quickly at the end of high school and here I am.

VN: Congratulations on your recent achievement. Please explain what you do and what an average day is like for you?
As the managing director, I run the business on a day-to-day basis. Right now, though, I’m in observation- and learning-mode. The idea is to make Grid an even better version of itself. This means making sure that we have systems and processes in place that allow for the creative product to still come out tops. People are a critical part of the creative process and part of my mandate is to ensure that we are intentional with our team’s growth and development, which includes transformation and diversity. I still enjoy the creative part of the business and so I have a set of clients whose business I get involved in. This will give rise to opportunities for me to give strategic and creative guidance.

VN: What is your philosophy in life that influences your creative work?
I’m guided by the legacy I will leave behind and, with that, I try to be the best I can.

VN: What lessons have you learned from your experience in the industry that has led to your success?
It’s important to be aware about what’s going on around you — both from a perspective on the world and also with your colleagues and clients. This often makes for better and informed conversations.

VN: What are your views on the slow transformation of the industry?
Frankly, I think many people have just not taken it seriously enough or want to cheat the system. Unfortunately, the playback is the work we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing out in field. It lacks insight and truth which then casts the industry in a bad light and this does not bode well for us.

VN: Why do you think the ad industry is failing to nurture female talent for top positions in agencies?
Our society remains very patriarchal and I think there is still a subconscious resistance to having women as leaders as they supposedly come with costs related to maternity leave, family responsibility. Because of this resistance and intolerance, women opt out [of leadership].

VN: How do you perceive yourself as a woman leader in the creative industry?
I would like to think that I am an enabler of growth and development. I was fortunate to have people who were instrumental in my growth as a professional and I hope to afford those that come after me with the same opportunity.

VN: What advice can you give to people wanting to get into this business?
The industry is not just about the glamour. There is a lot of work and pressure it comes with. Arm yourself with knowledge, know where you want to go and let your actions speak — roll your sleeves up and get going.

VN: What do you like most about your job?
I still think it’s amazing that we can get a brief on a piece of paper and produce incredible ideas from that. We have to take pride in that.

VN: What is your favourite ad campaign, past and present, and why?
I’m a sucker for jingles, so a lot of the stuff that I like is from back in the ’90s, [when] the jingle was the order of the day. I can think of Escort Pantyhose, Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclairs and Lunch Bar. I was relatively young then and I think the ingenuity there is how those brands and their products have remained memorable, even to this day. Having recently joined Grid, I have had a closer view of what they have done. One of the projects that stand out is the work that the team has done on Qatar’s country-branding project. It is a deeply considered body of work — from the font used to the iconography and colour palette based on the landscape.

VN: What has been a highlight in your career?
It has to be the incredible people I have had the opportunity to work and interact with, the smart minds [who] are not limited in their thinking and knowledge. When it comes to actual work, I’d have to point to Zamtel and the enormous growth in subscribers that we saw that was partly due to marketing efforts. I also get excited when I see young people grow and flourish in the industry, especially those [who] I’ve mentored.

VN: What are the key trends to look out for in 2018 from an ad industry business perspective?
Integration is no longer a word that can just be bandied about. It’s now expected that agencies will deliver on this age-old promise. The work we put out has to either be reflective of modern-day culture or be ahead of it. Phansi ngama empty ideas.

VN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? This sounds like a job interview question <laughs>.
It truly does <laughs>. One of the things very close to my heart is the health of our communities, and for me Soweto remains special. Over and above the work that I do in the industry, I would like to have a hand in various projects related to food security, which will hopefully have an impact on young people’s success through the elementary education system and their overall health.

VN: Tell us something about yourself not generally known.
I’m a bit of a DIY queen and there are a couple of CDs out there whose cover sleeves were written by yours truly.

VN: Please would you supply two or three pieces of work you have been involved in?

Believe — Cell C

Castle Milk Stout rebrand and repositioning

Sasol — Jesse/puppet (What if) and Springboks (World Cup 2007)


Veli NgubaneVeli 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 the Loeries, Apex and AdFocus awards. He is CCO 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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