Young, Gifted & Killing It: Nomaswazi Phumo
by Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) This month, we interview the Soweto-born and -raised strategist, Nomaswazi Phumo (@NomaswaziPhumo), who shares with us her routine for solving some complex brand problems through her kickass strategy.
Veli Ngubane: Tell us more about yourself: where did you grow up and what did you want to be when you were growing up?
Nomaswazi Phumo: I call Soweto home; I love that place, shucks! I grew up in Protea North ikasi lama kasi (I said what I said) and also spent a huge chunk of my formative years in Zola 3 at my grandmother’s. Growing up, I’ve always wanted to be in communications and very early on I fell in love with journalism. The dream then was to become a war correspondent; I was always so intrigued at how journalists would remain so composed during critical times (a trait I also possess). Oh ja, and also this one time, I actually wanted to be Miss SA; I was a full-on pageant girl.
VN: Tell us what you do and what does a typical day look like for you?
NP: I am a strategist at M&C Saatchi Abel Johannesburg. My days are never the same and that’s the best part. To give you a very rough picture, it is catching up on current affairs. Thinking, lots of reviews. Thinking, robust conversations in studio (and laughs). Thinking, research, building hot strat decks, more thinking and kicking ass.
VN: What are the core ingredients that make a great strategist?
NP: A great strategist is interested; you have to want to know. It’s also vital that you love solving because it’s simple: we solve business problems. And be a good listener all around, keep your ear on the ground and fall madly in love with the consumer.
VN: There is a buzz word “culture” in referring to the youth market: what is culture and how can brands align with the culture?
NP: For me, culture is who we are; it stems from values and beliefs and people hold their values dear. You cannot tell someone about their culture; that’s invasive. Brands need to engage, observe and navigate; it’s all about the conversations and the journey.
VN: What are brands doing right in their pursuit to win over the youth?
NP: Brands are certainly trying but is it enough? Now that’s the real question. As it stands, there are a lot of boxes being ticked by brands — not enough bold moves — it still all feels, looks and is safe. The youth audience is very audacious; brands definitely need to stretch themselves and not just strive to get it ‘right’ — they need to kill it.
VN: How can the creative industry attract and keep more black female creatives?
NP: The attraction is not the problem. Trust me, we are interested; we are available; we are capable. Just hire us! When it comes to keeping black female creatives, representation matters. Having someone that looks like me at the top who deserves to be there because they’re actually dope and consistently show up should also not be discounted.
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 and events industry?
NP: First, the advertising industry needs to stop treating diversity and transformation as a trend. There are too many conversations around transformation in our industry and very little action. If this is a cause we all believe in, then let us rally the troops — let’s get something going — we have a responsibility to be part of the change. I mean, we do this for brands every single day, anyway.
VN: How does the future of advertising look like?
NP: So bright, it’s very exciting. The narrative is changing; such bold, deliberate and provocative work is starting to come out. I’m here for it. All of it.
VN: What advice would you give someone completing their high-school education this year and looking to follow a career in the creative industry?
NP: Be interested. Always ask why. Read anything and everything.
VN: What do you feel is missing in the creative industry today?
NP: Definitely the Heart. A lot of people are in the industry because they just are: very little passion, too much of everything else. You have to love this creative industry, especially on the days it doesn’t love you back.
VN: Where and when do you have your best ideas?
NP: Mostly in bed in the [mornings]; this will explain the permanent eyebags. Akulalwa (there’s no time for sleep).
VN: If you had a superpower, what would you want it to be?
NP: I’d love to be able to fly. I’m an observer (basically, a people-watcher) — imagine being able to observe at aeriel view. An actual dream.
VN: Tell us something about yourself not generally known?
NP: I sing really well; I’m a mean second alto.
VN: What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?
NP: Working on something really special you’ll know soon.
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 Loeries, APEX, Pendoring, Bookmarks and AdFocus. He is the group MD of AVATAR and 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.