Q5: Chasing the golden thread with Mawande Sobethwa
Q5: Your background is in IT, filmmaking and video journalism. How have the skills you learnt in these fields transferred to copywriting and creative leadership?
Mawande Sobethwa: My journey as a creative is heavily influenced by my experiences, and how I create today is based on principles and learnings from previous industries I’ve worked in. The attention to detail and understanding of the work that needs to go in the backend to make something functional and look great for the user/consumer is a lesson I learned from the world of IT, while the art of storytelling and the use of different styles of sequences is something I learnt while working in the film and journalism sectors. The importance of craft is the golden thread that weaves through all these industries, and it continues to aid my creative process in the demanding world of advertising.
Q5: How did you navigate the shift from journalism to adland?
MS: I’ve always been, and continue to be, eager to learn, apply and adapt. So, when I crashlanded in an ad agency all those years back, I didn’t look back. It became my world, one which I had to adapt or perish in. I chose the former and, to this day, I continuously work at becoming better.
Q5: What do you hope to achieve in your new role?
MS: I’ve always believed that advertising is a people-based industry — the understanding of clients as people, brands as personas, consumers as people and, most importantly, those who create the work. I believe that, as a creative leader, one needs to have an innate understanding of people. That’s what it takes to lead a team of people who create amazing work that connects. This has been a long-time theory of mine, and now I get to put it to the test at Publicis Machine and see what it yields. Other than that, I feel blessed to have walked into an agency with such an amazing group of people. I’d like to integrate with the team and to create amazing work together that connects, and that is meaningful.
Q5: Tell us about your entrepreneurial endeavours — how do they feed into your day job?
MS: I run a boutique content agency called Iskeem Semicimbi which is primarily focused on offering photography and videography services for events, corporate and individual multimedia needs. We service brands for partnered events in the main market. I’ve built a photography studio at the back of my house, and it doubles up as a backyard movie cinema, small-scale events space and a platform for young creatives to gather, exchange ideas and collaborate. I believe all of this helps me keep my finger on the pulse of what’s popping and what different target audiences are into, helping me harvest up-to-date insights that lead to better ideas for the brands we service at Publicis Machine.
Q5: Fill in the blank for us: We need more ____ in South African agencies.
MS: We need more opportunities to be given to “non-ad-school” talent in SA agencies, because I believe there are great ideas and stories residing in the minds of those who simply don’t have the opportunity to walk through the doors of advertising schools and colleges. A big up to Publicis Machine for being open to this.
- Follow Sobethwa on Instagram.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.