by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Mathe Okaba, CEO of the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) South Africa, chats about her role, the inaugural South African Effie Awards, and nurturing young talent.

Q5: Could you tell us a bit about your role? What does your task list look like?
Mathe Okaba: My role is to offer strategic oversight and guidance for the ACA. [I] ensure delivery of industry initiatives that shift the needle, such as ensuring the setup of the MAC Charter Council and driving true transformation within. My top three on my task list are: delivery on the MAC Charter Council, informing and shaping the Copyright and Performers Amendment Bill, and, most importantly, ensuring a happy and solid team that will support me in delivering all initiatives required of the ACA by its members.

Q5: Moving to the organisation itself, we know the inaugural South African edition of the Effie Awards will be taking place this year — could you tell us about those plans, and what else is on the ACA’s agenda for 2020?
MO: This is a very exciting project that the ACA is embarking on. Numerous brands and agencies have earned their peers’ well-deserved respect by winning an APEX Award and, while it may be the end of an era, it is the dawn of an exciting new period on the awards calendar in our industry and on the continent.

Effie South Africa logoWhile it remains focused on effectiveness, the Effie Awards will look vastly different from the APEX Awards. The Effie Awards [is] known by advertisers and agencies globally as the pre-eminent awards [show] in the industry, and recognise[s] any and all forms of marketing that contribute to a brand’s success. Moving to Effie means that our industry will gain the recognition it richly deserves on the global stage — for the value it adds to business success — and claim its seat at the table alongside the world’s leading effective marketing campaigns. The ACA will be in a position to provide more information on the awards programme in due course. We promise to excite the industry, so please buckle up and enjoy the ride. [According to a December 2019 press release, “Effie South African finalists and winners will receive points towards the Global Effie Index, which ranks the most effective marketers, brands, holding companies, agency networks, agency offices and independent agencies globally. The Effie Index will also determine the local rankings.” — ed-at-large]

For 2020, we want to create an association that is accessible to all industry players, which is future-fit and agile. We aim to create more-interesting networking sessions, which are thought-engaging and contribute to knowledge creation.

Q5: Let’s talk about young people and the industry — besides bursaries, what can be done to support and nurture them?
MO: Young people in the industry are critical to the success of our sector. We need to develop leaders who are future-fit and are brave [enough] to take on future challenges. To integrate the younglings, we have developed a networking session of youthful peers called Future Ballers, which happens quarterly. Currently, the sessions are only held in Johannesburg but we intend rolling them out in Cape Town from 2020, too.

Q5: What can agencies do to position advertising and marketing as strong, rewarding career paths?
As the ACA, we are currently working on a strategy, which was developed by the industry, that positions advertising and marketing as a viable career. Our aim is to create awareness of advertising as a career to school learners and their parents. We have realised that our career doesn’t have high levels of positive awareness and, as such, would like parents and potential employees to know that “creativity pays off”.

Q5: What interested you in this field when you were starting out?
MO: Back in the day, I didn’t want to conform; being a revolutionary was in my nature. I didn’t know any young black women in advertising. Most of my peers were running after being lawyers, doctors and chartered accountants. So, I chose the alternate: ADVERTISING. My mother was opposed to this but warmed up to it as time went on. Now I am here and joyfully here. Passion keeps me here.

  • Connect with Okaba on LinkedIn
  • Find out more about the South African Effies at, including social media handles and award entry workshop dates

See also


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with over 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, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diversive fields.

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