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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

Women leaders at the helm of Ogilvy’s success

Written by Staff Writer

April 24, 2020

An advertising and marketing agency with a transformation agenda

Ogilvy South Africa is a multi-disciplinary, modern marketing agency comprised of industry-leading units in advertising; public relations and public affairs; branding and identity; shopper and retail marketing.

Healthcare and specialist communications; direct, digital, promotion and relationship marketing; consulting, research and analytics capabilities; branded content and entertainment also form part of our world-class service offerings.

The nature of the work we do needs to connect to all South Africans (and Africans). The composition of our thoughts, ideas and creative contributions need to therefore be diverse in all forms. Diversity is our lifeblood to ‘Making Brands Matter’.

“Diversity in world views, diversity in experience, diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation, place of origin and diversity in skills; all contribute to creating an environment where creativity and innovative thinking can thrive. For without it is the very enemy of creativity; sameness,” – Luca Gallarelli, MD, Ogilvy Cape Town.

Ogilvy embraces the South African transformation objectives as it is a key enablement of our diversity agenda.


Apart from our passion to liberate brands, we believe in liberating our people. Ogilvy South Africa’s commitment to skills development, and gender-empowered strategies address the generational challenges of the 21st century economy.

With female leaders at the helm, we have reached new heights in the expansion of our business. As the former CEO of Ogilvy South Africa, Nunu Ntshingila coordinated Ogilvy’s evolution into a diversified communications group that continues to deliver award-winning, 360-degree work for South Africa’s biggest and best-recognised brands. Most importantly, Ntshingila’s steadfast leadership is one of the primary reasons that the Group still enjoys some of the most successful long-term client relationships in the industry.

New leadership and a restructuring of the team has formed part of our change strategy. Mariana O’Kelly, with her impeccable creative credentials and complementary skills, was promoted to joint Executive Creative Director in 2017.

Effective creative is part of our DNA, however it’s difficult to achieve, without equally effective planning and strategy. To head this up and drive Ogilvy’s new Operating System, Neo Makhele’s role was consolidated into a Group Planning Director.

In April 2018, Elouise Kelly was appointed Managing Director of Ogilvy Johannesburg to take over the reins from Alistair Mokoena, who had moved into the Chief Executive role. Elouise has an extensive media background through the SABC, Viacom and M-Net. She brings a client lens into the day-to-day operations of Ogilvy while ensuring that all the changes yield the necessary results.

Current Ogilvy Chief Operating Officer: South Africa Joanna Oosthuizen was promoted to her pivotal management role after stellar success in the Ogilvy PR & Influence division, where she was able to marry effective client service and strategy with a passion for developing talent within the organisation. She continued to head up Ogilvy’s industry-leading PR & Influence business as MD of PR & Influence for South Africa, while also fulfilling the national COO role.

After a long search, Joanna’s replacement was found, a person equipped to lead Ogilvy PR & Influence. Lebo Madiba comes to Ogilvy with 20 years of experience in communications and brand building, including stints at Etion, Redline, Chillibush PR and GGi Communications. Lebo has the industry knowledge and passion to ensure the Ogilvy continues to achieve excellence, while inspiring and developing the next generation of marketing professionals.

Our leaders are passionate about Ogilvy, the brands we work with and the people behind the scenes who make it all possible. Our transformation objectives ensure that we continue to create high-performing, diverse teams that elevate women within our organisation.



One-of-a-kind Gender-based Development Strategies

Ogilvy regards employment equity as a process aimed at progressively enabling our internal employee composition to be more reflective of South African society which inevitably enhances our overall capability and the quality of the work we do.

Ogilvy makes deliberate strides to retain its competitive edge by investing in various programs and initiatives. The “Ogilvy 30 for 30” top talent female global development program is of our more recent initiatives. “Ogilvy 30 for 30” is a leadership programme designed to support and challenge strong female talent at Ogilvy to reach their full potential. Through the programme, we aim to identify, retain and elevate high potential female leaders who will help grow our business.

Our aim is for participants to leave with:

  • A deepened sense of self-awareness and personal mastery.
  • Clarified strengths, values and sense of purpose.
  • An authentic leadership style and personal brand developed.
  • Strong, enabling relationships with fellow participants, global and local coaches and sponsors.
  • An approach of building resilience and a sustainable way of working.

The programme consists of three distinct learning components: coaching, sponsorship and group learning events. Each one is designed to address the challenges that women face as they develop their career.

It is aimed at high-performing women from any part of our business who have senior leadership potential but are not yet operating at the highest level. The ideal candidate will have the capacity and ambition to advance within Ogilvy and WPP globally.

Growing the next generation of talent

At Ogilvy, we believe in developing and growing our next generation of talent. We are aware that growing and nurturing this talent is key to our success. We do this through investing in a number of pipeline programmes, and many intern experiences, through job shadowing, work experience and mentorship.

In total, we have touched the lives of 62 young talented individuals through these initiatives and invested more than R2,2m from July 2017 to June 2018 in our Johannesburg campus alone.

The Rockstart programme focuses on providing scholarships to young, underprivileged students in the creative industry. Other initiatives that impact women and girls have been established through the programme.

These initiatives include Girls Empowered, which provides young women with an opportunity for a better future through education, counselling, and training & advocacy. The goal is to encourage girls to be strong, smart and bold.

The Girl Affect Campaign offers support, education on menstruation, and material donations to girls from rural and township areas through the provision of Girl Affect packs (toiletries, and sanitary pads). It enlists the support of inspirational men and women to educate the girls about their self-worth.


Empowering our communities through creative execution

The Rape Crisis Trust

It is estimated that 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime, and only 8.6% of rape perpetrators are convicted.

The Rape Crisis Trust has a vision of a South Africa in which women are safe in their communities. The trust’s mission is to promote safety in communities, to reduce the trauma experienced by rape survivors, to encourage the reporting of rape and to work actively to address flaws in legislation.

Ogilvy, in partnership with the Rape Crisis Trust, developed the #SpeakToUs campaign, which revealed the reality that rape victims face.

Unfortunately, most people believe these rapes only occur in dark alleys by hooded strangers. In fact, 68% of rape survivors know their rapist.

They have had their trust broken in the workplace, home, communities, and other places that should be places of safety. They have been betrayed by a friend, husband, family member or colleague. Many struggle to speak out about their experiences for fear that their trust will be further betrayed.

The gripping campaign, created by Ogilvy Cape Town with the help of Giant Films, We Love Jam and photographer David Prior, uses online film, press, and radio ads featuring actual rape survivors, to inform women that they can speak to a trained Rape Crisis counsellor through a dedicated 24-hour crisis line if they have no one to speak to.


#NoExcuse Campaign

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world. Every day, women are murdered, physically and sexually assaulted, threatened and humiliated by their partners, in their own homes. Without action, the cycle of abuse will continue.

Asambe Nono is a well-known South African football song. The lyrics suggestively say, “let’s go, my baby, let’s go and sleep”. But when the #NoExcuse female choir sang Asambe Nono just before kick-off in front of 85 000 people at the PSL game between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in 2018, the words took the massive crowd by surprise.

As part of the #NoExcuse campaign against women abuse, with the backing of Carling Black Label, the lyrics were changed to tell an all-too-common story. It was the story of a South African woman being abused by her partner when he comes home from a soccer match where his team has lost, he under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The chorus said there was no excuse for women abuse. The revised lyrics were carried live on the big screen at FNB Stadium and the choir’s performance was televised on SABC and SuperSport, with commentators primed to explain the meaning behind this unique intervention to their millions of viewers.

Ogilvy South Africa was the lead agency in the curation of the campaign. The ground-breaking Soccer Song for Change demonstration was instrumental in putting the issue of gender-based violence front-and-centre in the public domain.

It encouraged all South Africans to unite and discuss the harsh realities we face as a nation. Because of the #NoExcuse campaign, more than 45 million people worldwide were reached and encouraged to fight violence against women. We were awarded a Bronze Loerie award for our efforts.

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