The desire to make a mark drives Marvin Kgasoane – it’s the reason he wakes up in the morning. “I want to leave a name for myself. I’m not sure what that name is yet. But I need to leave it,” he says.
Kgasoane has been very quick off the starting blocks: He has been appointed media manager at Kwanza Communications despite media colleagues’ doubts that it would be possible to achieve this at his age.
“I am living proof that with hard work it can be done.” Hard work, passion and modesty, that is. “Honestly, I’m driven. I become the brands I work on; I give it my all. I am also very modest. You can ask anyone that has worked with me; they will all tell you that I’m modest.”
Aside from his appointment as media manager, Kgasoane considers winning the award for best strategy at the Advertising and Media Association of South Africa (AMASA) workshop in 2007 as a great accomplishment. “I regard this as a huge achievement. It’s great to be recognised by the industry,” he says.
“But it’s not fair to say that I’m great. I have just been really lucky. I have worked with some of the greats in the industry, such as Gordon Muller (founder of GSM Quadrant), Lisa Leach (planning director at Mediaedge) and Carsten Kim Sing (strategic head at OMD).”
From his mentors he has learnt the importance of paying attention to detail, the ability to interpret and analyse information, and the art of media placement. “When you are around talent like that, you have a choice: You can just observe or you can take it in and apply it. That’s the only way you learn.”
Where did it all begin? Kgasoane describes his childhood as “very privileged”. He was born in Orlando East, Soweto, and moved to Eldorado Park at the age of three. “I was extremely fortunate to be able to go to The Hill High. It is here that I got to experience things that most people don’t, such as being exposed to a number of different cultures. I associated myself with all kinds of people, from all walks of life. This is why I find it so easy to sit with different groups of people today.”
In 2006, Kgasoane graduated from Varsity College, where he studied towards a Diploma in Advertising. “At the time all my friends went into the creative side of things, but I sucked at copywriting. I chose to go into media. Mediaedge had a programme where they train students, so when Lisa (Leach) offered me a job at Mediaedge, I took it. This is where the rollercoaster ride began. I learnt so much in those first years.”
Asked about the perception that a job in the industry would involve long hours and poor pay, Kgasoane says the culture differs from agency to agency. “I have been lucky not to work at an agency where things were tough.
“But I don’t mind staying up late. Burning the midnight oil comes with the job. I did not get to where I am by resting on my laurels.”
Most of his day is taken up by meetings. “I barely have time to check my e-mails lately. I liaise with our director (Percy Hlabathi) and I also get involved in the training aspect of the company.
“There is a perception that there is a lack of skilled people in the industry – this all comes down to training. But training costs money. As media agencies, we all need to be responsible for training our staff. We can’t complain that there are no skilled people if we aren’t playing our part.”
He adds, “But it’s strange that I am training staff members because I still consider myself a trainee.”
The economic climate has affected many media companies, but Kgasoane says they have not felt the pinch as yet.
“We have been really lucky that our budgets and targets have not been affected. But we can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. We have to look at the clients’ objectives and move in with the most innovative plan for each. It is essential to effectively manage our clients’ needs; we have to be custodians of our clients’ brands.”
Kgasoane doesn’t doubt that the decision to work in the media industry was the right one. “I am loving the industry. I have always given the client what they wanted and received great feedback. It is heartwarming to know that my work is appreciated.”
He does, however, have some regrets: “There will always be regrets in advertising. One will always ask why I took that (advertising) spot, when it didn’t perform. But these regrets make you a better person and better at your job. I am still learning and I will continue to learn, even at the age of 40.”
A move abroad is on the map for Kgasoane. “I hope to move overseas for a minimum of three years, to broaden my media knowledge and to better understand all the processes of the media abroad. I hope to return to South Africa more clued up and to give something back to the media industry. With the new skills I would have learnt abroad, I plan to advise my colleagues, my peers and my friends.”
Nazley Omar is the content manager of TheMediaOnline.
- This article first appeared in The Media magazine (January 2009).