Wayne Bishop – managing director of PHD Johannesburg – is the 2014 Media Agency Rising Star. Peta Krost Maunder reports.
Wayne Bishop is driven to put South African media on the international map and inspire young talent in the industry. And he sure puts in the hours and passion to make this happen.
The MD of PHD Johannesburg winning this year’s Media Agency Rising Star Award at the MOST Awards clearly indicates the impact he has had.
Bishop’s achievement belies the fact that he has only been in this industry for just over a decade since completing his B.Com.
He did his internship at OMD and soon became a junior planner. But it was accepting a job at Nota Bene in 2005 that he sees as career defining.
“It was the agency’s heyday and it was very difficult to get in. Fortunately for me, they realised they were a bit too top-heavy and went on a shopping spree for young recruits. I got lucky, and one year later I was the newest strategist on the Unilever account that, in my opinion, is the best account to work on in the industry.”
Bishop’s career highlight was winning a Roger Garlick Gold Award for his work on the Axe deodorant campaign while at Nota Bene.
“It was our agency’s first award ever and, along with Belinda Kayton, we won two golds that night as well as the Grand Prix.”
In 2010, he moved to MEC Sydney in Australia to join Nota Bene founder Peter Vogel and James Hier.
“(Hier) is the best and smartest person I have ever worked with. When we worked together at Nota Bene he was pretty much my mentor without ever agreeing to it,” recalls Bishop. “But when we both worked together in Sydney, we became great mates. He enhanced my career by sharing with me all the things that enhanced his career. It was like receiving 20 years’ worth of experience in one go and it’s still ongoing.”
At the end of 2012, he returned to South Africa, joining MEC as a channel director until he moved to PHD Johannesburg in August last year as MD.
And now he is driven to achieve. “Having worked abroad, my ultimate goal is to put South African media on the international map. It’s so good for the economy, I have seen it first hand,” he says. “When you promote the industry globally, you attract international talent, investment and multinational advertisers.
“I’ve joined the Advertising Media Association of South Africa (Amasa) committee and one of the things we’ve done is to launch the Amasa Awards, which have similar categories to the Festival of Media Awards and Cannes Media Lions. The idea is that the Amasa Awards will become a feeder system for the international festivals.”
And he takes local talent very personally. “I’m proud of the fact that our talent is so marketable. South Africans are working all over the world in very senior positions and are thriving,” he says. “I get pissed off with the complaints about talent. If you think there is no talent coming through then do something about it.”
And for the ‘talent’ interested in this industry, he has some advice: “This is the only industry that can give you worldwide fame without requiring you to have good looks.”
He puts everything into his work and work/life balance mostly goes out the window. “I try but I’m not very good at it. I just get so excited about the work that I sometimes put my personal life second. I have promised that this will only be for the next five years or so – until we can get PHD Johannesburg to a decent size.”
And his fear extends only to getting old. “Too many people seem just to give up because they are getting to that age where it’s ‘required’ to take it easy.
“I hope I can help young talent reach their goals until the day I die. I don’t see myself slowing down: the industry is too exciting.”
He believes media agencies should move away from commission-based revenue models.
“Why can’t we bill like lawyers? Clients can start paying for the resource they require and we can charge a fair mark-up,” he says.
He says he has learnt the hard way that clients are not partners. “We like to think they are but, when forced to, they will make decisions that suit their business over decisions that suit the teams they work with. It’s not their fault. With accountants playing such an active role in marketing these days, the ‘personal’ side of the job has died a slow, horrible death.”
And he makes no bones about not playing the political game very well. “I’m too interested in the work to give a shit about the politics but, unfortunately, especially in my position now, it’s part of the job.”
He believes those closest to him would describe him as “the funny guy”, which he says means that he is regularly asked to speak at his friends’ weddings and milestone birthdays. Perhaps that has to do with his interest in scriptwriting. “I’ve become so interested in film scriptwriting lately and would love to be involved somehow. Next to media, it must be one of the most interesting jobs in the world.”
But right now, it’s unlikely that he’ll leave media.
This story was first published in the September 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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