Excitement was at fever-pitch on Wednesday evening at the MOST Awards when South Africa’s top media agency and media owner award winners were announced. The MOST 2015 Legends and Rising Stars awards were presented to four individuals for their outstanding contribution to the media industry.
The Media Agency Legend 2015 went to Rob Smuts, Founder and CEO of RMS Media. This award is presented to a consistent performer with a strong reputation for transparency. The winner must have excellent media sector relationships, both internally and externally and must be an outstanding negotiator. Passion and commitment are key as is the ability to lead change and innovate.
Smuts studied at Rhodes University in the 1980s before joining NAB (Newspaper Advertising Bureau) as a marketing services executive. Cultivating vast experience within the industry, his remarkable career has included working for a number of companies, like Publicis as a media planner, making his mark on the Castle Lager and Plascon accounts. Later at Bernstein Loxton Golding & Klein, he worked on Standard Bank, Nissan and Holiday Inn. Before 1993 when he struck out on his own, he became Marketing Group Head and managed the KFC, Unilever and Wesbank accounts.
Perhaps the comment, from one of the respondents, that best describes Smuts is: “He’s known as the guy who always puts his hand up to ask, ‘What can I do?’ instead of thinking ‘What can I get out of this?’ That’s a truly rare quality.”
The Media Owner Legend Award was presented to Chris Hitchings, CEO of DStv Media Sales who, after studying marketing and marketing management at Damelin and AAA, went on to study Media Management at Stellenbosch University. He started off his working career at SABC Radio Active in 1991 as a sales executive managing sales for SABC radio stations. Following that he moved to BBR and to Taxinet. In 1996 he joined DStv/Oracle and worked his way up in the organisation to his present position of CEO of DStv media sales where he’s now responsible for all DStv sponsorship and advertising sales in South Africa and the rest of the African continent.
His success can be ascribed to his professionalism. The MOST judges said that, “Chris took over the reins without any hiccups, repositioned the sales team from Oracle to DStv Airtime Sales, and still has a relationship with the agencies despite his new position. A true partner to media agencies.”
The MOST Media Owner Rising Star Award was presented to Brett ‘Tux’ Tucker who began his career in 2005 in sales at TLC Unlimited which is part of Primedia. He rose rapidly through the ranks to become group CEO in 2012. In 2008 he was sent to Kazakhstan to open a washroom advertising business, a difficult task which he did successfully, expanding the business into salons and hairdressers.
In 2014 Tucker founded Grass Roots Media, which offers outdoor media such as billboards in both rural and urban environments. The MOST judges believed he was a worthy recipient because, “he takes the lead and is involved in the industry”, and “Grass Roots Media has come from nowhere and built great customer and client relationships”.
Media strategist Ilan Lazarus received the MOST Agency Rising Star Award for, among other things, “his ability as a great negotiator, his skill as an inspiring leader and his ability to build relationships with his clients, and his willingness to share his wealth of knowledge”.
Having graduated with a distinction from AAA School of Advertising in 1999, Lazarus’ first job was as an implementation planner at Alcorn Rayner Marketing in Johannesburg in 2000.
He transferred back to Cape Town the following year to join Media Co-ordination where his career took off and by the age of 28 he was appointed Media Manager in the company, becoming a minority shareholder. In 2007 he broke away from MEC Carat as the company was now known and launched Page Three Media with Anne Dearnaley and Lynette Heyns. Page Three grew exponentially to become one of the most successful media strategy independent companies in South Africa. In 2011 Omnicom South Africa purchased a majority stake in the company and converted it to the PHD brand and Lazarus as managing partner has devoted all his efforts into growing the brand in South Africa, adopting his models, processes and enhancing the reputation it had internationally.
In searching for the MOST 2015 Agency Rising Star, the judges found Lazarus to be “An individual who has constantly delivered some of the most authoritative thinking in communication strategy”… and is “Not only someone who is dedicated to the media cause, but more importantly, someone who represents the perfect example of how much value a media strategist can add to the marketing product.”
To choose the winners, names are submitted by respondents to independent web-based research conducted by Freshly Ground Insights (FGI). These names are then considered by a panel of previous winners using selected criteria. Panellist votes are added to those from respondents and in this way a thorough and rigorous system of establishing the winners is implemented.