Alasdair Muller is the head of sales for JCDecaux’s Sub-Saharan Africa division. He and his team recently won the Media Owner Africa sheep trophy at the MOST Awards.
What made you go for a career in media?
When I left university I was adamant that I didn’t want to be in the media industry because I’m actually a third generation media man, my father Gordon Muller and my great uncle, Frank Muller are well recognised in the media industry and I didn’t want to live in their shadows. So, I actually started my sales career where any good sales person should, selling photocopiers to people who really didn’t want them! Eventually I admitted that was not what I wanted to do and on my father’s suggestion I went on the AMASA workshop in Cape Town. After that whirlwind experience I decided that this was the industry for me.
Tell us a little more about your career journey so far.
In 2007 I started at YFM. Working in radio sales was great fun, we had a dynamic sales team at the station and I got to work with some great DJs such as DJ Sbu, Monde, Oskido, Dineo Renaka and many others. In 2009 Adelaide McKelvey gave me an opportunity to work at INM Outdoor, which at the time I was unsure about because I loved the broadcast side of the industry, but there was one thing that got me really excited, and that was the opportunity to work on the 2010 FIFA World Cup campaigns. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It was in 2009 that I made the move to OOH and I have been with the group ever since then.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I can’t talk about achievements per se, but I have been fortunate to work on some absolutely fantastic campaigns over the last seven years. Two that really stand out for me are the launch of the Gautrain network in 2010 and our first interactive digital campaign.
In 2010, alongside Richard Lord and Craig Wallis from The MediaShop, we put together a unique campaign for Absa, where Absa and Continental Outdoor Media managed to brand the whole Gautrain network and take ownership of all the Gautrain stations. The beauty of this campaign was that Standard Bank were the finance partners with Bombela and Gautrain, so when Absa branded the stations it was a real piece of guerrilla marketing.
My Africa team is also proud to boast launching the first truly interactive digital roadside campaign in Africa with our key client Coca-Cola.
Apart from that, being promoted to head of sales for Sub-Saharan Africa at JCDecaux has been my proudest achievement to date.
What makes out of home in Africa so exciting?
There is no question that Africa has its challenges, and the economic slowdown this year has put real pressure on advertising budgets, but OOH is perfectly placed to move with the growth of cities and populations across Africa. We are already seeing a big migration of populations from rural to urban environments and a rapid growth and expansion of cities across the continent. As consumer demand increases, so will the need to improve infrastructure of roads and rail networks, airports and other transit hubs. This is the physical space in which we operate.
What is rewarding about your job?
I love working brands and working on campaigns, but mostly I love working with people and working alongside people to achieve common goals. I love the team that I work with, we have a common vision and we are willing to work hard for it. If you are passionate about what you do and you enjoy the people you work with, that is a recipe for success.
And the most challenging aspect?
It is a very competitive industry, which is great, as competition drives innovation and innovation drives category growth. However, within this climate of competition and innovation, there is the need for regulation. The changing landscape of media across Africa requires a refocus and a recommitment from the OOH industry to drive levels of quality over quantity. Quality ad display and content delivery must replace over commoditized and cluttered environments.
How do you relax?
I love relaxing at home with my gorgeous wife Kirsten and my beautiful daughter Layla, listening to music, playing my guitars, watching series; those are my favourite ways to unwind and relax. I also really enjoy canoeing. I started canoeing four years ago, and since then I have done several canoe marathons including three consecutive Duzi marathons.
What three things can’t you live without?
My Bible, my family and my music.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
On a yacht in the Mediterranean …is that a fair answer?
On a serious note, five years is a long time and a lot can change in that time, so I am not focused on a position, place or a title as such.
I like to focus on what I have immediate control over, my attitude, work ethic and character. So as I stand today, I want to contribute positively to the growth of JCDecaux and this industry across Africa.
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