There is a new creative agency on the block, and it is headed by managing director Uyanda Manana, who has returned to South Africa after years of working abroad in London and the UAE. She spent eight years at Publicis London (consistently ranked in top 10 agencies globally) where she worked on L’Oréal and Garnier Global ATL. In South Africa she has led client divisions at M&C Saatchi Abel, FCB, The Jupiter Drawing Room, running award-winning work for MTN, Nando’s, Nedbank, SA Tourism, Edgars to name a few. In Dubai she headed up activations for Abu Dhabi Motor Sports Management. Manana brings a wealth of truly integrated, global blue chip experience to the leadership of BE agency.
Shareholder in BE, Kevin Power, Group MD of Conversation LAB Holdings, says she is a “true talent, coupled with a big personality, and has the energy to drive BE forward. All the shareholders are excited to be working with her as they grow BE into a leading creative and communications force in South Africa”.
I am 41 years old and so far in my career… I’ve (finally) learnt that there is still so much out there to learn. And that’s incredibly liberating and exciting. I now view my life, my work, my relationships and opportunities through a totally different lens.
What excites you most about your new position at BE?
The opportunity to drive – and lead – the kind of positive change I’ve been longing to see in our industry and our country. What I’ve always loved about the creative industry is that we have the ability to use communication to shape our cultural and social narrative.
I’m looking forward to implementing the BE agenda of building brands, products and experiences that are authentic and, most importantly, helpful to our audiences and communities. And that starts with a real understanding of what it is people actually need and what meaningful role communication and creative experiences play in their lives.
What were the challenges in setting up a new creative agency, especially in this climate? And of course those that lie ahead?
Defining the “why”. It was not so much a challenge, but a necessity often overlooked when starting a business. We had to explore why we were in the business, what our purpose was and why anyone should care. Ultimately, we needed to challenge ourselves first and foremost.
The task going forward lies in making our business purpose a lived experience for our staff, clients and the communities that we touch.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned on your media journey?
There have been many a good lesson in my journey, but the one that’s stayed with me throughout the years is that clients (people) don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
What is going to be the biggest thing in the creative advertising sector this year?
I think customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) has yet to come into its own in South Africa. While it’s been on the agenda for a while now, for many organisations and brands, it’s just lip service. They, together with their partner agencies, either fail to see the benefit to the bottom line or they just don’t understand it. It’s risky because the best marketing is ultimately undone through poor customer journeys. If the experience isn’t seamless, or the product doesn’t help people or improve their lives in some way, what’s the point? The brands and teams which get this will win.
I also think the leveraging of technology, such as IOT, artificial intelligence, and gaming, to enhance consumer experiences, is a huge growth area. We are moving from a position of creating consumer experiences across connected touchpoints to using technology to connect with people, touching them on a more human level.
The worst job you’ve ever had…Not many people know this but when I first got to London in the early 2000s – before landing my job at Publicis UK – I worked as a painter and decorator. I was essentially a handy (wo)man for a few weeks (overalls and all) – and it nearly killed me.
The quality you most respect in people is…The ability to truly forgive. It’s taken me some time, but I now appreciate the power and strength that lies in forgiveness. Like a good friend of mine always says: “Unforgiveness is like drinking the poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Your pet hate is…Aggression
What scares you most… Being mauled by a dog. That may be just because I’m black, but even so, the thought is absolutely terrifying.
Your best qualities are…I’m an optimist
Your worst qualities are…I can be pretty obsessive and overthink certain things, which drives those close to me a bit loopy.
Your personal motto is…God favours the brave.
A perfect day would be…Waking up without a to-do list; a day wide open with possibility.
If I could have dinner with someone living or dead it would be…My late father. He passed on when I was five or so and I would love to have a father-daughter chat with him, hear what he thinks about life, love, anything … and everything.
The gadget/s I can’t live without and why…My mobile phone because I’m a working mama to a five year old little girl. I am always on call.
Your addiction is…Shopping on the online deals website, One-Day-Only. Ja, it’s become a problem.
Your death row meal would be…Pap and wors, with my mama’s chakalaka
You think the rest of 2019 will…See the rise of the underdog.
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