Media Agency Legend Merissa Himraj is renowned for being invested in the media agency business as well as the employees within Wavemaker, where she is managing director. Moreover, her legendary business acumen makes her the go-to person for clients.
“It was exhilarating to see that there were many recommendations across categories this year, with the younger generation coming into the fold,” says one of the judges, Omnicom Media Group’s Celia Collins. “I focused on their ability to service and get their perspective across to their audience, and how they inspired the rest of the industry.”
Himraj joined Wavemaker South Africa seven years ago as a business unit manager. In that time, she moved rapidly up the ladder to become its chief strategy officer before ultimately managing the South African arm of the global agency.
Wavemaker South Africa CEO Lwandile Qokweni says Himraj is “invested in our people, clients, campaigns and their success. The proof is in the time she spends with business unit heads and strategists, monitoring and guiding them, and even helping them personally. All of that when she has five kids of her own at home.
Merissa has the rare ability to understand and unpack a challenge through big-picture business strategy, while being able to tie that back to actionable and innovative media plans
“I would say she is an empathetic leader,” adds Qokweni, “but in business she is strong – you have to be in our industry, dealing with challenging clients, the business climate during Covid-19, understanding the realities of operating in such times and articulating this to her teams and clients. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. Yet I think she sees her ultimate reward as the success of clients, campaigns and staff, and seeing it all come together.”
Himraj is certainly an inspirational leader with an acute business sense. Wavemaker head of digital Shaun Frazao says of her: “Merissa has the rare ability to understand and unpack a challenge through big-picture business strategy, while being able to tie that back to actionable and innovative media plans. This skill is something we don’t see often in the media industry, and it has given her the ability to be a consultative partner to clients, who regard her as a go-to advisor. It also makes her an example of excellence for the rest of the agency to follow.”
Business unit head and hybrid strategist Cheryl Dube says, “Empathy is something a lot of leaders lack and, being female, Merissa is so relatable and understands the struggles of what it is to be a woman in this industry, and a woman of colour on top of that.”
Dube adds that Himraj’s willingness always to help and make time for staff even when she has her own workload is exceptional. “She gives amazing insight and context, which is always refreshing and frames things in a different way.”
Human resources manager Wanita Berry is in awe of Himraj’s “incredible knowledge of media as a whole. What makes her stand out is her ability to calm down any situation, and her utter passion for mentoring and upskilling – regardless of what level the person is, and regardless of whether they are a Wavemaker employee or not.”
Frazao agrees. “Professionally, she is one of the most competent and knowledgeable media people in the industry. This, combined with her professional integrity, is something clients and peers love about her. From a personal point of view, she has enthusiasm and go-getter energy; she will try and participate in anything as a way of learning from new experiences, but also just having fun.”
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