Turbulent times for industry women

We the people

This article first appeared in Marklives.

If I’d had to describe myself a year ago, I probably would’ve come up with a description along the lines of “feminist lite”. A belief in a Spice Girls-esque version of Girl Power, I suppose, where feisty women hung around in girl gangs, talking about equality while comparing the best brand of sparkly nail polish and badass heels. But something’s happened over the past year to change this.

And, to be fair, for the majority of my years, the blurry days of women’s inequality of decades ago seemed far off. My mom — a massively well-known and respected scientist — told me stories of her younger years in which day-to-day sexism was rife. Times when she was groped by her creepy professor in full view of his wife and her husband (my dad), and how it was considered normal; if she’d spoken out, she would have been dropped by the research team. How she used to drop her first name and just use her title of “Doctor” when dealing with colleagues and other scientists because, when they knew she was a female, they used to belittle her findings and call her a “silly woman” but mysteriously didn’t do so when they assumed she was a man.

I used to gasp with horror and feel thankful that my career was unfolding in a time of enlightenment, where we could be free to develop strong and impactful careers, where we could, literally, aim for whatever we wanted.

But something has happened recently that has started me thinking differently. A small feeling of disquiet that has started to grow into an angry roar. One that has made me feel like an angry feminist type that will start wearing pink pussyhats and, Madonna-like, speak of blowing things up.

It’s no coincidence that these feeling started to emerge last year, as the US election primaries started gaining momentum. I felt an uneasiness as who was then the outsider to be president joked about grabbing women, and wondered how a junior employee in a low-paid job would ever be able to stand up for themselves in a similar situation, when one of the most powerful people in the world said it was OK. This uneasiness grew as I watched the extremely personal and degrading insults that were thrown at his woman counterpart.

It seemed to me that there was a vast amount of people who would prefer the leadership of an emotionally unstable and less-qualified man than a women — at any cost.  It made me scared because I realised how many people, women included, did not trust or want women in leadership positions.

And, while all this was happening, I started to notice little things (at first) that showed that these events being played on a world stage trickle down to all facets of life, including our own industry in this country.

We have spoken in length about how there are a lack of women role models and women in leadership positions in our industry. Why is this? Is it because we get paid less? Because we have to juggle caring for kids and families? Or is it because we are simply unwelcome? I cannot count the number of times that a man, often junior to me, has spoken over or ‘mansplained’ things to me in front of others in meetings. I know of many examples where women have been treated in ways that would be simply unacceptable if the situation were reversed. A case in point was a friend in an ad agency who was being pursued by a client, in an obvious and embarrassing way. When she turned him down, politely, he ‘joked’, more than once, that he would get her fired from the account.

The problem with all of this was that we are scared to fight back. When I told someone I was writing this piece, he rolled his eyes, and said I should stop “my ranty feminist shit as it wasn’t attractive”. As the new president of the US has shown time and again, if we stand up for ourselves, we get called, fat, old, unattractive, whiney, deranged and hysterical. We get Twitter trolls telling us we should be raped.

But, perhaps, it’s not all doom and gloom. The Women’s Marches in the US and the rest of the world have shown that women will not go back to where we were. We are incredibly strong, even more so when we stand together.

I hope that we can take that learning back to our industry, too. We don’t need to be ranty and blow things up. I find hope, personally, in a quiet and strong call to #resist rather than angry anarchy. We can quietly, and decisively, make small changes to make this different. Don’t put up with shit where the women in the office get talked down to and treated like pieces of meat. Support the growth of women into leadership positions; understand that these women do not come in two modes — bitchy boss or giggling bimbo. Despite being labelled hysterical, many women bring a level-headedness, lack of ego and high EQ that can be incredibly valuable to a business. And that whole thing about multitasking? It’s true, I tell you! Make sure you have female teams leading strategy and creative for female brands — why the hell not?

And, for heaven’s sake, women, support women. We don’t need that petty, competitive crap where we love to make other women look bad just to make ourselves feel better.

Remember, there are some incredible women out there who may be inspirational and incredible role models — for men, too. Here are some to start with (whether you share their beliefs or not, you can’t argue that they are not badass):

Almost a year in our (not so new anymore) home

This time last year we were viewing properties and signing the lease for the space that was to become our new home - The Friday Street Club HQ. Starting with a renovation of a blank and empty space, it's grown to be a happy place, full of laughter, always visited by friends (and a good few dogs).

SAB Foundation: telling their stories

SAB Foundation

As part of our work with the SAB Foundation, we'll be helping them tell the stories of the amazing entrepreneurs and social innovators that they work with - amazing men and women who are building businesses, creating jobs and developing innovations to benefit some of South Africa's most vulnerable.

We travelled the country with our friend, Ravi Gajjar, to start to capture images of these people, that will be used to tell these stories.

Annual Christmas party with the kids at the Abaphumeleli Home of Safety

Xmas party

As the year drew to an end, it was time for our (now becoming) annual Christmas party for the kids at the Abaphumeleli Home of Safety in Khayelitsha.

The orphanage and home of safety is run by Evelyn Makasi in her own home, housing almost 40 children from between the ages of new born and 18 years old. We arrived with five cars packed to the brim with gifts, party goodies and enough staples (food, household supplies and so on) to last a couple of months, thanks to all the support and donations from friends and supporters. It's been so special seeing the kids grow year by year in such as happy and loved environment. 

Vega School: Find Your Purpose

Vega School


We worked with the Vega School, an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), to assist them launch a new ad campaign, aimed at 2017 students. The campaign called for students to shape their future and to actively consider what role they can play in South African society, in a time governed by change. 

The campaign came at year-end, when potential students are considering their choices for the upcoming year, and aims to show them how Vega can help them “Find Their Purpose” and create true value in society and, in turn, people’s lives.

The campaign, which ran online and on social media, shows a number of students talking about finding their purpose, through finding a career and passion that suits them, finding a place in the world, and playing a part in bettering it. In the video, they talk about shaping their future, finding new solutions to old problems and building a better tomorrow through 2020’s most sought-after skills - complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. These skills are among the most valued taught within Vega’s walls.

Carla Enslin, Co-founder of Vega explained further: “Vega believes that the only meaningful social, cultural and economic exchange is that which adds value to the lives of all people. The campaign (showcasing real Vega students) aims to inspire our youth and communicate how finding purpose, paired with creativity, passion, and the power of ideas, can truly reshape South Africa’s future.”

“We are experiencing a time of real change and uncertainty, but the new generation believes that they can take a stand and fight the good fight. The role that we can play in society is so much more than it was in the times of boomers and early millennials. An idea has never been as powerful as it is today, and we believe that the students of tomorrow really do have the power to change the world,” ended Lurie. 

The campaign was developed by our friends over at Utopia.

StitcherAds: Sub-Saharan African launch

We worked with StitcherAds, a leader in cross channel software and services for performance advertising, in announcing the launch of its operations in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. We hosted an exclusive launch party in Cape Town alongside its partner, &Innovation, and a number of Facebook executives. 

Africa represents a significant opportunity for StitcherAds particularly in the markets where it is well known such as ecomm, retail and travel.  With mobile penetration very high in African countries Facebook is expected to become much more relevant for direct response advertising given its unique cross device strengths.

A global Facebook and Instagram Marketing Partner, StitcherAds has seen amazing growth in the past 12 months. StitcherAds’ cross channel dynamic ad platform works with retail, eComm, online travel agencies and advertisers to scale prospecting, retargeting, upselling and cross-selling across Facebook and Instagram.  StitcherAds was the first Facebook marketing partner to launch via the API dynamic dynamic product ads, dynamic ads for prospecting, dynamic ads for travel across hotels, airline and cruise liners, and the company continues to break new ground in direct response with Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms. 

StitcherAds already holds market leading positions in both the UK and US with an array of customers such as Celebrity Cruises, Hotels.com, Travelzoo, HomeAway, Made.com, Farfetch, eBags to name but a few.   The company is now expanding its presence in Africa and has strong backing with a number of VC’s including Investec Ventures who already have a big presence in the region. 

See more in Marklives, Bizcommunity and Media Update.  

Cheapflights: Travel Awards 2016

This year we worked with Cheapflights on their inaugural Cheapflights Travel Awards (and the first they have held worldwide). 

The awards recognised the best South African travel and tourism business and brands in a range of categories from the best local airports and airlines, to the best safari and wine offerings. 

South Africans casted their vote for their favourite travel brands and businesses over the past month, as nominated by the South African Travel Massive blogger community. 

With over 50,000 votes cast, we and the client were overwhelmed by the response and the number of votes that came in for our first ever travel awards. The awards culminated in an awards event, held in Cape Town, attended by the tourism industry, media and special guests. The event also featured a keynote address delivered by Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, who provided insight into the current developments in Cape Town and surrounds.

The winners of the 2016 Cheapflights Inaugural Travel Awards were :

Best Airport: OR Tambo International Airport
Best Airline Lounge: Emirates at Cape Town International
Best Airline in Africa:Air Namibia
Best International Airline: Emirates
Best Car Hire: Avis
Best Hotel Chain: Tsogo Sun
Best Independent/City Boutique Hotel: One & Only Cape Town
Best Attraction/Experience: Table Mountain
Best Safari/Lodge Experience: Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Best Wine Farm Experience: Spier in Stellenbosch

Remy Martin: XO bottle launch

Remy Martin

When Remy Martin introduced a new, super-stylish bottle for its XO variant we were tasked to introduce it to discerning fans of the brand. We hosted an intimate XO and cigar pairing for loyal fans, media and special guests at the gorgeous Le Chatalat residence in Johannesburg, including a chat from face of the brand, Madoda Khuzwayo, about one of his passion, travel. 

We're hiring!

We have a bunch of positions we are looking to fill including:

  • Account Manager or Senior Account Manager - Johannesburg: full-time, freelance or contract
  • Senior Account Manager or Account Director - Cape Town: full time 
  • Account Executive or junior/admin- Cape Town: full time

More details below:

We’re looking for some damn good people to join our team, some based in Johannesburg, some in Cape Town.

We’re looking for all the normal experience - previous experience  in a comms, PR or ad agency; shit hot media relations skills; and a winning way in managing clients. We can cover all the details of what you can do and what you’re good at when we chat in person. 

We’re looking for people that are flexible and multi-talented; people that understand that PR is more than just about farming out a bunch of dull press releases. People that are obsessed with media and the news; that love popular culture; people that are eager to get stuck in to projects that incorporate brand strategy, design, social media, events and anything else we feel like throwing into the mix.

But more importantly is how you fit in with the team and our core values.

We take attention to detail and craftsmanship really seriously. We’re close on being obsessed in fact. We want to do really, really good work, that impresses the hell out of our clients. We think that typos and sloppy grammar are rude. We’re on a mission to change people’s perceptions about PR being the poor cousin of the marketing industry.

We are really passionate about the brands and clients we work with. If we can’t love them, how can we get anyone else to love them.

We like to keep it simple and transparent. We don’t bamboozle people with jargon and sell them impracticable plans.

And we believe in partnership and mutual respect – we think we can be happy at work and have fun along the way. We’re not joking when we say we have no time for big egos, douchebags and psychos. 

If you think you’re that person, send us your details, we’d love to chat.  Drop us a note before the end of November 2016. 

Welcome to new client: SAB Foundation

SAB Foundation

We are excited to have been brought on board by the SAB Foundation as a marketing and communications agency, after a four way pitch process. We will be partnering with Duke to develop a new CI and supporting collateral for the initiative.

The SAB Foundation does amazing work with entrepreneurs, start ups and social innovators, benefitting some of South Africa's most vulnerable. We are so looking forward to helping them tell their stories.