Taken on as a rookie copywriter and packing nothing more than a pencil, I began panning for nuggets in the deep recesses of my mind at Kuper Hands in Johannesburg. My very first print ad (Client: The Star newspaper) earned finalist status at the New York Festival. Within two years I was promoted to senior writer at SSCB: Lintas conceptualising campaigns for South Africa’s largest consumer bank (Standard) and ‘drumsticking’ up sales for Colonel Sanders in the Share of Mouth battle in the fast food sector.
A couple of commercials for Baker’s biscuits (Marie, Lemon Creams) earned ‘AAA Ad of the Month’ awards. Armed with an overcoat and oversized portfolio bag, I migrated north to the wetlands of England where a stint was spent entrenching the position of Britain’s favourite snack brand (Walker’s Crisps). All the while I was sucking up know-how from fellow creative explorers, daunting creative directors and demanding marketers.
Africa called me back. I flew South to the sun and a position at Ogilvy & Mather Rightford Searle-Tripp and Makin (O&M). My time there was brief but fruitful. Won a Loerie for a below low-cost TVC for OK Bazaars that featured a tog bag, a table-top, a dry voice and a simple, well-executed IDEA. Another bird was bagged for an ode to the heroic mineworkers of South Africa for the Chamber of Mines. The IDEA and the beautiful wood-cut animation was a bigger thrill than receiving a lump of silver.
As an aside, I have never been a chaser of metal in any shape or colour. Recognition strokes the ego but the pursuit of awards has never motivated me. Creating work that puts a client’s sales curve on a north-easterly trajectory is a far more challenging and rewarding pursuit. I am proud to say I am first and foremost, like my father was, a salesman. And an honest one at that. No more. No less.
From O&M it was but a short hop and a longer stay at Partnership in Advertising (now Publicis), an agency that gave me the opportunity to hone my skills on blue-chip brands spread across multiple sectors. South Africa’s best-loved beer brand, Castle Lager. The premium paint brand Plascon. Panasonic’s successful quest for zero defect technology. Robertson’s Spices. Cadbury’s chocolate bars. My world was one and a half glasses full.
It’s true that in adversity lies opportunity. A twist of fate in 1993 saw a storm arise between two Partnership clients. After the dust settled the start-up agency Rothschild Gunstone Moross (RGM) Advertising launched with Panasonic as the founding client.
In 2001 RGM rebranded as Troika Imagineering Works. I led a team of talented Imagineers who pitched and won accounts which typically were awarded to big global agencies. Panasonic. Sappi. Dimension Data. Automobile Association. Damelin. Internet Solutions. TransUnion. MWEB Business. Bowman Gilfillan. RAM Couriers. Different brands in different sectors but they all had something in common. Long standing relationships with Troika.
They stayed for a few obvious reasons. We understood their business. We imagineered their brands. We connected them to their market in a way that triggered sales and cemented loyalty with customers and consumers.
In 2010 my family moved South to the Mother City and I joined the growing membership of the CCC (Cape Commuter Club). After seven years, close on 700 flights and a shocking carbon footprint, I decided it was time to make way for the next generation of Imagineers and spend more time with Theresa and my rapidly growing-up-and-passing-me-by family.