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Digital All Stars is a series of 24 articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate South Africa’s best digital entrepreneurs, business people, advertisers, and media professionals among others.
The All Stars listed in the articles are compiled using a combination of our editorial team’s own knowledge and that of experts in the fields covered by each article*.
While there hasn’t been any recent research on the matter, you only have to go to a few industry events to see that digital marketing in South Africa is still dominated by white males. In the words of one of the panelists we interviewed for this piece, it is “a truly untransformed industry”.
It is therefore worth celebrating the women, especially those of colour, who have risen to positions of influence in the space.
While the definition of digital marketing has become increasingly broad, for the purposes of this article we’ve only included women who are either actively involved in the digital marketing agency space, or who have digital marketing as their primary remit. Major players at publishing houses and PR agencies have therefore been excluded. They will, instead, be featured in future articles more relevant to their positions.
Even within those limitations, the women featured in this list hold a wide variety of positions and work everywhere from the world’s biggest social network, to industry bodies and the country’s digital agency powerhouses.
Nunu Ntshingila — Facebook
A veteran of the South African ad space, Nunu Ntshingila helped turn Ogilvy & Mather South Africa into the formidable agency player it is today. In her (relatively) new role as Head of Africa for Facebook, she’s charged with building the social network’s commercial presence in South Africa and the continent as a whole.
During her more than 20 years in the agency world, Ntshingila worked her way up from trainee account manager to chair of the WPP-owned Ogilvy & Mather. Along the way, she picked up numerous awards, including nominations for Businesswoman of the Year Award (2003), being a finalist for the Shoprite Checkers/SABC Woman of the Year Award (2004), becoming Financial Mail’s Advertising Leader of the Year, and winning Business Personality of the Year at the Top Women in Business and Government Awards.
Josephine Buys — IAB SA
In 2014, the digital marketing and media association rebranded as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) South Africa, bringing it under the umbrella of the international advertising and publishing business organisation. Since June 2014, Josephine Buys has been at the helm of the organisation as it looks to nurture, challenge, and spread the gospel of the South African digital space.
Under Buys, the organisation has set a much clearer transformation agenda, launching a dedicated transformation council in 2016, and has aimed to foster better relationships with the people in charge of corporate marketing departments. Prior to joining the IAB, Buys worked in marketing and brand consultancy, having previously worked as a marketing manager for Cape Town’s much-vaunted City Improvement District (CID) and as an advertising director in the magazine publishing space.
Lana Strydom — Executive Head of Online and Self Service at Vodacom
One of the biggest names in the South African digital space, Strydom currently heads up Vodacom South Africa’s Online and Self Service division. Prior to that, she headed up the Digital and Social Media Marketing environment at First National Bank (FNB). She was also Mobile Channel Manager at Absa Bank and spent six years in the telecommunications environment (MTN) within the strategy, marketing and digital product development environments
Bronwen Auret — Head of Digital Operations at Metropolitan Republic
Expect to start seeing Auret’s name a lot more frequently in the near future. As well as being head of digital at one of South Africa’s largest digital agencies, she’s also heading up the IAB’s new transformation council.
The council is tasked with pushing transformation among the country’s digital publishers, agencies, and marketers. That’s necessary too. As one of the industry insiders Memeburn consulted for this article pointed out, the local digital marketing space remains “truly untransformed”.
Lauren Damant — GM of Aqua Group
Aqua is the granddaddy of South African digital agencies, and has used its early-mover status to good effect. One of the largest agencies in the local digital space, it was also one of the first agencies in the country to be bought out by global holding giant WPP back in 2007, when the company was worth just R28.2-million.
A year after the acquisition, Damant was brought across from Wundermann South Africa, where she was Chief Operating Officer. Initially taking up the role of Operations Director, she was promoted to GM in 2012.
Fran Luckin — CCO at Grey Africa
Luckin is something of an industry legend in the South African digital space. Aside from the fact that she was named as one of the top ten most influential people in South African advertising in The Annual – South Africa’s most authoritative compendium of the advertising, media, marketing and branding industry, Luckin has judged at every major marquee award festival, most of which she’s been awarded at herself: Cannes Lions Film Jury, Cannes Outdoor Jury, Clio Awards and D&AD and has also sat on the judging panel for the Apex Awards – South Africa’s version of the Effie Awards.
In early 2016, Luckin moved to Grey after prolific two years as Executive Creative Director at Quirk.
Diane Wilson — CFO NativeVML
Formed out of the merger of three specialist agencies, Native is one of the powerhouses of the South African digital space. Most of its founding team, including Wilson, knew each other from an early, pioneering digital agency called VWV. Wilson’s role at NativeVML includes the day-to-day fiscal and resource operations of the business.
Desere Orrill — Co-Founder and CMO Ole Media
A well-known thought leader in the digital space, Orrill and fellow Ole co-founder Tim Legg have built the company into a digital conglomerate. Its South African offices have a 100-strong staff complement, with a London field office providing an international edge.
Nicole Dickens — Group MD at Isobar
While Dickens has only been MD at Isobar since mid-2015, she comes with a wealth of agency experience, including a number of high-profile roles at Quirk between 2011 and 2013. The hope will be that she continues to help the once-dominant agency make a comeback after a period in which it floundered and lost clients.
Jeanine Ferreira — portfolio manager: Digital and Content Marketing at Vodacom
Jeanine Ferreira is an integral part of Lana Strydom’s team at Vodacom. The two evidently work well together too with Ferreira having followed Strydo across from FNB, where she was a digital strategist. She was also nominated as marketer of the year at the most recent Bookmarks.
Kirsty Sharman — Head Of Global Operations at Webfluential
Influencer marketing is all the rage right now and Webfluential is at the leading edge of it. Sharman is responsible for the company’s global footprint, Which includes offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and London. Prior to taking up the position at Webfluential, Sharman worked at Retroviral, the media seeding agency.
A true geek at heart, Sharman is also a co-founder of the Girl Geek Dinners Johannesburg.
Tanja Lategan — Primedia Online CEO
Tanja headed up the Digital team at Touchline Media for three years, before she joined Primedia Online after being headhunted by Primedia Online for the role of Commercial Director.
Under Lategan’s’s leadership, Primedia Online started Dash of Lime in 2010. The division soon became one of South Africa’s leading digital sales houses, growing from just two publishers to over 40 in the space of three years.
After Lategan was promoted to CEO in 2011, her next target was on the content marketing space. She headed up the formation of Juice Content in 2012, which has grown from a one-man band into a profitable business that has incorporated social media and direct marketing into its offering.
In 2013, Tanja was named as one M&G’s 200 Young South Africans.
Zaida Sallie — Senior Vice President of Operations at incuBeta Group
Sallie has spent the past 16 years working her way through a wide variety of media fields. Having started out in print, she moved to TV, working as on-air operations manager at eTV. But for the past six years, she’s been firmly embedded in the digital space. She MD of DQ&A South Africa before moving to her current position in the wake of DQ&A’s merger with incuBeta.
Lynette Hundermark– Founder of Useful and Beautiful
Formerly head of mobile at Prezence, the now defunct digital agency once owned by Primedia, Hundermark is the founder of Useful & Beautiful, a mobile consultancy with a specialist focus on mobile technology and product development.
A regular on the conference circuit, Hundermark has become a recognised thought leader in the mobile space.
Nicolle Harding — Country Manager at Effective Measure
Effective Measure is the official audience measurement tool used by South African online publishers and is therefore a valuable tool in the hands of marketing heads and the media planning departments at digital agencies alike. As country manager for the tool, Harding plays an incredibly important role in the local digital arena.
She has previously held a number of high profile positions in the industry, including head of global business development at Ad Dynamo and country manager at BuzzCity
Odette van der Haar — CEO at the Association for Communication and Advertising South Africa (ACASA)
The Association for Communication and Advertising South Africa (ACASA) positions itself as the official, representative body for the Communications and Advertising profession in South Africa. Among the duties in its remit is representing companies in the advertising and communications space to government, media and the public.
As digital worms its way into all forms of advertising, van der Haar will play an important role in bringing the association up to speed.
Paula Raubenheimer — MD at Southern X
Programmatic buying is the hottest thing in digital advertising right now and Raubenheimer is right on the bleeding edge of its evolution in South Africa. She heads up Southern X, one of the country’s most highly-regarded programmatic marketplaces. SouthernX works on the sell side and gives advertisers the opportunity to buy premium digital inventory from publishers local to South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa through real-time bidding auctions using AppNexus technology.
Sarah Britten-Pillay — Strategic Director at LabStore South Africa and Africa
While Britten-Pillay may now be working at a shopper marketing agency, she is digital through and through. A prolific tweeter, she has here finger on the pulse of the latest social media developments and is a recognised thought leader in the wider industry.
Melissa Chetty — Head of Digital Marketing at Creative Spark Johannesburg
Chetty made her name as a wine aficionado before working her way up the ranks at Creative Spark**, where she has been since its very early days. She currently heads up the agency’s Johannesburg office, which is rapidly growing from a small satellite office to a full-fledged agency in its own right.
Following Creative Spark’s acquisition by M&C Saatchi Abel towards the end of 2015, it also plays an important role in the latter’s digital offering.
Matalane Ngobeni — Manager: Digital & New Media at Brand South Africa
Brand South Africa’s role is, effectively, to sell the country. It aims to create a positive, unified image of South Africa; one that builds pride, promotes investment and tourism, and helps new enterprises and job creation.
Since 2015, Ngobeni has been in charge of doing that across the organisation’s various digital channels. With more than 10 years of experience in a variety of digital roles, she’s well-placed to do just that.
Paula Hulley — Managing Director at Gloo@Ogilvy
When Gloo, one of South Africa’s most respected digital agencies, was bought out by advertising powerhouse WPP in 2014, it was one of the biggest stories in the South African agency space. The acquisition, made through Ogilvy & Mather, saw Gloo founder Pete Case move across to become Chief Creative Officer at the agency group.
Since then Hulley, who had served as deputy managing director since 2006, has been heading things up at Gloo, rechristened Gloo@Ogilvy. Under her guidance, the digital agency has become home to the South African version of Ogilvy’s renowned innovation lab.
Dawn Rowlands — CEO Dentsu Aegis Network Sub Saharan Africa
While not quite as active as WPP and Publicis, Dentsu Aegis has built up a formidable presence in South Africa, with agencies such as Carat, Vizeum, Posterscope,isobar,i-Prospect and Posterscope all flying under its banner. Rowlands oversees the group’s efforts across the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
Koo Govender — CEO Denstu Aegis Network: South Africa
Currently heading up Dentsu Aegis’ South African operations, Govender was previously the CEO of brand experience agency VWV Group SA. Prior to that, she spent a number of years in the M-Net and Multichoice folds, where she held a number of high-profile positions.
Sarah Blake — Digital and User Experience Consultant at ThisisBlakey
While she’s in the consulting game these days, Blake built up a formidable name for herself among local UX aficionados. Most notably, she built the user experience and analytics at Quirk.
During her time at the Rob Stokes-led company, she also played an leading part in writing its digital bible, eMarketing: the essential guide to digital marketing.
Devon Tighe — Managing Director at WPP Data Alliance, Africa
WPP’s Data Alliance project is aimed at helping clients better leverage data in fast growing markets. Based in Cape Town, Tighe manages its efforts across Sub Saharan Africa. Prior to joining Data Alliance, Devon was a research director at The New York Times where she focused on business strategy and customer analytics. Before heading to the Times, Devon spent six years in research and product development at Dynamic Logic, now part of Millward Brown Digital, a company within WPP’s Kantar unit.
Sherry Bitting — Programme Director, Digify Africa
An American import, Bitting’s current position means she could play a crucial role in the transformation of the South African digital spaces. Digify Africa, is a digital training programme delivered by Livity Africa, with support from Google Sub-Saharan Africa, the Rockefeller Foundation and British Council. The programme is designed to build the next generation of digital talent and prepare them for jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities across the African continent.
Melissa Attree — Director of Content Strategy at Ogilvy & Mather South Africa
A formidable presence in the South African digital arena, Attree has nearly 20 years’ worth of experience in the industry. She’s worked on social strategy and creative campaigns with brands like ABSA, Adidas, Big Blue, Black River FC, 5FM, MasterCard, Nando’s, Nedbank, Ogilvy, SAA, South African Breweries, Toyota, Vodacom and Woolworths.
Julie Maunder — Founder at iDidTht.com
Maunder is the founder of ‘i did that ad’.com, a search tool designed for the creative advertising industry. That means she’s directly responsible for digitally showcasing the best of South Africa’s creative advertising talent. The site isn’t only useful as benchmark for where the industry’s at right now, but also provides a platform for creative individuals to upload their portfolios so that they can more easily be found by talent hunters.
Suzanne Myburgh — Head of Digital Marketing and Media at FNB South Africa
When you’re responsible for digital marketing for a bank that prides itself on innovation as much as FNB does, then you have to be at the top your game. Myburgh has been in her current role for around two years after previous stints as a lecturer at Varsity College and Consumer and Devices Lead at Microsoft South Africa.
Jenine de Klerk — Portfolio Head: Digital and Direct Marketing at Standard Bank Group
The big banks are among South Africa’s biggest businesses and Standard Bank is one of the most resilient, having been around since 1862. Helping the bank stay resilient in a digital age is Jenine de Klerk. She’s been with the banking group since 2010, having previously worked for the Automobile Association of South Africa and natural bread company Yethu Bakery.
Tess Sulaman — CEO at Rocketseed South Africa
A self-described former delinquent, Sulman has a passion for all things innovative and technologically brilliant.
Nicky Schermer — Head of Strike Media
Nicky Schermer runs Strike Media, an agency which she describes as “born in mobile”. She and her team deliver right across the spectrum of mobile capability from SMS and MMS campaigns through USSD work to full mobile engagements and app development. Nicky began in account management with Haygarth in London and with Nokia as one of her first clients she immediately developed a real passion for digital; “I’ve always taken a strong role in this space in all its forms”. Based in Cape Town, Nicky has headed up Strike, which is owned by Ogilvy & Mather, since August 2015.
*If you feel there is anyone we have missed, but who should be on the list, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries will be taken into consideration by our panel of judges.
**Creative Spark is the holding company of Memeburn.