by Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna)
Veli Ngubane: Where did you grow up and how did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be a creative?
Sylvester Chauke: I am from Protea North, Soweto. My parents thought I was an odd child anyway, so when I told them about Advertising and wanting to follow a creative path, they were like “Ok ngwanaka — as long as ole happy”.
VN: How did you a) get interested in advertising and b) break into the industry and land your first job?
SC: At age 12, I passed an audition and found myself on set a TV production for an ad for CNA and since then, I was like… this is interesting, this looks like fun and I want to know more… This curiosity resulted in an honours degree in marketing communication and FCB [Lindsay Smithers] gave me my first internship and, as they say, the rest is history.
VN: Most people know you from the Nando’s and MTV work, how hard has it been to move from client to agency side?
SC: It has been a seamless move because, from the onset, I was an advertising head having worked at FCB, Ogilvy and DDB, so the transition from advertising to client side was quite rich with the experience I had gained at agency side… It allowed me to co-create effectively. knowing agency and understanding what we needed from client side.
VN: What is your take on transformation in adland/creative departments?
SC: It’s bad with a capital B. There is far less of it happening. Black Creatives are like the white tip of a Montblanc pen. For many, transformation is just a word and a BBBEE scorecard. It’s simple, really: Black Creatives need to start and own agencies. Full stop.
VN: Any advice to youngsters wanting to enter the industry?
SC: My goodness, if you are thinking about it… come!! It is truly a wonderful place to be; there is incredible potential and opportunity to shape the industry we will be seeing in the future. But, remember, be BOLD and bring your full self to work!
VN: Any interesting hobbies/second jobs/bits of information that make you pop as an individual?
SC: If I was not in advertising, I would be a dancer. The theatre and music gives me that “zakata” which in turn translates into the kind of work I do.
VN: What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own agency?
SC: We need new thinking and new pioneers who will shape the industry… So don’t start another “me too”; we need agencies who challenge, who are truly unique and who embrace our country and the people in it.
Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) entered the world of advertising with a passion after completing his BSocSci (law, politics and economics) at the University of Cape Town and a post-graduate marketing diploma at Red & Yellow, where he also currently serves as advisory board chairman. He is the chief creative officer and founding partner of one of the fastest-growing agencies in the country, AVATAR. A full-service marketing agency with digital at the core, its clients include Brand South Africa, FOX Africa, National Geographic, SAA and Chevron. Veli hails from Kosi Bay in the rural KwaMhlaba Uyalingana area of KZN. In his monthly column “Young, Gifted & Killing It”, he profiles award-winning, kick-ass black creative talent in South Africa.
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