Multi-award-winning creative Neo Mashigo, chief creative officer (CCO) at M&C Saatchi Abel and co-founder of I See a Different You, was named Industry Leader of the Year at the 2019 AdFocus Awards.

Mashigo has had an illustrious career in the industry – though, surprisingly, it wasn’t the career he dreamt of as a youngster. Embarking on a law degree, he was doing part-time work at a company that researched advertising when he realised that the local adverts simply were not working and saw a gap for himself in the advertising space.

After responding to a newspaper ad posted by the Creative Directors Forum calling for individuals who were interested in pursuing a career in advertising, Mashigo was selected to participate in an accelerated programme.

The rest is history: he became the first black creative to work at Net#work BBDO, studying advertising at AAA and later Vega at night. He spent four years at Net#work BBDO as a copywriter, then moving to Ogilvy as a creative group head, and joining FCB as an executive creative director two years later.

During this time, Mashigo also co-founded I See a Different You as a side project – a business that started out to provide an alternative view of Soweto and later Africa and which is now positioned as a production company specialising in film, photography and influencer work. The company is also looking to create a Saturday school to expose township children to the creative arts.

In 2017 Mashigo joined M&C Saatchi Abel as creative partner, being promoted a year later to CCO. He arrived at the agency when it was in a state of flux and colleagues report that thanks to his talent for building relationships and creative leadership, M&C Saatchi Abel has shone at various awards, won the coveted Nando’s account and generally flourished.

The big take-out

If the creative industry is to survive and thrive, it’s imperative that it tells authentic stories that engage consumers in a relevant and more meaningful manner.

Perhaps what the industry leader award recognises the most about Mashigo is his passion for local advertising. He is well known for lobbying to create uniquely SA advertising and local stories with a distinctly SA voice, and for taking a dim view of any type of stereotyping in advertising. He is driven by creating opportunities for brands through authentic and locally relevant storytelling, while his ability to build strong relationships with clients gives him the credibility to sell ideas that may not fit into their traditional views, but prove to be hugely successful nonetheless.

For Mashigo, ticking boxes around transformation is the antithesis of what transformation should be. “If the creative industry is to survive and thrive, it’s imperative that it tells authentic stories that engage consumers in a relevant and more meaningful manner,” he says.

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