media update’s Aisling McCarthy chatted to Gordhan about her role as chairperson and the importance of having women in marketing.

Taking place on 14-21 August, the 39th annual Loerie Awards will celebrate the best in marketing from all over Africa and the Middle East.

You took over as chairperson of the Loeries in August last year. What have you learned in your time at the helm of one of Africa’s most prestigious marketing awards?

I’ve learned that [being chairperson] really is an all-year round job and how much effort goes into the actual award show – even into decisions like choosing the judging panels.

The reason that show is so slick and so well produced is because there is a lot of work, time, and decisions that go into that.

I’ve also learned about how the industry is changing, how important it is to constantly be in line with the industry, and how the global picture looks – and how we place ourselves in that. We have to ensure that what we do goes beyond an award show; yes, it is an award show and it’s about creative excellence, but it’s also about education, inspiration, and fostering young creatives.

The show has grown so much from where it was back in the 1970s, when it was just a TV award show. To think where it has come to now – and a lot of that comes from understanding the needs of the industry and the shifts that have been taking place.

You have had the chance to judge at both Cannes and Loeries in the past. How do you think South African creatives weigh up against their international counterparts?

I think we’re way up there with all of the best.

If you just look at this year’s results in how we faired at Cannes and One Show, we were definitely present and we were winning the big awards. So we definitely weigh up against everyone else, if not providing some stiff competition.

Having sat on the judging side, I don’t think our ideas are short of any brilliance. I think what these international award shows reveal is how good the international market is at digital and digital integration. There are far more awards being won by other nations in those kinds of categories. So that’s the only place I would say we definitely need to up our game.

Although, having said that, Native VML did very well in those kinds of categories at Cannes this year. But, overall, I think we’re getting there.

Often, when you sit at these award shows, you realise that currency is also important. We have smaller budgets to work with than some other countries and, sometimes, you see that in the scale of campaigns.

But then, when you see a simple piece of work that has made it all the way to the top, it is a great feeling.

You are currently working as the creative director at FCB, but you have worked at some of the country’s biggest firms in the past, including Net#work BBDO and VML. Do you think the industry has enough female creatives?

It’s not that there is a lack of women, but there are not enough women at the leadership level. And there are certainly not enough black women, to be quite blunt.

My main agenda within the Loeries is to focus on growing young women in the industry, inspiring them, and inviting them to see the benefits of staying in the industry. I want to help them to grow and to see the possibility of seeing themselves in leadership.

So one of the things I’m also learning is instead of lamenting the fact that there aren’t enough women, we should focus on the ones that are here. We need to use what we have and inspire young women to come up in the industry.

It’s a simple thing of hiring more black females and, in order to do that, we need them in our advertising schools.

As a female in a leadership position in the creative industry, what characteristics do you think are necessary to succeed?

One thing I’ve learned is that there is this perception that by being a woman in the industry, you have to be like a man and lead like a man, but “oh no, you must also be soft”. I think you have to be your authentic self, and that is true for any industry in the world.

It’s not so much about being a man or being a woman, it’s about being strong, being good at what you do, and using your strengths to your advantage. For example, I tend to find myself as a bit of a nurturer, so then I need to use that in my leadership style.

Resilience and stamina are important too, because it’s a tough industry. You’re dealing with creativity, which is really personal, and people will knock that down all the time. You have to be able to stand up for yourself, stand up for your ideas, and not be crushed when your idea doesn’t get chosen.

Something I’ve learned over the years is that nothing will be handed to you, you have to put your hand up. You have to lean in, don’t sit at the back of the boardroom, put yourself at the table – you have to be present and be a part of the conversations.

For more information on the Loeries, visit

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Gordhan, along with Jenny Glover and Simoné Bosman, devised Open Chair – a way for young women in marketing to meet established women and ask for advice. Open Chair’s first session was a huge success. Read more in our article, Open Chair aims to connect women in advertising