As part of its exclusive industry interview series, Modern Marketing held an online interview with Ipelegeng Thibedi, the CEO of African Operations at Weber Shandwick, who has been part of the branding and marketing industry for over 15 years. She discusses her career journey, the possibilities of integration, purpose-driven marketing and bringing ideas to life.

Early life

Thibedi’s Grade 12 Guidance teacher said that she would make a great PR specialist – at the time Thibedi had no idea what a PR specialist was. She went on a career testing workshop, and when she heard the words PR and marketing, her teacher’s words rung a bell and Thibedi thought that it was something to pursue. 

Her core foundation, which is the first 10 years of her career, was predominantly PR and communication. Thibedi started in entertainment PR, moved on to traditional PR, and then made her way to financial PR. She eventually went into crisis and reputation stakeholder management, which was her primary focus for a long time. ‘I started to diversity into marketing, advertising, branding and digital as a whole. For the last four years, my sole focus has been that of business development and market research innovation and strategy,’ she said. 

‘The understanding of the PR and marketing world came naturally to me. In my personal capacity, I care a lot about communication and reputation elements, so the course resonated a lot with me. As the years went by, I fell in love with the idea of saving brands or helping them come alive. Now I am in it for the love of brands – I know the pain of building them. I love helping lay the foundation of different brands, as the hardest part is starting something.’

Thibedi’s career highlights include:

– Working on Outsurance campaigns.
– Being head of External Comms and Media at Deloitte.
– Rebranding of Altron.
– Working alongside designers when SA Fashion Week first started.

Thibedi also enjoyed being part of the branding of Havaianas flip-flops. ‘At the time that I started working on Havaianas, nobody in South Africa knew of them, and it was such an exciting exercise making sure that they were in every single magazine and newspaper. Now they are like second nature to people.’

What have you enjoyed most about working in this industry?

’The integration process and seeing ideas come alive. It is one thing to plan and execute something, but seeing the reception of an idea from the end targeted audience is mind-blowing. The perception of a brand is very important, so I enjoy helping a brand shift consumer perceptions and ensuring that these do, indeed, shift for the better.’

She enjoys the benefit of being able to position herself as a trusted advisor. ‘Working with clients and brands that trust your advice is fulfilling, and being able to help them perform better as a strategic adviser is quite exciting.’

Other interests

Thibedi is a long-distance runner, and tries to participate in marathons as she believes that they help with instilling discipline. ‘I always say long-distance runners are mentally strong. I also like travelling and I dedicate myself to one overseas marathon a year by fitting it into my travel plans.’

She did the Berlin marathon in 2018 and the Great Wall of China marathon last year. This year, she was looking to do the New York marathon, but this has been put off due to Covid-19. Her favourite sport is tennis, and a highlight is attending Wimbledon last year.

To see Thibedi’s views on being successful in the industry, creating successful campaigns, notable industry changes and trends, view the video below:

Thibedi’s favourite campaign

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