In our exclusive Modern Marketing Industry Interview series, Managing Director of Joe Public Connect, Mpume Ngobese, discusses how her career in publishing inspired her switch to communication and advertising, which landed her in a leadership role working with creatives and executing successful purpose-driven ad campaigns.

Early life

Ngobese studied a Bcom Honours Degree with her four majors being: Marketing, Business Management, Change Management and Training and Development. ‘I was playing it safe because I also could not commit to one particular industry, so I covered all my bases. I actually landed in the right industry,’ said Ngobese.

Ngobese started her career in 2002 at Johnnic Communications, now known as the Tiso Blackstar Group. ‘I was working in the group editorial office where I got to interact with a lot of incredible journalists and editors across different sectors and was exposed to conceptual writing and advertising. That appealed to me, and that is how I made the switch to communication and advertising,’ she said.

She then moved to the agency world in 2004, where she was involved in both trade and customer marketing. She branched into brand strategy and design, which led to the Beyond-The-Line communication space at Joe Public United. ‘This is where I got to work on amazing campaigns for various clients.’ 

In 2018, she stepped into a managing director role at Joe Public Ignite (beyond-the-line specialist agency within the group) that focuses on experiential and integrated accounts. She is currently the managing director of Joe Public Connect, the digital specialist agency within the Joe Public United group.

Career highlights

‘I have had a lot of stand-out moments, but a notable one is when I was approached by Gareth Lerk (Joe Public United Group CEO). I was doing my hand-over status with him as he was leaving for Thailand the following day. He randomly launched into a conversation about an opportunity that had come up within the agency and that the shareholders wanted me to fill that position.’ She did not think twice about taking the opportunity. 

What have you enjoyed most about working in this industry? 

‘This is a tough industry to be in, but this same industry has really fed my spirit, as I could not easily imagine life without art, creativity and ideas.’ Ngobese loves the creativity that she is exposed to, as well as seeing ‘genius work coming alive’. ‘I think we should actually be often given the creative license that we deserve as that would make our lives perfect,’ she added. 

Industry changes

Although the change has been slow, Ngobese has seen an increasing number of women having a seat at the table and contributing to making important decisions. ‘Now more than ever, agencies are recognising the need for diversity and representation, not only for BEE scores but rather using diversity to introduce rich views and debates, which I believe leads to a richness of thinking when it comes to creativity as well as building businesses.’  

Keys to success

‘Stay true to yourself. Do not measure your value in comparison to those of others. Learn the art of patience. Understand that success comes through experience, and with experience comes failures and successes, which then ultimately leads to your growth. Success in this industry is also about being brave, daring, humble and the willingness to learn in order to grow.’ 

Watch the rest of of the interview below where Ngobese tells us more about her hobbies and interests, executing a successful campaign and major 2020 industry trends.

Ngobese’s favourite campaign is the Jet: Clear the stigma campaign on breast cancer, which is based on insights that she personally resonates with as a black woman. The research around breast cancer and black women in South Africa shows a low rate of breast cancer incidents but the mortality rate is higher. This is due to the stigma surrounding black women and cancer in the country.

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