New Saatchi Boss Plans to Build on a Creative Heritage

Masego Motsogi. Picture: Supplied

M&C Saatchi Group South Africa has announced the appointment of industry veteran Masego Motsogi as MD of its Joburg division. In an industry continually dealing with gender disparity, she says it’s the last thing she wants to talk about but recognises she must.

She tells the FM the aim of the sector should be to create an environment where talent is recognised and celebrated for its merit, untainted by preconceived notions or biases based on gender or background.

The agency counts among its clients Standard Bank, PepsiCo, Lexus and Nando’s.

She says: “I long for the day where gender isn’t an issue, a day where no one’s experience or voice is diminished, or that baseless assumptions are made about a certain cohort of people. These are challenges we continuously need to focus on. An emphasis on the basics, as well as individual brilliance, will unlock the future of our industry. And the brilliance is plentiful.”

But she adds that she is not naive and accepts that other people’s realities could be different. “And this remains our greatest challenge as we continue to build an industry where talent can be great not because of who or what they are, but rather because they are good at their jobs.”

Motsogi also believes that South Africa remains one of the great creative markets in the world but thinks its reputation cap might be slipping.

“We have a creative heritage that all of us in the industry should be proud of and nurture. But being great is continuous hard work and some of that work sits in understanding culture.”

In that respect, she suggests that ad agencies return to basics and double down on creativity and impact.

This is a view long shared by many in the industry. Over the years, advertising has evolved from straightforward and genuine messages to sophisticated and at times obfuscating campaigns aimed at capturing the audience’s attention in an increasingly cluttered media landscape. This saturation, combined with the rise of invasive and interruptive digital ads, has led many consumers to perceive advertising as inauthentic, leading to mistrust.

It’s fair, then, to say a climate characterised by diminishing trust in advertising underscores Motsogi’s return to basics, which calls for clear, honest and consistent messaging, reducing the reliance on flashy gimmicks and often manipulative strategies.

Motsogi believes mentorship plays a crucial role in uplifting the next generation of leaders. Teaching young talent, especially women, is paramount. She says the ad industry must recognise the urgency, expand its talent pipeline, and refine its skills. Interventions are needed across the board — and in the short, medium, and long term — that put a premium on storytelling, fostering an environment where everyone gets a chance to narrate their own accounts.

Part of that process is creating a culture of inclusivity and diversity, which many agencies battle to do. Motsogi says a dynamic agency’s emphasis should not be merely on diverse representation but on diversity of thought.

“We must aspire to cultivate a culture where creativity knows no bounds and every individual is impassioned about achieving excellence in advertising. This ethos must be ingrained, felt from the very first interaction and throughout one’s journey with us.”

In terms of output, she believes in moving at the speed of culture, not ahead of it and not chasing it. “This means that there is significant awareness that allows us to be sensitive while not sacrificing creativity and good work. It’s the appreciation of storytelling. It’s our job as creative people to mirror that in the stories that the consumers, who buy from our clients, want to tell themselves. It’s a return to humanity. And the world needs a lot more of this.”

Looking five years ahead, Motsogi says her vision is clear: a business powered by a diverse talent pool, excelling in storytelling rooted in culture, harnessing technological shifts, and steadfast in its foundational values.

This piece originally appeared in the Financial Mail.