OSCS talks to Keke Mahlelebe

We recently shared lunch with old friend, DJ and Ad-man Keke Mahlelebe to get his insider opinion on the age-old debate of Big multi-national agencies versus smaller, more specialised agencies. 


It’s no surprise that the traditional advertising agency model is under threat and has been for quite some time to smaller boutiques, consultancies, and startups. The interesting question however is: Are we moving fast enough?

In the words of Maurice Saatchi, “Sometimes I feel as though I am standing at the graveside of a well-loved friend called advertising.” As agencies, we’ve been slow to adapt and held back by our own process, versus smaller specialised shops that thrive on agility and collaboration.

Fashion in the digital age is faster than ever.

Instagram feeds inform what gets shown on the runway.

Fashion shows are shifting from exclusive, invite-only events, to shareable, interactive experiences. Chic sportswear brand, Adidas Y-3, started live streaming their shows in 2012, allowing people at home to watch from four different viewpoints and toggle between movement, footwear, accessories, and backstage, without losing perspective of the show as a whole.

Being agile and adaptive in a world that’s constantly changing is how we will win.
Global fashion houses entering the market will face the challenge of driving local relevance without losing the aspiration of being a global brand.

South Africa, unlike homogenous markets in the EU and the US, has a lot of complexities, in terms of share of wealth, income immobility, and financial stress.
I believe the opportunity for agencies will be to provide fashion houses entering the market with new, untapped local insights that will inform highly relevant communication.

The agencies that can get to this the fastest, big or small, will have a powerful role to play in fashion.


Read further in the October Edition of Fast Company

A little bit more about Keke:
Favourite city?

Kinshasa, D.R. Congo.

Never have I felt more alive in a city. From the motorbikes and 4x4s, to the constant traffic, to the lush forests, to the 20 000 bars, one of the highest concentrations in the world, every day is the weekend.

“Everything grows in the Congo. Everything grows.”

Frank Ocean knows.

Favourite things at the moment?

Bury me in Our Legacy, and I pray my Aesop never runs out.

As far as artists go, I got to party with Neckface in Hong Kong a few months ago – was great to see him working, that was incredible.

Young Thug is my David Bowie, I love The Drums, and I’ve also been listening to Cosmo Pyke’s grime project – Ammi Boyz, quite a lot.

One Instagram account you could recommend?


Watch the “Russian Jenga” video.

The project that you are most proud of?

Heineken Presents, Edible Music, with Nicolaas van Reenen.

Got to do something that had truly never been done before with my friends, and we got a lot of industry recognition as a result, through PR and awards.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

To finish it as well as it started.

I should probably take some leave soon.

Need to start planning my trip to Sweden. I’ll be spending some time being inspired by Scandinavian design and visiting the home of Our Legacy on Jakobsbergsgatan in Stockholm.

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