Kevin Ndinguri

Name: Kevin Ndinguri

Agency: UM Africa

Position: Managing Director

Years in position: 11 years

So Captain Kev, what is your media superpower?

My superpower is my ability to connect with clients and people in general; it’s something inherently in me. I thrive on social and business interactions and in the past 11 years, the one thing that has always stood out for me is my ability to connect with clients and form deep relationships way beyond the media space.

What personal skills does it take to connect with people?

My ability to listen! I try to empathise when I speak to people and listen to understand, rather than listening to respond.

Where did your media career begin?

I started out as an intern at Starcom. Back in the day, everyone landed in the media industry as a mistake. I met a lady called Eve Pennington at a golf day and she asked me if I wanted to be an intern at Starcom. I said: “Ja, cool!” And the rest is history.

 Once upon a time, six interns entered the media field and proved that hard work, grit, creativity and pure determination are the right qualities to get you to the top.

Please share with us a highlight of your career.

Looking back, I was fortunate to work with amazing people in the industry and to learn from them. I am also fortunate to have come up with absolute rockstars such as Prince, who was also an intern at Starcom and who is now the Media Manager at Sanlam. It’s an amazing thing to grow and to watch your peers grow alongside you too.

The world is facing such adversity right now. What do you think is the greatest threat to the media world?

In the context of what’s happening at the moment, there’s obviously the relevant conversation around systemic racism across a number of industries and societies. In the context of where this country has come from, I think South Africa has a way to go, even in our industry. There’s still more to be done around how more people of colour can participate at a decision-making level. People like myself and Donald Mokgale, MD at Carat, are the first step. Seeing more people of colour actively running boards and agencies and not just in a set-up of having a 51% share-holding to make sure the agency gets to a level one. There is more work to be done.

And then there’s COVID… Media and the Covid-19 pandemic will be about how agencies adapt to this ever-changing world. Things have been fast-tracked over these past couple of months. We have definitely seen a spike in digital adoption and transformation of clients and brands into that space. E-commence has shot forward and we need to adapt to how consumers are changing and how they are now consuming information, and we need to bring clients along on this journey, and quickly.

How are you addressing these issues?

Regarding racism, our organisation simply will not tolerate it. We are predominantly a black agency, but we are also proud to say that we are predominantly run by women, which is fantastic. Regarding Covid-19, we are certainly aggressively embracing digital.

Is there space for traditional media?

Yes, there’s definitely room. Out-of-home will make a comeback, and mobile will continue to be strong with lots more innovation happening in this space. Radio will pick up again and TV will always play a big role in this country. Print will change considerably. Newspaper and magazine content will still be relevant and so publishers will have to encourage people to engage with the content through other channels. It’s an exciting time.

What is your greatest achievement?

Being promoted to Managing Director of UM was a big step for me. Earlier in my career I had my sights set on the role and I knew I would get here one way or another, and it was something I strived to do. And I did it! But I don’t think this is my ceiling. There is still a lot of growth in this agency; growth of clients, revenue, people, and contribution to the industry.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Still at UM, having built an agency that is successful, which has a good reputation in the industry, and an agency which is the top-three agencies in the country, if not in Africa.

Kevin’s influencers…

Best books: I’ve read Principles by Ray Dalio, which had a lot of gems for personal life and for business. Betting on a Darkie by Mteto Nyati was also a great book, outlining his humble beginnings to CEO of massive companies. I loved Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason, for anyone who needs financial advice. And finally, you must read Christopher Wylie’s Mind F*ck which outline Cambridge analytics.

Best film: I’m an action movie fan, but my favourite movie is In Pursuit of Happyness with Will and Jayden Smith. It’s heavily emotional and super inspirational, all about having nothing but through hard work, persistence and the value of always believing in yourself, getting to where you want to be.

Favourite performance: Trevor Noah in the early days, and JayZ and Beyoncé performing together at the Global Citizen concert.

Best experience: I was supposed to bungee jump off the Soweto Towers. I literally stood on the edge and the guys counted me down…I just couldn’t do it! I learned about my fear of heights that day.

Most memorable place: I’ve travelled to a number of places, but there is no place like home, in Kenya, with my family.

 Watch the interview here: