Brian Muguto

Name: Brian Muguto

Agency: Mediacom 

Position: Head of Strategy

Years in position: 9 months

Where were you before you became Head of Strategy at Mediacom?

I’ve been at Mediacom since 2014, but before I took over my current role I headed up the Coca Cola account across the SEABU (Southern Eastern African Business Unit) region. I joined Mediacom as a strategy intern and six years later I've made it to the top of the pile, it would seem.

Well done! Is the new role the biggest achievement in your career?

As you take new opportunities you always hope that the new role is going to offer you more responsibility and influence, so in terms of roles, this is my biggest. But, leading the Coca Cola account was also a massive undertaking and I feel I achieved great things there, too.

What is your media superpower?

Agility! I first started in the oil and gas market and then moved into agency life doing digital strategy. A move like this, from one industry to another, taught me how to bend and change the course of my expertise and outputs. That's been my superpower. 

 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.

What is the biggest challenge for media right now?

We've always talked about adaptability, but we have never been forced to act on it immediately...until now. Before, it was easy to plan for a whole year and then step back and tweak and optimise while it all rolls out. But now, things are changing at a super-fast pace and there are so many forces impacting those changes. We are under pressure to manoeuvre quickly.

What are your thoughts on #blacklivesmatter?

What’s happening with Black Lives Matter is a consequence of the times. If you squeeze people hard enough, the pressure will cause a reaction. It is not a new issue, but we finally have the time to stop and reflect. It's interesting how the global community has mobilised around the campaign. 

What do you look at when starting a client strategy? 

All great strategies start with great insights, and great insights come from a deep understanding of consumers, brands, and the context in which the two co-exist. Take teens for example – the needs of a teen sitting at a desk during school, is very different from that of a teen sitting poolside during holiday time. Equally, the way a brand's values and behaviours will manifest in each of those contexts will vary. A great insight takes us from simply connecting the dots, to building meaningful connections between brands and people. 

Is print dead?

I think print has been mistakenly labeled as dead, but there's still a lot of life in the medium. There is both a migration to, and convergence, with digital media that has seen mere print articles being transformed into dynamic content online, printed pages being brought to life through AR/VR, and magazines going fully digital. Publishers are also extending their consumer experience into the real world through events and activations. 

Radio? Out-of-home? 

If you take a step back and look at it, every channel in media has the opportunity to evolve and find a way to the next step. Radio has moved into audio streaming while also integrating WhatsApp, social media platforms, all in real time. Out-of-home used to need extended lead times to get the material produced and distributed and then to pray it is correct and that nobody tears it down. But digitally, material can change immediately and content can be programmatic. 

What was the most fun you had on a campaign? 

Share a Coke! The proof of this campaign's success is its timelessness, especially when you consider that we've seen four or five iterations of it already. The most recent iteration addressed the cultural dynamic that comes with having 11 official languages. We sought to give South Africans the platform to use the Coke can as a vehicle to start conversations, introduce their names and their meaning, AND to teach each other how to pronounce their names correctly. This was so much more powerful than just selling a soft drink. 

Brian’s influencers…

Best book 

The Bible. Aside from being a collection of some of the greatest stories ever told, it's the only book you can read over and over again, year after year, and still find new inspiration every single time. It is the GPS to every moment in my life. 

Best film 

American History X. I watched it for the first time as part of a set work at school and I loved exploring the juxtaposition between scenes shot in black and white versus those in full colour. It was the first time I approached a movie to understand the artistic reasoning behind things and potentially the birth of my passion for photography. 

Best live performance 

When I was living in Scotland, as a student, I had the pleasure of travelling to London to watch Blackstar live at the Apollo Theatre for the Science in Speech concert series in May 2011. Two of my Hip Hop Top 10 – Talib Kweli and Mos Def – shared the stage with legends Rakim, De La Soul and Jay Electronica in a once-in-a-lifetime experience at one of the world’s most famous concert venues. I almost died.

Most memorable experience 

I convinced my partner, who doesn't swim, to go shark cage diving with me. They chummed the water and so we had plenty of sharks circling. It was a surreal experience because when you're in the Kruger Park you are far from the animals, but with shark cage diving you are right there. My heart was pounding – very exciting! 

 Watch the interview here: