Donald Mokgale

Name: Donald Mokgale

Agency: Carat

Position: Managing Director

Years in position: 13 years

Hey Donald, what is your media superpower?

My media superpower is probably location marketing and advertising, and I suppose Pan African media understanding. I also have the unique ability to solve business problems with whatever tools are available to me, in this instance media. I developed these skills by working in the 'out-of-home' industry for a long time, from production through to writing strategies. I then worked in a media agency as an account manager and strategist. 

And your channel of preference?

Actually, I think media agencies need to be channel agnostic and to rather focus on the business challenge first, and then pursue relevant channels to solve that business challenge.

It is said that the six of you involved in this shoot are like a media brotherhood. Do you agree? 

I completely agree. We are all in the same industry and started together as juniors. We all grew and developed our skills in the same industry. Seeing each of us elevate over time also inspired the others to work harder and to be better. We still call each other around business challenges or pieces of research that we need. And we are very good friends – a brotherhood indeed.

 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.

The world is facing such adversity right now. What is the greatest threat to the media world in your opinion?

There are a number of crises we are facing as a human race – prejudice and racism, and certainly a virus! But there are also a number of threats facing our industry including the rate at which technology is growing where automation will continue to aggregate human function. There is also the threat of more industries crossing over to create other relevant businesses and the organic growth of those businesses. A business that can grow organically doesn’t necessarily need advertising and therefore they don’t need 'spend'. Our entire industry lives off spend, and if there isn't any then we don't have an industry.

What do we need to do to eradicate this threat?

Automation is our most imminent threat and I think the way to combat the threat is to get ahead of it. We need to be the ones driving automation in our industry and we need to reinvent the commercial model – the way we are earning. For example, if we're seeing more technology taking over human jobs, such as strategy, then we need to create a commercial model around how we charge businesses for access to that strategy. 

Have you faced adversities personally in your own career?

I think the greatest adversity I encountered was inclusivity. I started out as a junior sales executive selling large format outdoor billboards and I faced the brunt of having to create relationships out of thin air with media strategists from media agencies who didn't want to know me. We also had to deal with larger agencies having a 'preferred suppliers' approach. The industry was, and perhaps still is, really ‘clicky’, which is unfortunate because I think we should be skills and opportunities based. 

What has been your greatest career success?

I think it was starting an office in Ghana. I needed to write the business plan, get funding, hire people, create systems, and then let them run while supporting them remotely. That was my biggest success. I was alone and ran with it all by myself. It is still running today and even introducing diverse products.

Do you think there is still space for traditional media in the media world today? 

I think it’s a mixed bag and that everything is contextual. TV will never shrink but it needs to move from analogue to digital signal where they can grow those revenues. Things like 'outdoor' will also always be relevant, because South Africa depends on our road infrastructure and we will always have traffic. Print, on the other hand, has been dying a slow death for a while now and the last nail in the coffin seems to have been Covid-19. But the opportunity is for magazines to transcend into the digital space with the content, which is what people are consuming. If the content is good you just have to repackage it so that your audience can consume it in a different way.

We are doing exactly that with Afropolitan right now! What does the word ‘Afropolitan’ mean to you?

To me, it means to be conscious – socially, economically, and politically – and to be future-facing. An Afropolitan knows where they come from and where they are going. It is trying to be the best version of themselves. I am completely an Afropolitan... I even use the term in my new book. 

You are writing a book! Tell us more!

It's about "black lived experience". It’s a book about behaviour that can be psycho-analysed. For example, we explain why black people don't understand social distancing. In the townships, we are crammed into tiny houses, then we are crammed into taxis, then when we are in Pick 'n Pay everyone wonders why black people are breathing down your neck. It's because being crammed is all we have ever known... it's a black lived experience. 

Interesting! Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I see myself as a serial entrepreneur involved in various businesses, mentoring a plethora of young people and being the author of multiple books that encapsulate my experiences into fun and entertaining stories about looking at life differently.

Donald’s influencers…

Best books: Afropessimism by Frank B. Wilderson III, and Black Skins, White Masks by Frantz Fanon

Best film: The Matrix definitely changed my life.

Favourite live performance: There are so many... I'm a performer myself, so it's hard to choose. I was once involved in a stage productions, ' 21 Poets and a Poem’. People cried in that production every time we performed it. I am a theatre actor, an MC and a poet. I also rap.

Most memorable experience: My best experience was when I performed for the president in 2013. I performed poetry and made enough money to take myself to Italy to visit my then long-distance girlfriend. I ate Italian pasta made by Italians themselves in Milan!

 Watch the interview here: