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Meet the Class: Collette Wasielewski
Collette Wasielewski made a name for herself as a Creative Director working with brands such as Woolworths, Redds, Virgin Mobile, Coca-Cola, Converse, Vodacom, Jungle Oats, South African Tourism, Brand South Africa, Stanlib, Nando’s and 46664 apparel.
Currently, her talented design department at FCB tackles everything from traditional corporate identity through to art direction, brand activation and rainbow creation - literally. The latter earned them 5 Cannes Lions, a Loerie Grand Prix and a bronze Clio in 2014. We spoke to her shortly after winning our Helga and Michael Conrad Scholarship for Women in Creative Leadership about her career path, her creative vision, and her future on our EMBA program.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
A graphic designer by trade and by nature, I have been lucky to work on and learn from multiple local and global brands. I have had the further fortune of working with and being mentored by some of the best minds in the South African creative industries. I only stumbled into advertising agency life 5 years ago, when I found an unexpected home at FCB. As my passion is brand building, FCB offered me the opportunity to work on some of South Africa’s favourite brands, including global brands like Coca-Cola.
The absolute highlight of my career, though, has been working on my country’s brand. South Africa after 23 years of democracy is a country that is now finding it’s voice and it’s confidence. We are a young nation that is filled with potential and it’s an honour being entrusted with the task of telling our new exciting story.
In my personal capacity, I am mother to one human, 2 dogs and a cat. My son Benjamin is by far my (and my husband’s) greatest creation and watching him grow over the last 3 and a half years has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. To that point, I am very lucky to have a husband that supports me in my career and is a fantastic father to our little creation, which allows me the luxury of jetting around the world and chasing my ambitions.
What would you say is the greatest obstacle to Creative Leaders in 2017?
Bandwidth. Just joking.
I think world politics might be the biggest obstacle of 2017. World sentiment has done an about face overnight (or so it feels), and all of a sudden not only are we competing with other brands for share of voice, but with the POTUS twitter feed and, well, POTUS in the news in general. Although it seems that Reebok has just taken on that challenge to great effect. “Beautiful.”
So perhaps we should be seeing world politics as our biggest opportunity?
What was your favorite ad campaign from last year and why?
To be honest, I have two equal favourites. The first, of course, is “Fearless Girl”. The second is the "Down Syndrome Answers" campaign by FCB Toronto.
Both of these ideas are so relevant and so empowering. Furthermore, the absolute simplicity of the ideas and the relatively small size of the adspend vs the massive impact and reach that they achieved is that perfect imbalance that every creative strives for.
Both are fantastic examples of how relevant creativity can start relevant conversations and create real change in our world. This kind of change is something that our industry so often promises, but its seldom that we actually achieve it.
How do you think the role of women will affect the future leadership of creative businesses?
We already know that more diversity, more difference, means less ‘groupthink’ and better creative solutions - multiple studies have proven this. However, there are no conclusive studies that tell us how women in leadership benefit our businesses.
I believe that we have only just begun to see female leaders in their element, as they have, until very recently, still been operating within a largely male context. Thus, it’s really hard to predict how empowered women will affect our industry.
For now I hope that the female leaders that are making an impact in our industry. will make it a more accessible place for young female creatives. Hopefully this will make real leadership roles more available to these creatives in turn. Then, in terms of what we do, as storytellers and as people that can create new contexts for society, that we can help the world to support women and open their minds to their full potential.
What attracted you to the Executive MBA program and how do you hope it will affect your career?
As the only MBA in the world designed for the creative industries, the Berlin School’s programme is attractive to people like me for two reasons. Firstly, to be able to create value for clients, it’s more necessary now than ever for creative leads to understand the client’s business and their global economic context. If we want a seat at the client’s boardroom table we need to fully understand more than just the marketing department’s needs.
Secondly, as creative leaders we tend to progress into senior positions with little real leadership training. This problem is not unique to the creative industries which means that we land up with very few conscious business leaders in the world. More ‘woke’ leaders make for a better world for all, right? If so, one could then argue that great leadership of mass communication creation has an enormous potential benefit, that I’d love to play a part of.