Roanna Williams’ passion for brand communication is driven by her belief that through creativity, we can affect the change we want to see in the world. A belief deeply rooted in the Net#work BBDO DNA, that “Brands are the navigation system and tools of the 21st century, for consumers to simplify and manoeuvre their lives.” A truth that is far relevant today than ever.
An experienced brand communicator, creative activist, creative inspirer and an artist who is working hard at having it all, prosperous career and mother-hood. Inspired by her 4 daughters to have it all, mother, career-business women, brand communicator, artist, creator and problem solver, Williams is one of the leading “Creative Forces” of the South African landscape.
With 25 years working experience under her belt, Williams earned herself one of the rarest accolades in the South African Advertising landscape, when she received the accolade “Top Advertising Woman of 2018/19”.
I find writing about myself a very intimidating task. I immediately get writers block, and I’m not even a writer.... So, please bear with me.
I have been in the industry for 25 years. That’s half a century! ??
I must love it, right?? Nope. Not exactly.
If I had to describe advertising, I would say:
It’s satisfying, but gut-wrenching.?
It’s fun, but really hard work.?
It’s passionate, but filled with anxiety.
It’s exciting, but can get you down.?
It’s exhausting, but exhilarating.
?It’s complicated, but the best ideas are so simple.
It’s filled with drama, but action packed.?
It’s a gold lion, but also not even a shortlist.
And I guess, this is why I’ve been in it for a quarter century. It’s a complex blend of opposite emotions of highs and lows, and to do our best work, we need them both to feel fully fulfilled.
Ok, let’s rewind.
I never knew I would stumble into the complex relationship career of advertising. I was going to be an architect. No, a fine artist. No, an architect. No, a fine artist and so the pendulum swung me into neither.
Naïve, lacking self-confidenc,e but filled with creative ambition and a graphic design qualification, I started my career at TBWA as a junior art director. I knew nothing. But felt I had something. Then, late one night in the advertising studio I came head-to-head with the most successful female creative in the South African ad world at the time. The person that young creative females were meant to look up to and aspire to become.?That was definatley not how I felt.
I had been working late for eight consecutive weeks on a big campaign. Saturday and Sunday included. It was 11:21pm and I was finishing off the final look and feel. Then, “the most successful female creative in the SA ad world at the time," my ECD, peered over my shoulder at my screen and shouted: “You are f%$#’ing useless!”
Broken and exhausted, I lay awake in bed later and asked myself, “Is this what female success in this industry looks like?” Because then, I wanted out, quickly. After a good think, I decided to stay, but first made a big commitment to myself. I would never aspire to that type of leadership and would work hard to lead with more heart.
I will never regret this commitment, as I get to work every day feeling super blessed to be leading (and hopefully inspiring) so many talented, diverse and interesting people.
Recently, I became the first woman chairperson of the Creative Circle. The Creative Circle is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting creativity as a business resource and maintaining high levels of creativity in the South African advertising industry. If you had asked me 25 years ago, 12 years ago or even 2 years ago that I would have this role, my response would have been, never. Through this role, I hope to inspire other women in the industry to know that their voice matters, their seat at the table is effective and leading with heart has the most impact.
My current everyday motto comes from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910. It has a few flaws as back then, he only addressed it to men, so, I have adjusted the flaws to include all people:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong person stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the individual who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself/herself/theyself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he/she/they fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his/her/they place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
When asked the question about what the future of advertising looks like, my answer is simply that it’s not a science and hard to predict completely, but let’s get in the arena and forge the way.
Thanks for reading.