Bold new leadership move for Net#work BBDO

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A breath of fresh air just gusted into Adland, courtesy of the recent announcement of Net#work BBDO’s new leadership structure. TRACE TV Southern Africa regional head – and former SABC executive – Leo Manne assumes the role of MD joining the recently stepped up new guard of chief executive officer, Boniswa Pezisa, and  chief creative officer, Brad Reilly. With founding partner and former creative chief, Mike Schalit moving into a Cheerman/Careman ‘not chairman’ role.

However,  South Africa’s merry band of mavericks hasn’t found much favour with Home Affairs who unfortunately clanged the door shut on intrepid global wayfarer, former MD Gautham Narayanan, who reluctantly departs our shores after four dazzling years at Net#work’s helm. Narayanan, who joined the Johannesburg office from AMV BBDO in London in 2014,  will be taking up a new role at Wieden + Kennedy in New Delhi.

Moving forward in their inimitable, pioneering  Net#work style, Pezisa said the management team had deliberately looked outside the ad industry for someone to help drive a disruptive, innovative business approach.

“Leo is renowned for shaking things up, and given the need to change the advertising business model and deliver true integrated ways of working, management and delivery, we approached Leo to come and help take us to the next level,” said Pezisa. “His drive, business acumen and global digital media experience brings a compelling new dynamic to our team.”

Manne, a Wits graduate, was consumed by the world of radio, first as a DJ on the campus radio station, he then helped to drive the success of the countries first community radio station, the Voice of Soweto, setting up its newsroom. He’s also spent time carving out paradigm-shifting new platforms for the likes of YFM, METRO FM and SABC 1 as channel head, where he delivered a successful and memorable World Cup experience on the channel in 2010.

Manne steered TRACE into a significant brand and business in Southern Africa across its TV, Digital, Events and Mobile business verticals.  TRACE has grown into the leading media brand for the connected Afro Urban youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a handful of international markets like France, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.

In the three years at TRACE under Manne’s leadership, the youthful brand launched the OTT platform TRACE Play taking the TRACE content proposition beyond music videos and beyond linear television, into the digital space. Even more exciting, was the launch of this country’s first youth focussed Mobile Virtual Network Operator in the popular culture space by a media brand, called TRACE Mobile.

Manne’s values, love for great creative work and understanding of how to deal with digital disruption and access to talent across Africa was instrumental to his appointment. He was one of Net#work’s early pioneering partners of breakthrough ideas whilst still at Metro FM, in its heyday of creating some of South Africa’s most memorable and effective, integrated campaigns.

“I go back a long way with this iconic SA agency, so I’m incredibly excited about this new opportunity,” said Manne. “Like many other industries, the media and advertising environment is in constant flux, and our challenge is to find the balance between creativity, innovation, being a responsible social change agent and doing good business. I look forward to making a real difference with the Net#work BBDO team as well as our current and future partners – our clients.”

Schalit concludes, “How exhilarating to see Leo as the Manne to write the next exciting chapter for Net#work.”

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