Jock of all trades
‘I’m a strategist but I don’t have a strategy for myself’
POPULAR CINEMA and literature can be held to blame when it comes to the misguided glamorising of certain professions. For example, Stieg Larsson’s The
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series bears little resemblance to the actual trade of financial journalism, aside from the occasional homicidal instinct experienced on deadline. So too with advertising: that fabled profession of flashy cars and all-night parties resulting in the marketing campaign of the decade.
“There’s a perception advertising is all about the sex, drugs and rock ’n roll. Sadly, that hasn’t always been my experience,” says Andy Rice about the mythical perks of the industry, in which he’s occupied various enviable positions, including head of strategy at Ogilvy, and founded one of South Africa’s leading branding consultancies – Yellowwood – which services blue chip clients such as BMW and Sasol.
At age 61, Rice is at turning point, having let go of operational control at Yellowwood last year in favour of public speaking on the brand-focused themes. He says he’s always been “fond of talking”.
Rice was born in “a little town north of London” and found himself in Johannesburg at age 22 following a trans-African road trip. SA was intended to be a passing attraction as opposed to his final destination. Rice found a marketing job at the Johannesburg branch of German chemicals group Henkel. Several years later he joined advertising heavyweight Ogilvy, then operating under a different incarnation.
Rice moved jobs and continents several times, ending up as head of strategy at Ogilvy in Johannesburg in 1991 and founding Yellowwood in 1994. Other achievements include a weekly radio slot on Talk Radio 702, media commentator on the industry and judging panel positions at the Loerie awards, the PRISM awards for public relations excellence and Finweek’s Tony Koenderman’s AdReview ranking programme, among others. He remains chairman of the board at Yellowwood responsible for attracting new business.
In person, Rice is charming and funny – an embodiment of that famous dry, selfdeprecating British humour. He’s almost enviably ageless, as men who tend to take the good and the bad in life with equal good humour tend to be.
“Many years ago – when I was still single in London – I was sitting opposite an extremely beautiful woman at a dinner party,” says Rice. “I asked her about her ambitions and she gave me a detailed life plan for the next 10 years. I found it all very unappealing and not at all sexy. I’m a strategist but I don’t have a strategy for myself. My planning horizon isn’t very long term.” Rice is currently involved in the Jock of
the Bushveld 3D animated film production – based on the much-loved South African story of a Staffordshire terrier runt which goes on to have a series of adventures with his owner in the African bush. It’s the first film of its kind to come out of SA and Rice is its full-time marketing director, looking after the character licensing of the film, which includes all manner of related merchandising that frequently makes more money than box office revenues.
Production of Jock began three and a half years ago and is scheduled for (delayed) release later this year in both SA and the United States.