Luthuli aims to to improve black representation in least-transformed SA industry

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Advertising is notorious for being one of the least-transformed industries in South Africa, but people like Vutha Advertising and Marketing chief executive Sipho Luthuli are making the strides necessary to improve black representation in the field.

"The industry is no longer as frustrating as it used to be when I first entered," says Luthuli.

"We are beginning to see more of a South African character to the messages we see in the media."

Born in the Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn, Luthuli got his first taste of big-city life in his first year at the University of Cape Town.

"I was a bit concerned about moving to an urban setting with its potential dangers, but I met a guy from back home in Worcester where I spent much of my youth," he says.

"Tumelo Moleleki showed me around Cape Town and taught me a lot of things about life in a city."

Sipho obtained his honours degree in economics and management and worked for the development bank in 1991.

"I only stayed for a year after many frustrations" he says.

In 1992 he returned to Cape Town and worked for the Kagiso Trust until European Union funding was pulled in 1994. He then moved to Shell as a public affairs advisor, where he worked for two years before deciding to go into business for himself.

"I started out by buying a 51percent stake in Meintjies Parker in 1999 and served as executive chairman for a while, but we [were] met with resistance at every turn," he says.

Luthuli sold his stake in Meintjies Parker in 2000, took a two-year sabbatical and went back to start a brand new agency in 2002, Vutha Advertising and Marketing. Today the company employs about 20 people on a full-time basis and enjoys turnover in excess of R20million.