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Innovation, client-centricity, sustainability, purpose define Mamela Media’s business approach

By Rajiv Raghunath - April 08, 2024

Leigh O'Mahoney, Managing Director of South Africa-based Mamela Media offers a detailed account of her OOH entrepreneurial journey, unveiling the intricacies of her approach and the principles that drive her business endeavours, in an exclusive interview with Rajiv Raghunath, conducted in Cape Town.

Leigh O'Mahoney

In an era defined by rapid technological advancements and shifting consumer behaviour, navigating the advertising landscape demands not only creativity but also strategic innovation. Leigh O'MahoneyManaging Director of South Africa-based Mamela Media, a visionary entrepreneur, has emerged as a trailblazer in the area of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, reshaping industry norms and setting new benchmarks for success. 

Pioneering Spirit: From Unconventional Beginnings to Unparalleled Success

Leigh's entrepreneurial voyage commenced with an unconventional business idea that blended her creative flair with astute business acumen. Drawing inspiration from her father's background in property development, she envisioned billboards as an untapped source of revenue in the malls, beyond conventional retail spaces. Despite initial skepticism surrounding the viability of her venture Mamela Media, Leigh's steadfast determination and innovative thinking propelled her towards success. With major advertisers such as Unilever onboard, her vision soon materialised into a thriving business endeavour.

Mamela Media - KFC Campaign

Transitioning from a corporate marketing career with Unilever to entrepreneurship, Leigh recognised the transformative potential of OOH advertising within the mass market township space. Leveraging her extensive marketing expertise, she embarked on a mission to revolutionise the industry by prioritising audience engagement and measurability—a paradigm shift that would redefine the trajectory of OOH advertising.

A Commitment to Measurability and Accountability

Central to Leigh's entrepreneurial ethos is an unwavering commitment to measurability and accountability—a departure from conventional advertising practices. Drawing upon her experience at Unilever, where consumer behaviour analysis was paramount, Leigh recognised the imperative of understanding audience dynamics and competitive landscapes. In response, Mamela Media developed robust strategies to measure the efficacy of OOH campaigns, particularly in engaging with township consumers. By meticulously analysing campaign results and deciphering consumer insights, Leigh's approach heralded a new era of accountability within the industry.

OOH campaign

Embracing technological innovations as catalysts for progress, Leigh viewed automation not as a threat, but as an enabler of more efficient and effective advertising. By harnessing the power of data analytics and emerging technologies, advertisers could precisely target their desired audiences, optimising campaign performance and maximising returns on investment.

Evolution into a Township Media Owner

Mamela Media's evolution into a specialist township media agency signifies a strategic pivot towards serving a niche demographic with precision and expertise. By honing in on the mass market township audience in South Africa, the company positioned itself as a pioneer in reaching this segment effectively. Through meticulous market research and insights-driven strategies, Mamela Media has tailored its offerings to meet the unique needs and preferences of township consumers, thereby carving out a distinct niche in the market.

Mamela Media - Nivea lighting OOH campaign

This specialisation not only differentiates Mamela Media from competitors but also enables deeper engagement and resonance with the target audience. By demonstrating an intimate understanding of township dynamics and consumer behaviours, the OOH firm has established itself as a trusted partner for brands seeking to make meaningful inroads into this burgeoning market segment.

Cultivating Trust Through Collaborative Partnerships

Building trust with clients proved to be a cornerstone of Leigh's entrepreneurial journey, albeit a gradual and iterative process. Over the span of seven years, her company diligently cultivated trust, one successful case study at a time, by delivering measurable results and demonstrating tangible returns on investment. Through a collaborative approach that circumvented traditional agency silos, Mamela Media forged direct partnerships with clients, offering bespoke solutions tailored to their unique needs and objectives. This client-centric ethos not only fostered transparency and accountability but also positioned it as a trusted ally in navigating the complexities of the advertising landscape.

OOH campaign

Navigating Challenges, Embracing Ethical Leadership

The entrepreneurial path, fraught with challenges and uncertainties, demanded resilience and unwavering ethical integrity. Leigh candidly discussed the hurdles encountered along her journey, from bureaucratic red tape to ethical quandaries posed by corrupt practices within the industry. Despite facing formidable obstacles, Leigh remained steadfast in her commitment to ethical leadership, guided by a steadfast adherence to principles of integrity and transparency. 

Sustainability and Purpose

For Leigh, business success transcended mere profitability, encompassing broader imperatives of sustainability and social impact. Mamela Media's initiatives extended beyond traditional advertising paradigms, encompassing a multifaceted approach aimed at improving the lives of all stakeholders involved. From repurposing used PVC-based billboard display media for lining dams and for making different products to addressing environmental concerns to fostering partnerships with NGOs to empower marginalised communities, Leigh's commitment to sustainability underscored Mamela Media’s broader vision of responsible entrepreneurship. She explained how Mamela Media partnered EcoSmart to upskills rural women who now make bags out of used billboard skins. ‘It’s a win-win for all,” she said. 

OOH Campaign

Leigh expressed hope that other media owners should join the initiative for repurposing billboard skins for a variety of uses. The skins are not only water-proof, but are fire-retardant.

Mamela Media is also working with recycling units that draw local communities to get plastics re-cycled. Moreover, this is creating more local jobs and avenues for income. 

Charting the Course Ahead: A Vision for Continued Innovation and Impact

As Leigh reflected on her entrepreneurial odyssey, she articulated a bold vision for the future—an unwavering commitment to driving positive change within the advertising industry and broader communities. Embracing the evolving landscape of technology and consumer behaviour, Leigh envisaged a future defined by agility, innovation, and purpose-driven partnerships. By prioritising sustainability, measurability, and ethical leadership, Leigh's entrepreneurial journey serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts alike, heralding a new era of transformative innovation within the realm of OOH advertising.


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