Fascinated by consumers

Rozanne van der Merwe has been the managing director at Ogilvy Namibia for three years.

19 July 2019 | Business

Evany van Wyk

Rozanne van der Merwe comes across as being the epitome of female empowerment and friendliness. And this is exactly who she is.

After a firm handshake we make ourselves comfortable in the Ogilvy boardroom for the interview.

“I was born in Windhoek in 1985, I am the proud mom of two beautiful children, I am married to an extremely supportive partner and I hold the position of managing director at Ogilvy,” she says.

The first thought that comes to mind is about how she is able to juggle all these responsibilities and still reach the level of success she has at such a young age.

Growing up, Rozanne dreamt of becoming a paediatrician. Career options were limited in the 1990s and advertising was also never really on the cards.

That changed when she realised in high school that she loved the psychology behind consumer behaviour, consumer preferences and the motives behind ­this.

She also excelled in sport and has her Namibian colours in netball. After completing her grade 12, she studied at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town, South Africa, where she obtained her degree in marketing management, graduating cum laude.

Van der Merwe decided that she needed a change of scenery and moved to London to pursue a career in marketing and see the world. London was her home for two years, after which she returned to Namibia.

“The transition was tough, I won’t lie, after living away for six years. After I got back I urgently needed a job and that’s when I applied to Ogilvy for an account executive position.”

For the last nine years Van der Merwe has called Ogilvy home.

Three years ago she was appointed as the managing director of the agency. She admits that her job thus far has been quite challenging, but the rewards have also been immense.

“The most exciting thing about my job is seeing how the team and company have grown since I started here. It all comes down to great strategy, teamwork and good client relationships,” Van der Merwe explained.

She enjoys travelling and makes a point of doing it at least once every two years, if she has the time.

Places she has visited include Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Turkey, France, Italy and Amsterdam. Next year she looks forward to visiting Japan.

“Keeping my family and work balance has been the hardest obstacle, but if you have a support system, nothing should stand in your way,” explained Van der Merwe.

It is clear that her passion is not only that of a career woman, but juggling the role of mother, wife, boss, colleague and friend. One of the things she likes most is spending quality time with her loved ones.

When it comes to work, she ensures that she maintains good relationships with employees and clients, because this builds a good understanding.

Like David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising and the founder of the advertising agency, she also believes that “like a midwife, I make my living bringing new babies into the world, except that mine are new advertising campaigns”.

“It is our job to take care of brands and grow them into their best self,” explained Van der Merwe

When asked what advice she would give her 18-year-old self, she said: “You need to ask yourself one simple question: Will you be able to do this every day of your adult life.” According to her passion, drive and confidence are key in making career decisions.

She explained if you do what you love, and believe in yourself, anything is possible. “If you’re not sure, take a gap year and figure it out, but most importantly follow your gut.”

Being a 33-year-old woman, a managing director and a shareholder at a great company, she can’t help but be proud and grateful for her accomplishments. Her plans for the future are to continue building and growing the agency and her team, but most importantly to make brands matter in Namibia.

She is currently reading a book called ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek. She admits that she does not read a lot, but when it is related to business, she always finds the time. “This book is about how to be a good leader and inspiring people to take action,” explained Van der Merwe.

Building strategic client relationships, empowering the team and adapting to change is what she takes pride in.

Photos: Evany van Wyk

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