Phenomenal Woman: MD at Collective ID – Brenda Khumalo

My third guest is Brenda Khumalo – MD Collective ID ( Previously Ireland Davenport). I met Brenda 2013 when I was at Vodacom and she was on the account.

Quiet at first I began to notice how tough and resilient she was and  very committed. I began to rely on her so much on delivery of work – and my respect for her has continued throughout. In addition to being the MD of Collective ID,  and is a mother to a beautiful daughter and a wife. So Brenda you are a young dynamic lady please can you tell us about Brenda.

What made you get into advertising?

 I’m a Durban girl, born and raised. I took interest in advertising in grade 10. I always knew there were people behind TV storytelling. I remember investigating, and sent through college applications to the likes of Vega and AAA in Johannesburg. I grew up loving TV commercials, especially the authentic South African ones. However, I always knew I belonged in the Client Service department.

 Tell us about your early years and career in the advertising industry?

 My first break was a 3-month contract at Versfeld & Associates in Durban (they specialised in PR). They happened to share office space with Ogilvy Durban. I was 20, going on 21, determined to turn this into a permanent opportunity. I met John Gale, MD of Ogilvy Durban, during that time. I was not aware he was the MD of Ogilvy Durban, so I would have casual conversations with him; I thought he was so cool. At the end of the contract with Versfeld & Associates, John Gale asked me to interview for a junior Account Executive role. I was hired on the spot. I spent the first two years at Ogilvy Durban working on Sun International Sibaya Casino, Wild Coast Sun, Game Stores and SAB. My Business Unit Director at the time, Doug Mayne, was a good mentor and helped me to lay a strong foundation for my career. I also spent time following the story of Nunu Ntshingila, a successful black woman in this industry, because I looked up to her and wanted to be like her.

In 2005, I was given the opportunity to attend the Ogilvy African training programme in Johannesburg. I was the only delegate from the Durban branch to attend – it meant I would fly on an aeroplane for the first time. After a week at the training programme, and being inspired by some of the big players in the industry, I was determined to make it big in the ad industry. This is when I knew I had to relocate to Johannesburg.

 Tell us about your highs and lows in your career and how you overcome challenges?

The highs would be:

  • Working on three Vodacom summer campaigns. Anyone who has worked on telecommunications would understand why this is such a great achievement.
  • Winning the Staff award for four quarters in a row at Collective ID (previously Ireland/Davenport).
  • Attending the Ogilvy Africa training programme in 2005.
  • Bedding down and running the Standard Bank (PBBSA) account.
  • Being a good business partner to my clients – requesting that I work on their business.


I think one that stands out was the challenge I faced in the early years, working on the Vodacom account. I was the first Client Service person on the business, so I was the first to arrive and last to leave the agency. There were times I felt overwhelmed and lacked confidence. It was challenging, but I soon became obsessed with working on the account as I gained more confidence and trust in myself.

Overcoming challenges:
My biggest strength is my intuition however I make sure I do my research to gain full understanding before I act. I’m also a person who tackles challenges and handles disputes with an honest and fair approach. I also don’t mind facing difficult situations when necessary. I always tell my team: “Know your stuff, kill them with kindness and continue beast mode.” Beast mode got me through three summer campaigns on the Vodacom business (hahahahahahahaha).

Tell us about your role as MD and what it entails?

I’m excited to lead Collective ID. My appointment is a dream come true, as I spent years working towards this goal and the work has just begun. We have a good thing going because we have young dynamic people as part of the Collective ID team. My day-to-day is never predictable.

What can you advise other women in advertising or corporate?

Try to believe in yourself, even when in doubt. Work hard and kill them with kindness.

Most importantly, I feel as woman we need to celebrate and support each other.

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