First South African awards for LGBTQIA-affirming ads launched


Tebogo Skwambane (WPP SA Country Manager) with some of the WPP Unite SA Committee Members at the launch, from left to right, Kerwin Martin (Ogilvy), Carmen Williams (Ogilvy), Matthew Vd Valk (VML), Dono White (VML), Terrie Molepo (Wunderman Thompson) and Khumo du Toit (Wunderman Thompson).

The first South African awards that will reward brands and ad agencies for their support of the LGBTQIA+ community has been launched.

The ground-breaking initiative, known as the WPP Unite Awards, was announced at an event in Johannesburg late last month, as part of the official launch of WPP Unite SA. The ceremony included live singing performances, art, poetry, and vogueing.

Spearheaded by passionate individuals across the WPP network, which includes world-leading advertising and marketing agencies like Ogilvy, VMLY&R, Mindshare and Wunderman Thompson, WPP Unite SA is dedicated to uniting LGBTQIA+ employees and allies within and beyond the organisation.

WPP South Africa, with its extensive global presence and significant impact on cultural narratives, recognises the responsibility to foster greater inclusivity and representation. It aims to leverage this influence to celebrate diversity, promote representation, and provide support for the LGBTQIA+ community within the media landscape.

A Mandate for Unity

WPP Unite SA goes beyond activism and focuses on celebrating expression and creativity and taking responsibility for the role that creativity plays in shaping the nation’s narrative.

“We are naturally a diverse community coming together to unite the special textures and fibres we enrich the country with, and that extends to our beautiful differences be it racially, culturally, across languages, age, and ability”, says Dono White, Strategic Planning Director at VMLY&R and Unite SA Committee Member.

At the launch event, held at Ogilvy Johannesburg, Country Manager of WPP in South Africa, Tebogo Skwambane emphasised the important role of WPP Unite SA, and how such a community is a vital need for the agency conglomerate.

By bringing together diverse individuals from various companies and with representation from some of the world’s biggest brands, WPP Unite SA will facilitate connection and co-creation of solutions to challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals, using the influential power of brands.

“We want to take the lead in the stories we tell society because that is how culture is built,” says Ray van der Fort, WPP SA DE&I Lead and WPP Unite SA Chair. “History is made in the present and we want to look back on what we have put out into the world and be proud of the messages we sent.”

Rewarding and Awarding LGBTQIA+ Creativity

In partnership with renowned LGBTQIA+ organisations, MambaOnline and The Other Foundation, the WPP Unite Awards will be the first and only platform recognising and rewarding brands and agencies for their support of the LGBTQIA+ community across various categories.

The inaugural awards, which seeks to “Un-stereotype” the community will consider creative work from the last three years, followed by eligibility for work from the last year.

“We’re proud to be part of this landmark initiative which will recognise those inclusive brands and talented communication creatives that affirm, represent and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in their work,” says Luiz De Barros, Editor of MambaOnline. “We hope that this recognition will in turn inspire others in this dynamic industry to fully embrace the diversity of our community.”

Further details about the awards will be released soon, with the involvement of the South African LGBTQIA+ community as judges via MambaOnline. Should LGBTQIA+-friendly brands wish to sponsor the awards, please reach out to

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