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Insights from the Jury Room: Mandie van der Merwe

When it comes to selecting a Jury President, The Gerety Awards were this year fortunate to appoint Saatchi & Saatchi Australia Co-Chief Creative Officer Mandie van der Merwe. With over two decades of creative experience across three continents and more than 300 recognitions at the most prestigious local and international award shows, Mandie shares her jury insights, career highlights and hard-won advice for creatives.


How would you define excellence when it comes to creative work?

Creative excellence is many things to me. It’s connecting two thoughts in a way that no else has done. It’s work that sparks conversation amongst people who aren’t obsessed with our industry. It challenges the category norms and redefines what the world expects. Creative excellence is work that is crafted and cared for. It is deliberate but feels effortless. Excellence in creative work is work that intentionally makes you feel something – whether that’s joy, smugness, anger or wonder.


What’s a favourite piece of work you’ve created and why are you proud of it?

We have the luxury in this industry of never having to do the same thing twice. And so, the next thing I get to make is always my favourite.

I like that feeling of the unknown; the potential that’s in the next piece. I’ve made a fair amount of work over my career and I will never stop making. It’s the single biggest reason I love what I do – I love creating. My favourite part is the process of making.


What are you expecting to see from judging the Gerety Awards this year?

I’m expecting work that inspires and challenges me. I want work that makes people stop in their tracks. I’m expecting great craft and great ideas that not only benefit the world, but also the brands they serve. It’s the stuff that you look at and think “I wish that was mine.”


What advice would you give women looking to make a name for themselves in the creative advertising industry?

Learn resilience. It’s not a popular answer and I’m sure there’ll be people who have more inspiring advice. This industry is tough – not just because of the lack of diversity and opportunity for women, but also because we get told “no” a lot. Especially as a creative person. Your best idea can be rejected because the client doesn’t “see” it. Your best script can be rejected because production can’t make the money work. Your best work can be lambasted because the audience doesn’t like the product. The one thing no one can control is how you respond. I have found that the most incredible women I’ve met in this business all have that one attribute in common.

This interview is part of a series in collaboration with The Gerety Awards, a creative prize redefining the standard to which advertising is held and setting a benchmark for advertising and creative communications. For more jury insights from this years Awards, don’t miss the 2024 Gerety Awards Jury Insights AUNZ panel discussion on Thursday, June 13th (moderated by Mavens). RSVP here.


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