You would not associate Thabang Ramogase with the controversial and light-hearted fast food chain Nando's adverts.
In person, the Nando's South Africa marketing manager comes across as conservative and sober. I was expecting to see a rather unkempt guy with a free spirit.
The brains behind the daring adverts turned out to be a controlled free spirit who knows when to play. The 39-year-old married father of two was suited up and looking businesslike.
What is fascinating about him is the element of alchemy about him. The combination of a savvy business plan and a passion for creativity has made his Nando's campaign one of the most talked about in the country.
How does a serious guy like him come up with such witty, unpredictable, and sometimes unscrupulous [sic] adverts?
Fun, but hard work
Ramogase, who works with ad agency Black River FC - the creative minds behind Nando's adverts, says the finished product might be fun to watch but the process is a lot of hard work.
"My team of eight and I set out objectives. We look at the message we want to get out there and send a brief to the creatives. They come up with the ideas. We assess them and check whether they go with our objectives." He says he has so much respect for the agency because of its diversity.
"It has all kinds of people: vegetarians, straights, gays, young, old, black and white, but they all work together to create best adverts. The agency is run by a Muslim man and a white woman. They are a bunch of hard workers who are never satisfied with their work."
Ramogase says sometimes the creatives do not meet the brief. He says on average they have three to four reverts on one brief.
He says he does not see Nando's as controversial but rather as people with a finger on the pulse of what is happening in the country.
"We really understand what the brand is all about. Advertising has to be relevant. We are relevant," says the Unisa graduate.
Bizarre - a broadcaster deciding for millions
Regarding the recent brouhaha about the latest Nando's xenophobia advert that was criticised as inciting violence, Ramogase says he finds it bizarre that in 2012 the public broadcaster can decide for 15-million people what they can watch.
"It's even weird that this is happening at a time when our Constitution is lauded as one of the best in the world. We were shocked when DStv and e.tv followed SABC.
"We didn't expect this from them. There is no doubt that their decision was influenced by The Spear controversy."
He says South Africa has a long way to go when it comes to conflict management.
The Advertising Standards Authority dismissed complaints about the "xenophobia" advert and ruled that the Nando's commercial did not contravene its Code of Advertising Practice.
Ramogase says more of the same kind of adverts are coming.
"In September we turn 25. The campaign idea is: We are 25 and are still playing with fire. We are hoping to make a big impact over that time."
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Quite right - I would not associate Thabang Ramogase with the controversial and light-hearted fast food chain Nando's adverts. I would associate his ad agency... with the ads. And what the dickens is a 'controlled free spirit'?