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[Behind the Selfie] with... Marcela Ospina

This week, we find out what's really going on behind the selfie with Marcela Ospina, business anthropologist of
When it comes to behaviour analysis - sorted. Taking selfies? A whole other ball game.

1. Where do you live, work and play?

Ospina: Craighall Park, Johannesburg.

2. What's your claim to fame?

Ospina: I apply human sciences to solving business problems, mainly in the direct and digital marketing spaces.

3. Describe your career so far.

Ospina: I studied anthropology and history in Colombia, and did a masters in sociology at Wits in South Africa. For over 11 years I've worked as a researcher and a strategist with a strong focus on human behaviour and how to change it in order to make marketing more effective and innovative. In those years, I've worked with digital and direct marketing, innovation, and direct clients - applying behavioural principles to executions. I have experience working in South America, South Africa, and a number of African countries.

4. Tell us a few of your favourite things.

Ospina: Music, food, travelling and people.

5. What do you love about your industry?

Ospina: It's forever changing and no two days are the same as human behaviour changes all the time, as does marketing.

6. What are a few pain points your industry can improve on?

  • The integration of human sciences in the roll out of executions and multi-disciplinary thinking:
  • Decision-makers need to leave their desks and spend time with their key market(s)
  • We need more innovative thinking about ways of talking and engaging with people

7. Describe your average workday (if such a thing exists)

Ospina: I meditate, exercise, do fieldwork, analyse data, attend meetings, and brainstorm around tactics or strategies that could change my client(s)' businesses, or the industries, for that matter.

8. What are the tools of your trade?

Ospina: People and everything this entails - a people skills, a solid network, and being exposed to as many elements of popular culture as possible.

9. Who is getting it right in your industry?

Ospina: Overseas it is Red Associates, Mindcode, BJ Fogg and Space Doctors. Locally, my clients! Seriously though, Demographica integrates insights into their creative and execution processes in a great way; Inquisition does a good job in integrating solid thinking to executions; and Added Value has a good semiotics lab.

10. What are you working on right now?

Ospina: I'll be working with Native VML and Demographica on a variety of projects. I'll also be in Mexico and the US in March - networking, looking at new business, and attending SXSW.

11. Tell us some of the buzzwords floating around in your industry at the moment, and some of the catchphrases you utter yourself.

Ospina: I'm not good at catchphrases and buzzwords, but I am cautious of "add value", because it could mean many things to many people, and "user experience", because of the same reason.

12. Where and when do you have your best ideas?

Ospina: While meditating, for sure

13. What's your secret talent/party trick?

Ospina: I DJ techno. Seriously!

14. Are you a technophobe or a technophile?

Ospina: I am something in between. I love technology and how it impacts human behaviour, but I am not as savvy as I could be. I love selfies though!

15. What would we find if we scrolled through your phone?

Ospina: Photos of places I've recently been, music, and lots of WhatsApp conversations.

16. What advice would you give to newbies hoping to crack into the industry?

Ospina: To mix their ability to think. In other words, if they come from a non-traditional background, like myself, they need to use that to their advantage and mix it with building a solid client base, and good relationships with key players in the industry. All of that must then be backed up by consistent work.

17. Plug your contact details, punt yourself - list all the places people can find you/your work online?

Twitter for Anthropology and business
Facebook - for music and popular culture
Website - for blog and case studies

Click here for more from Ospina.

*Interviewed by Leigh Andrews.
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About Leigh Andrews

Leigh Andrews (@leigh_andrews) is Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at, with a passion for issues of diversity, inclusion and equality. She's also on the Women in Marketing: Africa advisory panel, was an #Inspiring50 2018 nominee, and can be reached at ...