South African expat tops a lis

South African expat tops a list of successful women in advertising

Recently named one of the 36 most creative women in advertising by Business Insider, Mariota Essery is a Saffa on a mission. 

South African expat tops a lis

Now the Associate Creative Director at TBWA in Los Angeles, Essery started working in the ad industry in Cape Town. After her inclusion on Business Insider‘s list alongside fellow SA expat in LA Sue Anderson, we caught up with her to chat about her career, life in Venice Beach, and her advice on living abroad.

Was your move away from SA personal or professional?

It was both. My parents were always incredibly encouraging when it came to working and living abroad so it was something I always knew I wanted to do. In 2002 I flew to the UK and have been gone ever since. My career has taken me to live and work in London, Amsterdam, and I’m currently based in LA.

What are the starkest differences between the SA and US ad industries?

I haven’t worked in the SA industry since 2002, but from what I gather, the biggest difference is budgets. The US has much larger budgets for creative campaigns that often feature celebrities and are of a more global nature. Having said that, ideas are still first and foremost, no matter which country you live in and no matter how big or small the budget is.

What were the best and worst aspects of working in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is an incredible city to live and work in as an expat. There is a wide choice of very good creative shops to work for, the Dutch are welcoming, and everyone speaks English perfectly. It’s a beautiful city and so easy to get around on your bike. The weather can get you down though, especially in the freezing winter months. But luckily I could fly home to South Africa to escape some of the pouring rain during December and January.

Do you have any advice for SA creatives looking to make a move abroad?

Figure out which country you’d like to live in, and make a list of all the agencies you want to work for. Then go after them. If you have a good portfolio you’ll always have options — agencies will invest in you if they want you. Use your contacts if you have them worldwide — someone will always know someone who can help you out. This is where LinkedIn will come in handy. There are good recruiters out there too. Check out their LinkedIn profiles, introduce yourself, and be very specific what you want. If you do go down this route, make sure they know that you want to be notified before they contact any agency on your behalf. Mariota 2

What do you miss most about SA, personally and professionally?

Stepping back on South African soil feels like home. It’s the people, the relaxed vibe, the humidity, the chaos, Natal and the endless sugar cane fields (which is where I grew up), the sound of a fish eagle and the millions of Christmas beetles. My family and close friends, Vida coffee, and Mo’s noodles in Durban!

Do you prefer Joburg or Cape Town?

I grew up in Natal and spent my first working years in Cape Town so I don’t know Jo’burg at all. But my friends are so enthusiastic of the city — it really sounds like a very exciting place to live. However I do love the sea, mountain and international vibe of Cape Town.

Mariota Essery

What’s the best thing about living in LA?

The sun shines every single day, the weather is always amazing, and people are very friendly and laid back. We live in Venice Beach which is a small community. I sometimes forget I live in a vast city. We get the best of both worlds — the small, relaxed beach life, but a short drive will take you to the glam hotspots of Hollywood, or even the mountains where you are able to ski in winter. Career wise LA is really turning into a creative hotspot. It’s an exciting place to be—it really does feel like anything is possible in film, music, art and advertising. You’ll meet people from all aspects of the creative world, and people are very open to connecting with you.