The story so far…
Born in South Africa to an engineer and a journalist, she grew up with 3 cats 2 dogs and a lot of experimental building work.
Thanks to her mother’s job as editor of the local newspaper, her childhood was peppered with celebrity interviews and photographic shoots. She met the Hoff at 10. She hung around printing presses from the age of 6 and watched her mother manage writers and edit copy from the age of 4. She “..didn’t get a sentence out until the age of 8..” because every time she tried, her grammar was corrected.
Diana studied Art and Art History at school and excelled at English, eventually going on to University to study Literature and Economic History with Art as an elective subject. By the age of 20, she had her degree but she still wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. Except that she really wanted to get to the Rio Carnival. And party, party, party.
At a New Year’s party she met somebody who told her that she was a good storyteller and thought she should be in Advertising. He was right. Within days she was offered a place at AAA School and a year later, won the AAA campaign of the year and was accepted for the O&M Graduate Training program at Ogilvy Mather in Johannesburg. The agency won International Agency of the Year and the Creative Director, Robyn Putter, became head of Ogilvy’s Worldwide Creative Council and Worldwide Executive Creative Director. She shot her first ad that year with Howard Smiet and won Ad of the Month for her ‘Read’ literacy ad.
But Diana still had itchy feet. She was enjoying Ogilvy and doing well but she decided it was time to see the world. She went off to Europe with school friends for a trip of a lifetime- squeezing in every possible art gallery and museum along the way. Subsequently she lived in London for a few months, freelancing at Ogilvy One with Rory Sutherland as Creative Director, who taught her the true meaning of English eccentricity.
Eventually she came back to Johannesburg and got down to some hard work, producing a huge campaign of 12 DPS for Surebuild cement, shooting wild elephants in Botswana. The finale of the client presentation included a real baby elephant called Clyde, loaned from the Circus for the afternoon. The campaign was a great success. The Client also agreed to support elephant charities throughout South Africa and later that year, sponsored the Elephant Relocation Program, which created a perfect PR opportunity for the brand.
As a result, she was headhunted by TBWA Hunt Lascaris- the hottest agency in Jo’burg. They were responsible for the rise of Nando’s- an amazing campaign at the heart of the South African sense of humour. While there, she worked on many other brands too, including Nashua, Land Rover, NUK, Fruits of the Forest and pitch after pitch. It was a very busy and exciting time, with awards flowing in from every angle. Tony Granger was the Creative Director and the standard of work was exceptional.
One highlight was the ANC election campaign. Nelson Mandela was stepping down and the General Election Campaign would make Thabo Mbeki President of South Africa. She loved being part of South African history. But it was a long difficult campaign, as the target market were apathetic. They felt they had won the real election, when Mandela was elected. In this campaign, it was crucial to communicate the right message –that people had to register with their ID books in order to vote. Many people were illiterate. As a result, the campaign went through every conceivable and inconceivable media channel to reach the diverse population. They even produced ads on the backs of matchboxes, to make contact with the most rural people, as well as producing radio ads on tape, which were played at local microbreweries. The campaign was translated into all 11 official languages and by all accounts (and votes) was a resounding success. The ANC won a total of 266 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly.
The other highlights at TBWA were related to the Land Rover campaign. After winning Ad of the month for the Defender Electronic Traction Control ads, Diana was awarded a Bronze Lion at Cannes. The Churchill Corporate ad won the same award. She was on top of the world in 2000, quaffing champagne endlessly in the South of France.
In the wake of all of this adrenalin she’d met her husband -a Londoner. She decided to leave South Africa again. After a year of London weather and a long stint at Ogilvy One with Cordell Burke and Rory Sutherland again, as well as other freelance jobs, Di’s husband was offered an exciting role in Moscow starting January 2002. They hopped across Europe to the land of The Master and Margarita and took a flat on the street where the novel was set.
She started at Ogilvy Moscow within a few months of arriving in Russia. As Deputy Creative Director she launched Fanta Lime, for which they made an entertaining TV spot about ice hockey players. It won a Moscow International award and within 3 months, Fanta Lime took 30% of the soft drink sales in Russia- a country of 149 million people. On the back of that, they produced a launch campaign for Fanta Wild Berry, which involved an Antigravity Machine and Space exploration. Both were extremely successful campaigns in terms of sales. She also spent a large proportion of her time on staff training.
During this time, Di occasionally travelled on her own through Eastern Europe, showing her fierce independent spirit and unique ability to make new friends and talk politics, in any language. Together with her husband, Di also travelled throughout Russia, learning cross-country skiing, vodka consumption and more Russian language, history and culture than is normal or safe for a Westerner. It was exhilarating.
After Di stopped working at Ogilvy Moscow, she spent most of her time studying Architecture- researching, leading and being led through a different part of the city each week and discovering lost Le Corbusier buildings. She also spent many hours painting with a famous Russian art teacher – Lev Dyakonytsin- whose paintings are in the Tretyakovsky. She held an exhibition of her own paintings in 2004.
The family moved back to the UK, after their son was born in 2005. They lived in a rose covered cottage in Oxford and Di kept on with her personal writing, completing two novel writing courses and a screenwriting course. She had a second baby in 2007.
In 2008, they moved back to London and Di started freelancing at Ogilvy London in 2009. It was great to be back in the big bad world of Advertising- just about as far as possible from Ba-Ba Black sheep.
In 2013, they moved to Durban, South Africa for a short 9 month stint. Di worked at The Hardy Boys ( WPP) in Durban, where she won 3 PRSA Awards for the Magnum Twitter Auction. The campaign was also nominated for a Loerie Award. She also worked on many other exciting campaigns, including a TV campaign for Sunlight Soap, which aired in 17 countries, as well as two conferences, one of which was led by Sir Bob Geldof, for RCL Foods.
She is still freelancing, writing a lot of fiction as well as leading a Fiction Writer’s Group. She’s also indulging her passion for interiors in her house in Twickenham. Di is now open to finding a zingy permanent job with the serious creative opportunities she craves. And in case you’re wondering, she still hasn’t been to the Rio Carnival.