Wayne Naidoo
Wayne Naidoo

CEO’s Covid Diary: Lockdown lessons

by Wayne Naidoo. The good, the bad and the ugly. That’s what most weeks look like nowadays under COVID lockdown. These are the lessons learned.

by Wayne Naidoo. The good, the bad and the ugly. That’s what most weeks look like nowadays. Let me start with the bad.

COVID Week 1

“Guys, I don’t know how to say this better, but we cannot pay you. And we’re not sure when we can.” That became a common refrain. We’ve had three clients that have unfortunately taken huge strain right from the start of the lockdown. Client 1 just never returned our calls and we eventually heard that he was furloughed. Client 2 argued force majeure from the get-go, and started to pick holes in our contract (he’s now an ex-client); and Client 3 – one of our favourite partners – hasn’t paid us for the past three months, but has been truthful about where they stand and promised to make right at some point.

Whilst the compounded effect of all of this has hurt us financially; we’re still okay and still happily engaged with the client who was honest and open with us, by trying to assist them where we can during these trying times.

COVID Week 6

Then it got ugly. It’s 9 pm and Uncle Cyril has just announced that Level 3 is about to be instituted. My phone rings and a client excitedly challenges us to turnaround an online campaign within a week, to take advantage of the upcoming relaxed restrictions. It’s a newish client so I accept the ask, even though we are stretched and all working remotely, with questionable bandwidth. The full team briefing happens nine hours later and for the next 48 hours, senior brains and a multitude of bodies are thrown at the problem with every bit of process and protocol ignored.

The conceptual work is loved, but the executional timing presents unforeseen problems due to lockdown restrictions. But the work ultimately gets done, and it’s on brand, whilst ticking all the KPI boxes – or that’s what we thought. The campaign launches and doesn’t quite live up to client expectation as per his interpretation of the brief. Debate ensues, the client is displeased and the team relationship starts to sour. Fee discussions are still ongoing.

Sadly, we now need to reenergise both sides to focus on the job at hand. A lesson in misinterpretation and miscommunication when we are forced to work apart from our clients.

COVID Week 5

The good. “Wayne, I’m gonna get fired if I can’t get this business back on track ASAP. Please help. The problem? We have X-million Rand to grow our market share by over X-percent in the next six months. The Brief: You just bought the business. What would you do?” And just like that, in all the mess and madness, a dream brief lands in your lap. It’s all still a work in progress, but everyone in the agency definitely wants a bite at this challenge.

Lockdown Lesson #1: Ditch the bravado and just be an honest human. I assure you, you’ll get better overall ROI as a result.


Wayne Naidoo is founder and CEO of DUKE Group. He started out in the industry as Marketing Manager of the Cape Town 2004 Olympic Bid Committee. Seduced by the world of advertising, he joined Lowe Bull soon after its inception, where he started out in Account Management and grew through the ranks to business development director, where he worked on a range of blue chip clients, later taking over as Group CEO of the Lowe Group. After a stint at fintech startup afb (now known as JUMO World); Naidoo returned to advertising and started Duke five years ago. He is current Chairman for the Association for Communication and Advertising in South Africa (ACA); a board member for the AAA School of Advertising; and Chairman of the Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO) in Cape Town.


– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Monday and Thursday • Subscribe here

– Take advantage of Retailing Africa’s ‘Pay-what-you-can’ business support package • Read more