Dawn Rowlands: Fostering a Culture of Integrity and Accountability

Dawn Rowlands
Dawn Rowlands

Ethical leadership is paramount for building trust and credibility, both within the organization and with external stakeholders. In a country like South Africa, with a complex socio-political history, ethical leadership is critical for driving positive change and fostering a culture of integrity and accountability. A CEO who leads by example and upholds the highest ethical standards can set a positive tone for the entire organization and contribute to the country’s ethical business environment.

Dawn Rowlands, Africa CEO of dentsu, is driving changes with the same ethical motive. dentsu is a global brand strategy and creative agency that helps brands predict and plan for disruptive future opportunities. With a focus on the sustainable economy and modern creativity, dentsu brings people together to create new paths to growth.

As the network designed for what’s next, dentsu, under the leadership of Dawn, partners with brands to navigate the ever-changing landscape of consumer engagement and business growth; with a focus on modern creativity and a sustainable economy, dentsu is shaping the future of branding and commerce, one connection at a time.

Expanding the Business Roots

Dawn quickly established herself in the media and rose to prominence as one of South Africa’s youngest media entrepreneurs. She is a successful female leader who established and sold two firms before turning thirty-five years old. Dawn has been given the opportunity to develop the African Region, which has been an incredible journey from 40 to over 1500 dedicated individuals.

Under her leadership, the African Network has grown from five owned markets to eleven, with a greater presence in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania. Currently, dentsu Africa maintains offices in Senegal, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Uganda, and Mozambique. She has expanded dentsu’s vision in a calculated manner.

Because of her leadership, she was recognized both locally and internationally as the 2019 MOST Awards Media Legend. Dentsu took up the Financial Mail Africa Impact Award in 2018. In addition to winning a Gold Stevie Award for Maverick of the Year 2012, Dawn was named the AdReview Advertising Achiever of the Year 2012. She was awarded Access International Businesswoman of the Year in 2013.

Dawn was named co-chair of the Adweek Africa Advisory Council in addition to serving on the Loeries board for the past five years.

Reshaping the South African Industry

Dentsu started as a collection of entrepreneurs who envisioned a different type of agency where diversity was critical and accountability was key. The organization wanted people and the leadership to have a real sense of ownership in the business, the work produced, and the people it attracted. Dawn believes that dentsu has reshaped the SA industry, proving that smaller challenger businesses can become scaled and potentially lead an industry.

Dawn believes that the SA industry can benefit from wider continental collaboration, and dentsu has applied the same lens of ownership and accountability to all regional businesses.

Dentsu has invested in data, tech, and people ahead of the curve to ensure it is agile, insightful, and culturally relevant. Dawn believes in bringing highly specialized people together and driving radical collaboration internally to ensure that the company delivers performance outcomes. This requires a large investment in its relationships with media tech partners like TikTok, Google, and Meta.

Driving Growth

Dawn believes that the hesitation towards investment in SA is limiting the industry’s growth. Advertising is an investment to drive growth, which can help companies gain more.

Loadshedding has directly affected media audiences and created an inflation of over 30% in some cases. Dentsu has worked with brands and integrated teams to develop a product called NightVision to overcome the effects of load-shedding in media. The product has driven an additional upside in performance of over 50% for its clients.

A business is built based on annual incremental gains that add up to success. Pivotal moments are ones where opportunities to drive transformative growth are seen. These opportunities are realized by planning and preparation. The company is hungry for growth and recognition as the most highly regarded agency network.

Dreaming Louder and Inspiring Changes

Dentsu’s guiding principles are called the 8 ways and define clearly how it will be striving to bring meaningful changes.

Dentsu actively focuses on teaming without limits across the region to drive diversity of skills and to ensure things get done. The company ensures that its dreams are turned into reality. Dentsu’s entire business is underpinned by driving meaningful progress.

Progress for people, Society, and its clients’.

Dentsu actively rewards teams for innovation, collaboration, and creativity. The company calls this horizontal creativity. The company believes that creativity should touch every part of the business. It is true that creativity can come from anywhere, but it takes focus, dedication, determination, and a great deal of craft to get a project to completion.

Ideas are great, but making solutions real is what counts in a business. Ideas need investment and planning to succeed. Dentsu’s culture and processes ensure the selection of ideas that can be realized, planned on, and crafted. These are unleashed collaboratively by the power of dentsu’s team.

Enhancing the Capabilities

Dawn acknowledges that the change is inevitable. The future is Now, and thus, by talking about the future, the company ensures the needs of business today are fulfilled.

Dawn finds it important to spend a great deal of time focusing on where the company is heading, why changes are needed, and whether these changes will allow meaningful progress. The company aims to adopt technology that will be beneficial for its people and society. So many of its clients are investing heavily in software and are not fully leveraging the power of it. Dentsu is a tech-agnostic business, which means its clients expect the company’s advice on a multitude of digital products. There is a great deal of capability required to ensure that this can be managed.

Navigating the Business Landscape with Able Leadership

According to Dawn, the key qualities a CEO needs to effectively navigate the South African business landscape today are:

  • Resilience
  • Creating a culture of learning
  • Collaboration
  • Being able to lead with empathy
  • Ability to realize and innovate or see ideas through to completion

Driving Digital Transformation

Dentsu SA will continue to develop and launch products that solve challenges for Consumers and its clients. Dawn is extremely excited about the launch of the Dentsu School of Influence, which will drive the capability and skill sets in the creator economy.

Dentsu will continue to drive its scaled learnership programs to ensure that it can drive digital transformation for the clients. The company is totally committed to driving a sustainable future for the business and people and will continue its fight against Malaria in Africa.

Dentsu will continue to challenge the industry and drive meaningful progress for people, clients, and society in SA. Dawn believes the business can double its size in the next 5 years to be the industry leader. The company will focus on its existing clients, and using a client-centric approach, it will deliver innovation and new products that will solve South Africa’s biggest challenges.