Peter Vundla
South Africa
Peter Vundla
  • Co-Founder, HerdBuoys (Advertising; Marketing)
Born South Africa, 1948. B.A. University of South Africa (1971).
“You don’t create loyalty by just getting a smile out of one’s face. You create loyalty by trust and creating confidence and comfort and all of those things that bring warmth to the consumer.”

Summary

Peter Vundla is co-founder of HerdBuoys (now HerdBuoys McCann-Erickson), South Africa’s first wholly Black-owned advertising agency founded in 1991. In this interview, Vundla reflects on growing up during the country’s apartheid era, and how those experiences influenced his values and outlook. After graduating from the University of South Africa in 1971 and later Columbia University, he returned to South Africa to run a launderette with his father-in-law. In the late 1970s, Vundla moved on to open his own launderette in Soweto, a Black township then outside of Johannesburg established under the government’s policy to separate different ethnic groups.

In this interview Vundla discusses the difficulties he faced obtaining the appropriate permits need to establish Black-owned businesses and the lack of economic activity in Black townships. In 1981, Vundla was recruited to join an advertising agency called Van Zyl and Schultze, Lund and Tredoux (a predecessor of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa). He was initially hired to be a Black communications expert, but he instead pushed for a broader role than being confined to his own community. In this interview, Vundla explains that his interest in the advertising industry was sparked when he entered a competition to design a slogan for Castle Lager beer and recognized that advertising was a powerful medium that can influence human behavior. Vundla describes that in the apartheid era, Whites controlled advertising, so Blacks had no input on how they viewed themselves. Vundla discusses how the widespread violent opposition to apartheid affected his life. Vundla recalls an attempt by Winnie Mandela to recruit him to become a member of the African National Congress, which he turned down due to his preference for the rival Pan-Africanist Congress, a group that supported Black nationalism and opposed the inclusion of any other ethnic group in the struggle against apartheid. Vundla describes that he felt he could make a greater impact in changing the country’s future and the attitudes of Whites by working in business rather than politics.

In 1991, Vundla co-founded HerdBuoys, which focused on result-oriented advertising designed to change consumer behavior and create brand loyalty rather than creative advertising as such. The time was opportune as Nelson Mandela had been released from prison the year earlier, and the end of apartheid was approaching. Vundla explains that he recruited existing Black talent working in advertising agencies, and set about demonstrating that his firm was professional and effective. The competitive advantages of HerdBuoys rested in the greater understanding of Black consumers and knowledge of the multiple languages spoken in the country. Many of his advertising campaigns focused on nation building, including an iconic campaign for South African Airways. When in 1994, Blacks were allowed to vote for the first time in a general election, HerdBuoys was appointed to facilitate the process. They held workshops and organized radio broadcasts, and designed a ballot paper, which included the face of the party leaders and the political party logos in full color, in response to low literacy levels of many of the new voters. Vundla describes HerdBuoys role in launching the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), founded by Nelson Mandela and run by Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Cape Town. In 1997 HerdBuoys merged with the local affiliate of the U.S. advertising agency McCann Erikson to become part of the global advertising agency network.

To conclude the interview, Vundla discusses the social impact projects he has been involved in since his retirement from the advertising agency in 2005. These include the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, which cares for more than 13,000 vulnerable and orphaned children due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic; the National Children’s Rights Committee that looks after children’s rights; and the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a think tank founded in 2010, which researches the complex challenges of equity, growth and nation-building faced by South Africa.

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Peter Vundla is co-founder of HerdBuoys (now HerdBuoys McCann-Erickson), South Africa’s first wholly Black-owned advertising agency founded in 1991. In this interview, Vundla reflects on growing up during the country’s apartheid era, and how those experiences influenced his values and outlook. After graduating from the University of South Africa in 1971 and later Columbia University, he returned to South Africa to run a launderette with his father-in-law. In the late 1970s, Vundla moved on to open his own launderette in Soweto, a Black township then outside of Johannesburg established under the government’s policy to separate different ethnic groups.

In this interview Vundla discusses the difficulties he faced obtaining the appropriate permits need to establish Black-owned businesses and the lack of economic activity in Black townships. In 1981, Vundla was recruited to join an advertising agency called Van Zyl and Schultze, Lund and Tredoux (a predecessor of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa). He was initially hired to be a Black communications expert, but he instead pushed for a broader role than being confined to his own community. In this interview, Vundla explains that his interest in the advertising industry was sparked when he entered a competition to design a slogan for Castle Lager beer and recognized that advertising was a powerful medium that can influence human behavior. Vundla describes that in the apartheid era, Whites controlled advertising, so Blacks had no input on how they viewed themselves. Vundla discusses how the widespread violent opposition to apartheid affected his life. Vundla recalls an attempt by Winnie Mandela to recruit him to become a member of the African National Congress, which he turned down due to his preference for the rival Pan-Africanist Congress, a group that supported Black nationalism and opposed the inclusion of any other ethnic group in the struggle against apartheid. Vundla describes that he felt he could make a greater impact in changing the country’s future and the attitudes of Whites by working in business rather than politics.

In 1991, Vundla co-founded HerdBuoys, which focused on result-oriented advertising designed to change consumer behavior and create brand loyalty rather than creative advertising as such. The time was opportune as Nelson Mandela had been released from prison the year earlier, and the end of apartheid was approaching. Vundla explains that he recruited existing Black talent working in advertising agencies, and set about demonstrating that his firm was professional and effective. The competitive advantages of HerdBuoys rested in the greater understanding of Black consumers and knowledge of the multiple languages spoken in the country. Many of his advertising campaigns focused on nation building, including an iconic campaign for South African Airways. When in 1994, Blacks were allowed to vote for the first time in a general election, HerdBuoys was appointed to facilitate the process. They held workshops and organized radio broadcasts, and designed a ballot paper, which included the face of the party leaders and the political party logos in full color, in response to low literacy levels of many of the new voters. Vundla describes HerdBuoys role in launching the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), founded by Nelson Mandela and run by Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Cape Town. In 1997 HerdBuoys merged with the local affiliate of the U.S. advertising agency McCann Erikson to become part of the global advertising agency network.

To conclude the interview, Vundla discusses the social impact projects he has been involved in since his retirement from the advertising agency in 2005. These include the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, which cares for more than 13,000 vulnerable and orphaned children due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic; the National Children’s Rights Committee that looks after children’s rights; and the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a think tank founded in 2010, which researches the complex challenges of equity, growth and nation-building faced by South Africa.
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Video Clips by Topic

Corporate Culture

Peter Vundla, who co-founded the first Black-owned advertising agency in South Africa, discusses how he discerned the importance of strong values in business success, and resolved to place integrity at the center of the culture of his company HerdBuoys.

Keywords: South Africa


Ethnicity and Race (1)

Peter Vundla, who co-founded the first Black-owned advertising agency HerdBuoys in South Africa in 1991, describes how hard it was for Black people to start a business in apartheid South Africa. They were forced to live in townships such as Soweto which were intended as labor camps rather than as locations for business.


Ethnicity and Race (2)

Peter Vundla, who co-founded the first Black-owned advertising agency HerdBuoys in South Africa in 1991, explains how advertising was entirely controlled by white people in apartheid South Africa, who defined how Black people were presented in the media, and how he resolved to challenge this status quo.


Ethnicity and Race (3)

Peter Vundla, who co-founded the first Black-owned advertising agency HerdBuoys in South Africa in 1991, discusses how the business started by exploiting the fact that white-owned companies had no understanding of Black consumers and their languages, and by providing a much broader worldview.


Ethnicity and Race (4)

Peter Vundla, who co-founded the first Black-owned advertising agency HerdBuoys in South Africa in 1991, was prominent in building post-apartheid South Afrca, including working on for developing the South African flag, the first democratic ballot paper, and the logo for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this video, he reflects on the work of the Commission, including enabling contrition on the part of the perpetrators of violence against Black people.


Social Impact

Peter Vundla, who co-founded the first Black-owned advertising agency in South Africa, describes how while working in advertising during the last years of the apartheid regime, he sought to educate White people about equality rather than engage in direct political activity.



Start-Up

Peter Vundla, who co-founded the first Black-owned advertising agency in South Africa in 1991, discusses how the business started by exploiting the fact that White-owned companies had no understanding of Black consumers.


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Peter Vundla, interviewed by John Macomber, Johannesburg, South Africa, February 27, 2020, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.