Resolutions from the 2024 APSA Conference
November 29, 2023
The promise of a good future as presented at the APSA Conference
December 1, 2023

George Wabweyo: The Volcanic founder erupting with creative ideas

I first met him at The New Vision. We were both hungry (young) freelance writers. I had seen his byline and read his stories in the papers while I was at Uni. He wrote beautifully. And, finally, I was putting a face to the name. He was, what? Introverted. Talented. He kept his beard thick and his skin thicker.

One day, he woke up and left Vision Group and gotten swallowed by advertising. Since then, he’s been creating. Writing strategy. Winning accounts. Making music. Stepping on toes. Cooking. And growing.  

I sat down with him. World, meet George Wabweyo.

Briefly tell us who you’re and what you do.

I’m George Wabweyo, an advertising professional in Uganda. My areas of focus are copywriting, creative strategy, art direction and multi-media production.

The writing, how did it all begin?

I started writing at a young age. It’s the books I read growing up that inspired me to write. I also fell in love with satire because of what I read from Mark Twain and Wahome Mutahi. I always was among the best in English and Swahili compositions while in school. I live for a good story told.

How you first realized you’re creative.

It started with me finding myself in situations where I was doing or saying things in a different way from those around me. But I was also naturally drawn to appreciating literature, visual art, film and music at home because they were very much part of my parents’ lifestyle and hobbies.  

You come from a family of writers; did it have an impact on you?

Yes, it did. The bar was set too high for me by my siblings. I developed my own style of writing so I could express myself without being under the shadow of my siblings. That said, while I have taken my path, my siblings have opened some doors for me.

Tell us about your transition from a journalist to an ad man.

It was a timely move around 2013. I loved writing but being a journalist was draining; too much work for little pay. So when I got a call from an agency to sit for an interview, I jumped on it immediately. I still wrote for some time while adjusting to the advertising world but as time went on, I eased out of journalism. I know only write when I feel genuinely inspired to do so.

And then about your advertising journey.

I started off as a copywriter in Fireworks advertising where I worked on brands like Mountain Dew, Mirinda, Pepsi, Centenary Bank and NSSF before I moved to Ogilvy Moringa (now TBWA). In Moringa I worked on brands like Club Pilsener, Nile Special, Umeme, Bank of Africa, and DStv among others. I did two years of service at each of the agencies before I went into consultancy and then finally founded my own agency.

Volcanic, how did it all erupt?

It has been a slowth (slow growth) journey over the last five years. I can say it hasn’t yet fully erupted but the lava is bubbling under. I’m here for the journey, not the destination.

Advertising is a jungle. How do you stay afloat?

It’s easy to navigate the jungle when you stay rooted to your values and principles. What makes advertising a jungle is greed for money, power, control and validation. I’m motivated by the prospects of getting better and better at the work I do. I also have a good support system of quality people I can lean on. Lastly, I stay afloat because I’m able to make those hard decisions on what’s for me and what’s not for me.

Over the years, what’s that campaign you’re proud of (your best campaign).

I have a great appreciation for the work I contributed to the switch from Sadolin to Plascon campaign. I think it was effective.

A recent project you’re proud of.

The Get Empowered Campaign by PostBank is one of those projects I feel I put my heart and soul in.

Someone else’s work that’s inspired you.

When it comes to copywriting and Creative Direction, Eric Mununuzi’s work stand’s out for me. When it comes to graphic design, I adore Derrick Egesa’s work; I often say that he is the greatest Art Director of all time in Uganda. Globally, the work from Dentsu and Droga5 agencies impress me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in advertising?

Running a start up in the food or fintech industries and with my days in advertising numbered, I’ll be looking at those two directions in life.

Assess Uganda’s advertising currently.

It has come a long way. I celebrate all the wins creatives, agencies, marketers and clients have had in the recent years. I’m also thrilled to take on the challenge of being in the industry in a time when tech and AI are taking over.

Any advice to someone trying to find their footing in advertising.

Just get started. You don’t need an agency, a client or a brief to start on ad work. People work in advertising because they are creative and capable, they are not creative and capable because they work in advertising. Also, identify mentors, stay the cause, put discipline at the heart of what you do.

What’s Volcanic’s future? Volcanic Kenya, perhaps? Rwanda?

I’m not into predicting futures. I’m just happy to be in this journey. The thing about a journey is that every view or stop is a destination that only opens up the world to more paths and directions. I’ll see you when we get there.

About your music, do you still hit the studio?

Yes, I do, but mostly to release stress; music has great healing power. I have a home studio and every weekend I do a thing or two.

Besides advertising, what occupies your free time?

Food, music, films…a pretty, intelligent, kind, and thoughtful woman. *Wink.*

You have a penchant for food. What’s cooking?

It’s been a thing ever since I was young. I’ve always wanted to have my own food business…and I have done quick in-and-out investments in the food business before. However, I really want to get my footing right when I do fully invest myself in the food business. For now, I regard food as medicine, healing and creative work.

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