David Moffatt, iXperience's Chief Marketing Officer, is a man of multitudes. Agency founder. Ex-rock star. Business investor. Surfer. Cool dad (mostly). David Moffatt, in short, does a lot of successful stuff.
Which means we sit up and listen when he's dishing out some life lessons, both personal and professional. Get out your soup bowl cos you'll want some more.
The Dirty Skirts early years: David Moffatt on guitar
I studied marketing, but despite having attended two different schools and studying for four years, no one covered digital marketing. I saw the gap and wanted to build my career around this new, uncharted landscape.
When I graduated, I looked at all of the big traditional agencies, but was approached by two entrepreneurs, and we started our first company. We operated from a flat, and I was the strategy, new business guy.
Our model was to take brand strategy into the digital space. The internet experience was created by engineers, and from a user point of view, it was quite a cold experience. Our company helped brands become active online, governed by strategy. We had a strong culture of adaptability, so we were constantly looking at new platforms and seeing how we could turn them into revenue streams.
We had a lot of fun, but it was really difficult. I remember visiting a big car manufacturer and the guy asked me why they even needed a website. Saying that, we built our business from a team of five to a team of twenty in two years.
Agency victory: Hellocomputer won over 50 Loeries in Dave's years there.
So how did you join Hellocomputer?
A few years (and a stint in events-based marketing) later, and I was ready to start my own thing. We were about to start The Dirty Skirts, and I really wanted to be in events centred around music, my passion. But Hellocomputer, another digital agency, approached me and asked me to join the team on the client sourcing side of things (I had been a client of theirs). So I developed a separate business called Helloconsulting. It worked well, and the market had evolved to understand the power of digital. Ultimately, we merged, and that’s how I became a shareholder.
And the big buy out?
We did some cool things in the digital space and were prominent on the awards circuit (Hellocomputer was the first digital agency ever awarded a Grand Prix Loerie), which generated a lot of interest from the big agencies who were trying to build their digital arms. Entering negotiations is tough. We wanted to be culturally compatible, and we’d learned to pick our partners carefully. But when were approached by FCB, it made a lot of sense, and I really liked the CEO. So we became integrated and started to pitch integrated accounts and services to clients. On that basis we won big accounts like Barclays, SA Tourism, and Coca Cola. When Hellocomputer was sold in 2012, we were 40 people, and when I left in 2017, we were over 150 people.
David playing in The Dirty Skirts
And, all the while, you were part of a rock band?
Yeah, there wasn’t a helluva lot a balance to be honest. I’d played in bands since college days, and I remained really keen to do something impactful in music, so when we moved to Cape Town, I tried again. Initially, we played with two guitars and a laptop, but when we met our bassist we became The Dirty Skirts and released our first EP. We got onto radio, got a drummer, were invited to play festivals and released two more albums. It was then that we were approached by Sony, signed with them, toured the States, the UK, the UAE. It was a fun time, opening for international acts, and playing in festivals. Our last album even won a SAMA for best alternate album.
But The Dirty Skirts was a four days a week, four hours a session commitment. I was working all day, had just had my first baby, and would finish at 6 pm, go home till 8 pm, go to the studio till 12:30 am, and often fly out the next day to Joburg for two days of pitching etc. Weekends were also dedicated to studio time, or, if we were playing shows, I’d be away for the whole weekend, so it was full on. Ultimately, I wrapped it when our second child was on the way; it was just crazy.
And you never thought of ditching the ad world and becoming a full-time artist?
To make your money from your art is rewarding, but I decided quite consciously to separate my commercial aspirations from my artistic ones. I never wanted to be dependant on my art to pay my bills or bond. I also loved Hellocomputer. As a business leader, I found it hugely rewarding to build and lead a company of young people. I also loved pitching on accounts and winning business.
How did you figure out what to focus on?
Everyone has a personal set of values and is unique. Two of my major values are wealth creation and creativity. If I’m stimulated in those two areas I feel fulfilled, but that’s unique to me. What I would say to students is know what you value, know what makes you feel fulfilled and make sure that you nourish those aspects of your own makeup because that’s how you live an inspired life. If you're not living in accordance with your purpose, you require external motivation which can never last.
How do you balance work, play, home life?
Well I’ve worked on building a personal system for managing my life. I was influenced by Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, and I’ve taken those ideas and expanded upon them. I particularly like the idea of the ‘daily victory’ – and revisiting the personal mission for my life, so that I’m living with intention. I try to meditate, exercise, and eat healthily. So it’s about knowing what I’m ultimately trying to achieve and affirming that journey, and then living in a way that supports that.
I also give a lot of thought to the specific roles I fulfil. I am a father, husband, son, and friend, employee, shareholder, investor, surfer. I have specific goals for each of those roles and try to dedicate myself time to be fully present in each one of these roles. If you don’t do that you’ll go through life feeling a little soupy and uncertain.
How do you human so well?
I plan! I look at the whole year, and break it down into blocks, with loose intentions. I look at themes in the companies I’m involved with, holidays, and time I want with my family, and then break it down on a monthly/weekly basis.
Every Monday, I set intentions for fitness, meditation, family time, and business. And then your plan gets ambushed and you rewrite and you modify it, and some things get neglected, but it's important to fight to get them back into your life, and that’s also what balance means. It’s not that it’s easy, it’s that it's something you have to fight for, because it's important for both your well being and for achieving the goals you set out for yourself.
The daily victory is about living a healthy existence, making smart choices and creating smart habits. Truth is behavior, so if you make bad decisions, you live your life in a bad way that is habit forming. So I’m trying to be the best me, and fight entropy! It takes effort to keep it together and sometimes it does fall apart, but it’s important to keep fighting. At the end of the day, no one else is going to take responsibility for you living an inspired life. No one else is going to wake up and make sure that that happens for you – that’s your job. To live a life in accordance with the things you value, to continue to be inspired and purpose-driven.
David with iXperience 2018 students
Lastly, why iXperience and not ballin' early retirement?
I love their innovation. Aaron’s also a pretty impressive guy. He takes risks, and is a visionary.
I also realize the need for continual up-skilling and education in the digital, finance, and tech space. What iXperience offers students is the opportunity to augment their studies with business acumen, which is something I had to teach myself. I would've loved to have entered the marketplace equipped with those skills already.
When I was with Hellocomputer, we had to build our own course to teach our staff everything from Google Analytics to Data Science, and even VR, as those were the skills we needed in order to remain competitive as an agency. So I could clearly see that graduates need these skills to enter the job market, and ultimately, I wanted to be a part of it, a part of the future.