Mike and Murray take the ‘Suits and Slops’ Approach to Marketing with Retroviral
Life-long friends, ‘flip-flop wearing’ Mike Sharman and ‘bespoke suit wearing’ Murray Legg formed specialised online marketing agency, Retroviral in 2010 and we caught up with the two in this month’s ‘Who’s The Boss?’ feature:
Name? Age? Place of birth?
Mike Sharman (MS): Mike Sharman, 30, Johannesburg, South Africa
Murray Legg (ML): Murray Legg, 30, Klerksdorp, South Africa
Where were you educated?
ML: Murray and I both went to King Edward VII School. I then went to Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), now known as the University of Johannesburg, and Murray studied at the Pretoria University (undergraduate) and North West University (postgraduate).
Tell us about your career background and how you got to your current position?
MS: I really wanted to be an actor but my old man advised that I may not ever be able to secure a bond, or have medical aid, so I pursued my second passion – marketing.
After completing my degree I paid for myself to go to acting school in Hollywood where I lived for six months, learnt how to write material for standup comedy, wrote a one man show, returned to SA and performed the play at the Grahamstown Fringe Festival. I eventually landed a job in PR, won a fancy dress competition to go to London where I ended up working in PR / social media for two years. I then returned to SA to team up with Murray, my lifelong friend, to start Retroviral.
ML: I like to know how things work. I studied mechanical engineering before following a career in biomedical engineering. My passion for digital led me to backing my partner Mike in the early days of Retroviral, where I’ve since played a more strategic role. However, my heart is in, well, hearts. I'm currently commercialising a heart valve replacement for emerging markets.
Who were your main influences during your early career in getting to where you are today?
MS: My first bosses – Nicky James and Cian Mac Eochaidh, who are friends and entrepreneurial confidantes. They bootstrapped their own agency and showed me a more strategic approach to communications than I had been privy to previously. I’ve also enjoyed watching the rise of social media stars such as Zuckerberg and the Twitter team.
ML: My Dad has always been a guiding light, his mantras - "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it", "Women first" and "Do what's best for you and what's best for the group" are fantastic principles.
What does success mean to you?
MS: Success is a pretty intangible concept. I don’t have a desire to own a sports car or star in my own rap video, I see success as producing remarkable industry-shaping work that has a positive effect on my clients’ bottom line and excites consumers.
ML: Getting to a place in life where it's not just about you and your immediate family, rather living a life that inspires change in the world for the better.
What motivates you?
MS: Running Twitter searches of the live campaigns we have and seeing the responses from people you don’t even know. That is my digital drug.
ML: Muhammad Ali said "The fight is won or lost away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before the dance under the lights." Hard work and a feeling of pride in my work motivates me and leads to success.
If you were recommending Retroviral to someone who has never heard of the company before, how would you describe it, and what do you think sets it apart from similar businesses?
MS: We create branded content in an effort to make our clients’ brands the most important thing in consumers’ minds. We are obsessed with the internet and are at the coal face in terms of trends and what works and doesn’t, online. Our passion and love for what we do is a differentiator.
ML: Retroviral will bring an energy and enthusiasm to your message being sent out to a digital audience. Belief in a great story and its content will work time after time. If you are an A team brand, you need an A team agency. Retroviral is that team.
Working in such close partnership is perhaps not a situation that would work for every company, so could you talk us through the key elements that make your particular partnership work?
MS: Partnerships are never easy. Fortunately my partner is my best friend and we know what we’re good at, and we’re not arrogant enough to fight for something we don’t believe in.
ML: The best partnerships happen when opposites collide. Mike and I don't compete with each other, but fill each other's blind spots to make a great team.
What was the best piece of business advice you have ever received?
MS: Don’t let financial fears cripple you!
ML: Everyone has a great idea but it’s up to you to make it a game-changer.
What was the worst business advice you ever received?
MS: “Study accounting. You can do everything with an accounting base.”
ML: I think I argued them into sanity, so I can't remember.
What was the biggest mistake you ever made?
MS: A mistake actually aided one of our early campaigns and inadvertently led to great success for us. One of our first Nando’s campaigns in 2010 was a YouTube based piece of content that had been created by Black River FC. We published the video as unlisted as we were compiling some link tests. A journalist tweeted about the link shortly thereafter, and it had a cult-like status associated with it because it wasn’t publicly visible on the brand’s YouTube page. It started an online fire that was supported with our blogger seeding tactics. It was the first video that we saw in SA receive 100,000 organic views in less than a week. It was also picked up by expats in countries such as the UK and Australia. This resulted in our first award winning campaign.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of Retroviral?
MS: I’m excited about the way Retroviral manifests itself as it grows. We never want to be the biggest, but we always want to be the best.
ML: To keep delivering great content for brands, not just in SA but sub-Saharan Africa too.
G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration.
Who are the G7?
The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like.
The merry band comprises:
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.
Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda.
When was the ‘G’ formed?
Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s.
Why does the G7 exist?
At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted.
The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability.
It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations.
Where is the 2021 G7 summit?
This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall.
What will be discussed this year?
After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”
The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values.
According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.”