Connect with us


Unplugged: Rick & Sue Melvill

Creative energy meets business goals to deliver inspired communication campaigns

Juliet Pitman



Rick & Sue Melvill of Unplugged

When briefed to devise a communication campaign that would increase safety awareness and behaviour among mine workers,Rick and Sue Melvill, the creative powerhouse behind Unplugged, realised they needed a professional who could drive home the message.

So they called on the services of a snake-handler. “We put him and his snakes in a room with the mineworkers, none of whom were too keen on being there,” remembers Sue. The idea was to create an experience that the audience would not soon forget – and it worked.

“Throughout that particular campaign we had used the analogy of a snake to communicate the safety message. Exposing the audience to live snakes was the most effective way to make them remember the importance of safety even after we had left,” she explains.

This is what good industrial theatre can achieve. There’s an immediacy to it that immerses the audience in a topic,creating a memorable experience and leaving them with a lasting impression of a message. It’s unsurprising that Unplugged is renowned for doing it so well –Rick and Sue were pioneers of industrial theatre in South Africa and today they remain thought leaders in the industry, continually pushing the boundaries and breaking new creative ground.

Their impressive list of blue chip clients includes Murray & Roberts, Standard Bank, Anglo American, Cell C,Volkswagen and Nedbank, to name but a few.Long before the term ‘industrial theatre’ had even been coined, Sue, freshly back from theatre school in Paris, met Rick,whose background was in advertising. Sue recalls:

“He wanted to bring theatre into the corporate world and I was looking for a way to turn my theatre into a business.” The pair formed Blue Moon in 1991 and through their work, began convincing South African businesses of the value that industrial theatre could add as a communication tool. “We were lucky to work with some visionary people in the early days who bought into what we were doing and recognised its value,”says Sue.

She recalls a comment made by Trevor Munday, who was then with Dulux, following a project that she and Rick did: “He said it was the first time that his workers and managers had had a shared emotional experience. And that’s what good industrial theatre does – it’s a common language that appeals to everyone and changes mindsets.”

This is not to say that getting it right is always easy. And there is very little room for error, as anyone who has cringed their way through a condescending and embarrassing piece of industrial theatre will agree. In addition, and as Sue points out, industrial theatre is not about art for art’s sake.

“It’s a tool to help clients meet their goal,” she says. To meet this challenge, she and her team delve into all aspects of a client’s business, getting to grips with the culture and issues so that what they produce is relevant. “As they say,creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration – if you do the groundwork you will come up with the right idea.

Before you can branch out and be creative, you need to understand the business and get to the essence of the communication,” she says.After selling Blue Moon, the Melvills opened a retail company before eventually returning to their first love and launching Unplugged in 2000.

With the capital realised from the sale, they purchased the building which is now the home of Unplugged. “The wonderful thing about this business is that you have to come up with creative new ideas every time – you can never do the same thing twice,” says Sue, “And today, we’re not just about industrial theatre – we’re about communication as a whole and we draw on a wide range of media and communication tools.”

This philosophy of ‘newness’ permeates the culture of the company, urging it constantly into new territory. The journey there is sure to be an interesting and creatively inspired one. Take a bow.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



Prev1 of 26


“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

Prev1 of 26

Continue Reading


Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

Continue Reading

Company Posts

Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.