Industry heavyweights Director Laurence Hamburger and Janette de Villiers team up

Director Laurence Hamburger is back on the commercials scene and has joined forces with fellow renegade filmmaker, Executive Producer of Groundglass, Janette de Villiers. After a brief hiatus from the local commercials market to pursue documentary filmmaking projects Laurence is now calling Groundglass home. With barely enough time to update their LinkedIn bios, the team have already completed a beautiful spot for MTN. We talk to the duo about their unapologetic and sometimes unconventional approach to filmmaking.

Sitting down with Janette and Laurence is like sitting down with two fireballs of energy, a bit like a Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction kind of thing (obvs sans the gratuitous violence). For any newbies to the industry that don’t know the name Laurence Hamburger, here’s a quick education. Having shot over 100 adverts in 15 countries, Laurence is probably most well known as a director who pushes the limits in filmmaking. Over the last 25 years of his directing career, he has almost always found ways to challenge himself as a director and those around him, because he knows that is the difference between being good and being iconic. But don’t get us wrong, he also loves a straightforward delicious script. Laurence has won pretty much every award out there, including a Grand Prix at the Loeries for his iconic SABC ‘Ya Mamphela’ advert, but if that doesn’t ring a bell, you’re guaranteed to remember his Sasol Rugby Ad. Okay great, now that you’re all caught up, let’s continue…

The last few years the team at Groundglass have been busy with international work but with Laurence back in the game, Janette couldn’t resist joining his side to once again take on the local market.

“Do you want something with substance? Do you want someone with experience? Are you prepared to be intelligent and do something different? And above all, do you want someone who brings storytelling with integrity? Well, that’s Laurence.”
– Executive Producer, Janette de Villiers

Q: Why get back into commercials now?
Laurence: I am prepared to say that previously I have been difficult in rooms and there are definitely some conversations or moments that I would like to go back and correct, but none of them ever happened because I didn’t care. I love the ad industry and I felt it was the right time to come back, especially with the skills in documentary filmmaking I have acquired. I bring a wealth of experience in different formats now, whether it’s audio-visual work in exhibitions, long form documentary, short form and content, the traditional big TV commercial, or the traditional smaller budget TV ad. What Janette and I really are, are single project experts. Bring us your problem. We are looking for exceptional projects.

Janette: We will push you and push the script but you will always get something better because of it. We know we bring the creative and we know we can add value to any film. We don’t just tell a story, we find the best way to tell it, whether that’s in a documentary or exhibition or TVC. Laurence and I together will always make the project better and we will sure as hell give it our heart.

Q: Laurence, what is it about Janette that made you want to make it director/producer official? 
Laurence: A lot of producers say they are director-led and love creatives but it doesn’t reflect in the room, Janette loves directors. She’s also not just interested in my reel, but also in the book I made, the exhibitions I’ve been working on, and the documentaries, and that is someone I am keen to engage with. I respect Janette enormously because she respects creative and I think that saying that and doing that are completely different things.


The quintessential storyteller, Laurence’s work has substance, it’s intelligent and his performances are genuine. From those big epic commercials to comedic or whacky spots to ads dealing with radical social politics, what all his work shares is that they are an experience. Here are some of our fave spots from the Laurence reel.

MTN ‘Call Your Mother’

Laurence on MTN: It was during the beginning of lockdown when Peter Khoury, the CCO of TBWAHuntLascaris called and said they needed someone with a long-form experience and a commercial sensibility. He brought me on creatively in the early parts of the process and needed my brain more than anything. Within limitations, I could bring my creative voice and experience to the project. I had two and a half weeks before we go to air. The five years I have taken to work on documentaries gave me the knowledge of working with archive and history. I knew we needed to spend all our time and resources to source the perfect shots from the perfect photographers and my experience meant I could do it all in 2 weeks. I think this ad really hit the youth market in a genuine way.

It’s impossible to talk about Laurence and not throwback to some of our favourite spots he’s done over the last 25 years. 

Nandos ‘Boxer’

Sasol ‘Rugby’


Native Instruments (Campaign)

Q: Laurence, give us some Nostradamus insight here please, what’s the next trend in advertising that you’re excited about as a director?

Laurence: Haha, okay. I think the next revolution is the commercial in the documentary. The slickness, production value, special effects, the recreation dramas – we can already see that the doccie is so completely influenced by high-end commercials right now and brands are going to come on board for that.

You heard it here first folks! From the traditional TV commercial, doccie, to the exhibition or TV series, why not forget about making it good, and make it iconic.

Contact Groundglass

Executive Producer: Janette de Villiers

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Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio – Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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