Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and Veli Ngubane. Picture: SUPPLIED
Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and Veli Ngubane. Picture: SUPPLIED

A new black-owned marketing and communications holding company is planning to compete with established global agency networks. M&N Brands is the latest project of Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and Veli Ngubane, the founders of advertising agency Avatar.

M&N Brands, 100%-owned by Mkhwanazi and Ngubane, has investments in Avatar 360Group, the M&C Saatchi Group and a number of independent agencies around the country.

The establishment of M&N Brands is in response to SA not having a wholly locally owned agency network. “The major part of the SA advertising and communications industry is owned by European or American groups,” says Mkhwanazi, adding that essentially SA does not own its own industry.

“We grew Avatar into the agency it is today with a challenger mentality and we plan to grow M&N Brands in the same way.”

Becoming part of this locally owned network offers agencies a number of benefits, says Mkhwanazi, including that of sharing resources. For example, agencies within the network could use an executive creative director with relevant experience and skills from a fellow network agency for certain pitches.

The big take-out:

The latest venture of Avatar’s Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and Veli Ngubane is M&N Holdings – the first SA-owned advertising holding company. Their aim is to challenge multinational holding companies.

As Mkhwanazi explains it, it’s about opening up a multitude of business opportunities enabling all agencies within the network access to a more holistic offering, so that when a client requires a function they may not offer in-house, they can turn to a partner agency instead of losing the business.

Of course, the fact that M&N Brands is entirely black owned is also advantageous, particularly with transformation being such a crucial issue on the industry’s agenda. Though some agencies have started the process of transforming, transformation is nowhere near where it should be, nor is it taking place as fast as it should be, Mkhwanazi says. He explains that transformation is good for business. Agencies that have diverse teams have the ability to speak to a broader SA market, create better ideas and resonate with a wider range of consumers.

He believes clients should be the ones driving the transformation agenda, as agencies are unlikely to do this of their own accords. Clients themselves need to see the benefits of driving transformation and take a risk on smaller, start-up businesses, putting effort into growing them.

Growth in this climate, Mkhwanazi believes, is entirely possible, despite the challenges facing the SA economy. It’s all about understanding the operating environment and adapting to it, he believes. Providing an integrated offering, for example, is a way agencies can provide clients with options aside from traditional advertising, which will prove to be more measurable and make budgets work harder.

Relevance too, is key to growth. “Gone are the days when an abundance of big billboards and TV adverts were all you needed. At some point, that all becomes noise. The new gold in the industry is the ability to understand the customer and fuse data with creativity to provide messaging that is relevant to consumers and their lives on an individual level,” Mkhwanazi says.

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