From left: Shaune Jordaan, Jay Thompson, Neil Pursey, and Tasmin Kingma (front). Picture: SUPPLIED
From left: Shaune Jordaan, Jay Thompson, Neil Pursey, and Tasmin Kingma (front). Picture: SUPPLIED

SA’s digital advertising landscape is starting to fragment in much the same way that smaller agencies in the 1990s broke away from bigger and more established operations. Badge agencies such as King James has its origins in Ogilvy Cape Town and Net#work BBDO in TBWA Hunt Lascaris.

Now that pattern is repeating itself and the latest in this departure wave is a small group of "digital agency veterans" who have come together to found Hoorah, which they describe as a data-driven creative agency that aims to deliver real business value through people-based marketing.

The four founders are: CEO Shaune Jordaan, co-founder of search marketing agency Synergize, which was bought out by Publicis in 2013; Jay Thomson, co-founder of Liquorice; Tamsin Kingma, who built one of the first programmatic teams in SA; and Neil Pursey, who founded digital training academy Webgrowth. They see themselves as part of the aftermath of the recent digital agency acquisition spree in SA, in which global networks such as WPP and Publicis spent hundreds of millions of rands buying capacity and skills.

Jordaan believes things have moved on since then. "Almost everyone now has a digital presence and has the basics nailed down. What we’re looking to do is make use of a new blend of technologies to deliver data-driven marketing that produces tangible business outcomes."

But how much of this is just marketing hoopla and what makes it different?

Mining the data

Jordaan believes most digital agencies take a traditional piece of creative work, send it into the market and report results to their clients. A few tweak a campaign as data comes in.

"Our approach is different. We mine rich data our clients are sitting on and use it to generate creative work for cross-channel messaging and audience-specific campaigns that both serve their business needs and appeal to individual customers. We work with clients to close the loop between their business goals and marketing goals."

He concedes that many brands still battle to understand the influence of digital marketing. "In SA there’s still a sense that digital marketing means digitising traditional marketing practices. But in a world in which people are seeking increasingly bespoke experiences, that doesn’t make sense. Digital marketing can be precise and appeal to people’s individual and immediate needs."

And he has a strategy to bring them in from the dark side. "Once we show them what we can do with their data and how it allows them to talk to their customers and potential customers on an individual level ... they start getting excited."

Jordaan also has strong views on costing a digital campaign, where the complaint from brand managers is that there is confusion on exact deliverables and, as one puts it, "always an opaque quote".

Jordaan says more precision is needed. "Traditionally, digital marketing campaigns are costed in silos. The creative work is quoted by the hour, while media agencies take a percentage of the media buy or fixed buy prices; and data companies have their own complex fee structure. The true return of the investment is fragmented.

"We believe the best model is taking a consolidated approach and fees should be clear on what is included. Key to this is the question of whether consultancy and consistent campaign optimisation takes place, or [whether] this component [is] purely left to machines. Risk models are also very smart, as fees are determined by performance."