Pepe Marais. Picture: SUPPLIED
Pepe Marais. Picture: SUPPLIED

Joe Public United is one of SA’s top independent and fastest-growing advertising groups, and has been the recipient of numerous awards since 2014, including several AdFocus awards and scooping the Agency of the Year at the Loerie Awards for the first time in 2018. 

Key to the success of the agency has been the implementation of co-founder Pepe Marais’ “purpose for business” methodology, a strategy that ensures the business is has greater purpose beyond profit. Marais believes that it is only businesses that balance their obsession with the bottom line with a clearly defined greater purpose that will be sustainable in the future. It’s a methodology which is starting to attract the attention of the business community.

Marais’ career trajectory is detailed in his first book, Growing Greatness, published in 2018. Part autobiography, part business case study, the book details the development of his “purpose for business” methodology and offers key lessons in how to unlock human and business potential.  Growing Greatness has been among Exclusive Books’ top 10 business books since its release.

To say Marais has had a tumultuous career in advertising is perhaps an understatement. Marais and business partner Gareth Leck co-founded Joe Public in 1998, incorporating a takeaway advertising concept which disrupted traditional advertising agency models. So successful was the model that the agency won the FM Emerging Agency of the Year award in its first year of operation.

Success breeds success and the agency was nominated as one of the SA companies to watch in its second year. In its third year of business, Marais and Leck were persuaded to sell their fledging business to DraftFCB America, a decision they would later regret. They soon discovered that it’s one thing running your own entrepreneurial concern, and quite another to work on behalf of a multinational owner more interested in pursuing a growing bottom line.

The big take-out

“Purpose for business” is a business methodology, conceptualised by Joe Public co-founder Pepe Marais, which ensures that businesses are endowed with a greater purpose beyond profit.

From flying high the agency’s growth became lacklustre at best. The loss of its biggest account, CTM, which accounted for 60% of the business, was a significant blow. However, ultimately it allowed Marais and Leck to buy back the agency in 2009, ensuring that Joe Public was once again a 100% wholly owned locally entity.

During the course of his advertising career, Marais has been the recipient of numerous local and international industry awards. He has served on various judging panels of the Loerie Awards since 2004, judged at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity twice, judged the New York One Show Awards and has served as a member of the executive committee of the SA Creative Circle since 2007.

For three consecutive years he was voted by his peers the Most Admired Agency Creative in Johannesburg, and in 2017 he was voted the Most Admired Agency Professional by marketers in the 2017 Scopen Agency Scope report. In 2018, he was ranked by the Loerie Awards as the No 1 chief creative officer in SA, Africa and the Middle East, and was named SA’s Entrepreneur of the Year in the medium business category in the Entrepreneur of the Year competition.