Tumi Rabanye, AdFocus jury chair, Tshegofatso Mnguni from Triple Eight, Jeremy Maggs, Adfocus editor. Picture: Paul Elliot
Tumi Rabanye, AdFocus jury chair, Tshegofatso Mnguni from Triple Eight, Jeremy Maggs, Adfocus editor. Picture: Paul Elliot

If you thought Triple Eight, the 2019 AdFocus Agency of the Year, cleaned up last year by winning a remarkable four awards, there is a surprise in store for you. The agency has surpassed that achievement by winning an astonishing five awards at the 2020 AdFocus Awards.

This year it won in the Specialist, Transformation, African Impact and Adaptability categories, as well as being the Overall Agency of the Year.

Triple Eight is a women-led and -empowered, socially conscious marketing impact agency with over 70 women in SA and the region working for over 50 leading global brands. It describes itself as a purpose-driven marketing impact agency that helps brands to create shared value, develop high-impact projects and drive brands with purpose. Its big differentiator is that its campaigns are measured by both their social and their business impact.

The agency is defined by its mission to craft campaigns that inspire everyday people to use their spending power to make a positive difference in the world through the brands they choose. In Asian philosophy 888 represents good fortune; combined, MD Sarika Modi says, Triple Eight  is about good fortune for people, planet and profit.

In a typical year more than 70% of the agency’s work is purpose driven. However, in 2020, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, 100% of its work has been that.

What Triple Eight is particularly good at is strategising campaigns differently and effectively to ensure they achieve business and social results. “This is our trademark, and clients have invested with us in these campaigns over many years because of the results,” says Modi. “For purpose to be sustainable, it needs to contribute to return on investment, or it will become redundant. We measure, monitor and evaluate the success of each campaign based on the triple bottom line.” 

While purpose has become a global trend for many brands and advertising agencies, for Triple Eight it’s the very core, rather than a trend or fad. While the agency works in purpose, it has a strong purpose itself, which is the empowerment of women and communities.

“Being a young, women-led agency positions us as progressive and more representative of the consumers who make the purchase decisions in the brands we work with,” explains Modi. “We consider ourselves SA’s most inclusive agency, embracing both diversity and inclusion and fast-tracking the gender equality agenda.”

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency’s activations business was closed. The team was therefore diverted to focus on innovation and impact instead, a strategy which resulted in arguably the agency’s most impactful work to date and a substantial increase in revenue, says Modi. It developed the Wash-n-Well handwashing stations and Sani-Alert stations. “We’ve sold thousands of these stations across eight countries in Africa, empowering millions of people in the fight against Covid-19, while at the same benefiting brands through advertising and education,” she says.

The big take-out:

The big take-out: What Triple Eight is particularly good at is strategising campaigns differently and effectively to ensure they achieve both business and social results.

The agency’s innovative Nestlé Nespray WhatsApp Mathbot, meanwhile, helped lower-income families with maths education during the lockdown and school closures, while at the same time driving sales.

The agency is becoming increasingly influential: it has long-running partnerships with governments in Africa and direct lines of communication to director-generals in ministries of health and education.   This year it was endorsed by the African Union’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the UN Development Programme for its Covid-19 work. It was a key contributor to Covid-19 communications and education for the official SA Covid-19 response task team. The agency was also responsible for launching the largest handwashing campaign in SA via the Dettol Protects the Frontline initiative, which received global funding in a partnership with the national department of health.

Gaining the trust of huge global multinational brands is a significant achievement for an entrepreneurial agency so it’s not surprising that Modi is particularly proud of Triple Eight’s exceptional client retention. The agency’s first programme started in 2012 – and it is still running. Clients include Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Shoprite, Clicks, Samsung, Nestlé, Kellogg’s, Danone, Standard Bank, and Johnson & Johnson. The agency acquired 12 new clients during the pandemic.

Despite a significantly uncertain business environment and the temporary closure of its activations business, the agency grew its client base by more than 30% and recorded a 23% increase in revenue in the period under review.

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