Picture: 123RF/alphaspirit
Picture: 123RF/alphaspirit

Given continued uncertainty in the ad industry, you would think international expansion would be the last thing any local agency would be contemplating.

Not in the case of RAPT Creative. On the back of new business won in Europe at the end of 2020, the local agency has just opened satellite offices in the UK and Ukraine.

The company describes itself in part as a strategic, innovative and executional through-the-line agency specialising in concept development, digital, point-of-sale, PR, live event production and activation.

Most recently RAPT was appointed by the export and licence division of Molson Coors for Miller Genuine Draft, Coors lager and Staropramen in Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. The agency’s current client base is rooted in alcoholic and nonalcoholic brands, among them Heineken, Strongbow, Sol, Fox cider, Coca-Cola, Jameson, Ballantine’s and Windhoek.

RAPT MD Garreth van Vuuren tells the FM that he understands the risk argument, but adds: "To quote the Game of Thrones television series, chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder. There are many who have been sitting around and waiting for the world to get back to normal. But their hesitation just makes it easier for those of us bold enough to adapt and build for the new world we are living in."

Garreth van Vuuren
Garreth van Vuuren

For some time his agency has been expanding its client base beyond SA. The presence in two markets is simply solidifying what has already been started, he says. "When the world eventually opens up, we’ll have people on the ground ready to maintain those relationships in person. The real risk would be not establishing this presence now."

Risk aside, what does the expansion say about local brand-building skills and their exportable potential? Van Vuuren says: "South Africans are born with an in-built challenger mindset. We must fight for everything we want. We must take risks, push boundaries, question." And this attitude manifests in exceptional strategic and creative thinking.

"There is an appetite from global clients for fresh ideas and new perspectives. And we as South Africans deliver those in spades."

Van Vuuren believes RAPT’s advantage is its size. "We are a small business that doesn’t suffer from the giant structures, processes and formulas of a traditional agency. Our model is all about harnessing adaptability and flexibility to suit each client’s unique brief. We do not have the space for endless loops of reverts. And so, our focus is on bringing together high-quality, world-class, seasoned talent across key fields, constantly maintaining a tight feedback loop with clients."

Van Vuuren has strong views about the global marketing and advertising landscape and how things are likely to change.

"There are two key changes from an agency perspective," he says. "The first is the death of the traditional agency model. It has been on its way out for a while and the pandemic is sealing the deal. Our agency was eight months old when Covid really hit the country. For us, the pandemic was an accelerator. The plans we had for the future had to fast become our immediate plans. And having an agency structure that did not weigh us down … helped us achieve exponential growth.

"The second big change is a rapid rise in work quality. Competition is rife, as clients are nervous about budget allocations and commitments. Average work is no longer going to cut it. Clients are going to need us to deliver real bang for their buck.

"I foresee the emergence of an elevated level of smart, innovative, creative ideas."

Van Vuuren talks a positive game, but many local agencies have gone the international route before, and failed. What makes him think he can succeed?

"We’re living in a different world now: decentralised, boundary-less and boundless. We have changed. Clients have changed. Our consumers have changed. Imagine the innovation that will be born of creatives with different backgrounds and perspectives being all over the globe. That is a recipe for breakthrough ideas if ever there was one."

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