2018 Financial Mail AdFocus profile

In line with its specialisation strategy, Group Africa Marketing has morphed from one agency into five; each offering a specific specialisation – boutique agencies within an agency, if you will.

Under the Group Africa Marketing umbrella, EXP is a sponsorship agency, The Grind PR provides PR and marketing services, Live+ is an activations specialist, while Turnkey provides branding, procurement, logistics and warehousing solutions.  

 

Group CEO Sandile Ndzekeli says that the past 24 to 36 months have been rewarding for the group and the past year has seen growth from 2017, as the specialisation strategy has started to come to fruition.

“The strategy was designed and implemented three years ago and admittedly, it took some time to get going, but this year we are seeing the results and we can now offer our clients a full BTL service including activations, digital, PR, logistics, procurement, branding and design,” he reveals, adding that feedback from clients has been hugely positive and the agency is seen as a one stop shop providing specialist skills.

Indeed, Group Africa Marketing has moved from its niche as a sponsorship agency to a full service provider and in the process won new clients the likes of Standard Bank, Coca Cola South Africa (the group has been working on the account on the continent for some time), Outsurance and the MTN Springbok sponsorship as well as Yekani Technology.

Ndzekeli admits that for some time the operating climate has been one where clients want more work for less money, in half the time, not to mention better results for less investment. However, he says that instead of lamenting this state of affairs, the group has embraced them. “This is a climate where one is forced to push harder, be more innovative and creative and ultimately, always deliver the best work,” he maintains.

The pressure to deliver more for less is a global reality that’s here to stay and Ndzekeli says that if agencies do not adapt to this new normal, they simply won’t survive. Group Africa Marketing has embraced the current paradigm, offering what he terms ‘Rolls Royce’ service at a lower cost. Indeed, in his eyes, the biggest and best ideas can come from the smallest budgets.

Indeed, he believes that when agencies consistently deliver an outstanding calibre of work, clients will inevitably give them more budget, providing you’re delivering results.

This year, Ndzekeli says the group will be refocusing on content. While the idea that content is king is not new, there is a greater emphasis on great content than ever before. To this end, he reveals that the group will be acquiring the majority stake in a specialist content production company in the near future, enabling clients and brands in SA and on the continent access to top quality branded content. This will include the group’s own properties, as well as social media channels, reality programmes, game shows and the like.

Crucial in the content space is the generation of authentic and human content, Ndzekeli believes. The telling of human stories has always been an important focus for us, he says, yet we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what we want to offer.

“All brands should be associated with authentic content that tells a human story – indeed, it is what draws consumers to brands. Consumers care about brands that resonate with them on an emotional level, that in some way reflect their own lives and experiences,” he maintains.

Moreover, Ndzekeli believes that brands have fallen into a common trap of telling a brand or product story as opposed to a human one. “Humanity comes first, and then the content can be associated with a brand,” he insists.

This idea is linked to a current industry trend where brands have shifted their focus from product back to the brand and what it stands for, which aligns with the need for authenticity. “At one point, price and product were taking centre stage, but the reality is consumers fall for brands and not products. Look at Nike, for example. Nike doesn’t sell shoes – Nike sells the stories of athletes who have inspired the world, it sells a lifestyle that consumers buy into,” says Ndzekeli. Ultimately, we’re living in a time where advertising is emotive – it’s about telling stories that consumers can relate to and communicating with them in relevant ways,” he comments.

The group’s philosophy of ‘candoism’ has enabled it to weather some intense pressure over the past year, when some innovative bodies of work have been delivered despite back to back deadlines. “Candoism’ is more than a positive attitude, says Ndzekeli. It’s the philosophy that drives the business and its about getting things done through great planning, creative strategy and implementation.   

The group’s other mantra ‘we don’t sell crap’ is driven across the entire group and all employees from the most junior to the most senior know to do everything to the very best of their ability. “If you’re not proud of the work, you cannot present it. It’s about doing better than your best; making the perfect effort,” Ndzekeli explains.

2018 has been a year of cementing the agency’s specialist offering and finding the right people to lead the teams going forward. Ndzekeli reports that the group has finally found a creative and strategic director to replace Michael Masson, who previously relocated to Finland. “Allan Marks brings energy and experience to the role and has already started making magic.”

Brand activation agency Live+ welcomes Amanda Slabber back to the fold. “Amanda is no stranger to the business; she worked with us previously and we are delighted to have her return,” says Ndzekeli. He adds that within the brand activation space there will be refocus on classical experiential branding, whereas in previous years there has been a greater focus on digital.

Additional news is the imminent opening of Group Africa Marketing’s business staffing solution, following its foray into the business staffing space two years ago.

The next 12 months will see a continued focus on content and classical experiential marketing, as well as the launch of the staffing business. Ndkezeli adds that Turnkey, which is the groups branding, logistics, procurement and warehousing division has also become a massive focus, after showing significant growth in the past year.