In an era where many agencies are battling to grow, Ebony+Ivory has achieved about 16% growth for three consecutive years. The integrated agency has added additional revenue-generating streams with the establishment of a crisis reputation and reputation management division and a data analysis division, among others.

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

There’s no magic formula to the agency’s growth, says MD Paul Middleton. It’s been due to a persistent and uncompromising determination to do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.

“We have focused on getting as many services as possible under one roof to offer an authentic, 360° service to our clients, with all our capabilities underpinned by a strong data offering and rich content,” says Middleton.

“Everything we do is informed by a sound strategy and is motivated to ensure our clients derive a healthy return on their investment.”

For agencies that are plugged in, says Middleton, there are significant opportunities. “As a result of the rich data not available, it has never been easier to target advertising at the right audience. We have implemented dashboards on every campaign, which means we can track its performance on an hourly basis, adjusting where necessary.”

The agency has staffed up with specialist skills in data analytics, search engine optimisation, app and website builders, and client service and puts its integrated offering to work for its own marketing. It’s also working smarter after streamlining its production line, operating more cost-effectively, reducing meeting times where possible, and adding value-adds to clients.

Ebony+Ivory has the proud distinction of being the oldest advertising agency in SA. The agency, which started life as Paul Middleton Advertising, was established in 1969. Its name was changed to Ebony+Ivory in 1990, a year after Paul Middleton Snr had handed the management reins to his son, Paul David Middleton. The name change was one of his first moves to make a stand for inclusivity in SA. This spirit of activism has remained part of the agency’s culture with its inclusive approach carried through to a co-creation approach with clients.

In 2019, the agency partnered with the black women-owned and managed firm, Lwazi Capital, bringing its director Nombini Mehlomakulu on board.

“Far from being a silent partner, and with a passion for developing young creative and media professionals, Nombini is actively involved in the agency from a client service and operations perspective. She has added immense value at every level, from strategic client business value through to building our people in confidence and delivery,” says Middleton.

The Ebony+Ivory culture, which aims to “Impact Possibilities” also extends to a strong belief in nurturing client relationships and delivering results as it strives to exceed expectations. “We tend to retain clients because we deliver beyond the brief, ahead of time and on budget,” says Middleton. It’s a philosophy which is about investing in a relationship that cares as much about the brand as the client does, says Middleton.

“To us, it’s not only about the project at hand, but about harnessing it as a part of the entire communication mix. We recognise each rand invested is monitored by stakeholders for brand growth delivery so we emphasise investment return. Our integrated capability, combined with strong reporting, research and analytics is responsible for the achievement of business results,” he says.