Once upon a time, advertising agencies swore by organic growth. It was also the time when TBWA\ decided to junk the model and went passionately after its belief. At that time, it was a radical move, to hold close the idea of building a collective greater than sum of its parts. And it did with such flair, surviving the tumultuous times in advertising, birthing new canvasses for creativity and forging an agency collective for an era where the “narrative pace is set by culture”.   

While the word “disruption” only entered business lexicon in the mid-90s (2020 seeing its full impact in more ways than one) , TBWA’s founding ethos (even in the 70s!) centred on identifying probabilities and impact on the future of its business – the very tenet of disruptive innovation.

our culture is data
Luca Gallarelli, Group CEO, TBWA\

As Luca Gallarelli, Group CEO, TBWA\ puts it, “We have been a radically open creative collective. Buzzwords adopted today have been framed through the work we have been doing over the decades and that’s our ultimate differentiator. We are agile and move with the speed of culture in the context of the conversation and not in isolation. This is what propels us forward, prepared for and confident in the future Our awards and business wins are a testament to the claim.”

One of the collective’s many talents has been its ability to capture the zeitgeist before it’s upon us.

“Data is not the new oil; it is the oxygen for the digital economy. It’s the new fuel, informing all that we do. Through disciplines and proprietary technology like 65DB, Backslash and Omni as well as the number of marquee agency brands that make the collective, we own social, digital, demographic, research and reputation with a healthy appetite for tradition,” adds Gallarelli.

TBWA\The Disruption Company executives
TBWA\The Disruption Company executives


It’s an action difficult to ignore for its people. TBWA\ prides itself for its ability to go beyond compliance, an attribute that has stood the collective in good stead, bringing it to this point and ready for the future. As a business, the collective recently concluded a transaction that will see the Group in SA, transition to 51% black ownership with 30% black female ownership.


Captive audience is now an endangered concept in advertising. With the shift in power of media to people with little or no patience and tolerance, audiences need more than jingles, they need a brand experience that speaks to their wants, needs and values.

“It is precisely for this reason we continue to bring together the best specialists in our industry under one roof - organised by discipline but deployed for solutioning. This way the collective retains its sharpness in specialist areas and maintains the best talent in the industry. Look at it as an open source environment that flexes and evolves based on client need serviced by best-of- breed talent and not managers. We call this an intelligent agency model,” says Gallarelli matter-of-factly.

“Our mindset is to never do the easy thing. It’s a value that sits at the very core of who we are as a collective.”


Another disruptive brand offering from TBWA\ is the Omnicom Precision Marketing Group (OPMG) in partnership with PHD, SA’s most forward thinking and dynamic media agency. OPMG is the coming together of data, media, creativity and dynamic creative optimisation. This is the future of communication and it brings the component parts of the collective together in a way that delivers an alchemy for our clients.

Earlier this year, TBWA\ also launched Sting, a content production company to catalyse and capitalise on a significant change in the industry where the line between concept and execution, thinkers and makers has never been so blurred. Sting found significant success with existing clients as well as those in the collective.

Our future rests on our ability to create platforms that help brands live their purpose and make life easier for customers. This was a probability we knew and hence in the ensuing years brought business, brand, design, operation and technology together. We have been doing this since inception not for disruption’s sake, it’s in our culture,” says Gallarelli in conclusion.