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2021 Financial Mail AdFocus profile

Like most agencies, the past 12 months have been the most challenging the industry has ever seen. The pandemic forced many clients of black-owned independent agency Brave Group to reduce budgets which, in turn, had an adverse effect on the business’s bottom line. The agency offset these financial losses by securing new business opportunities and restructuring existing client contracts. The group recognises that the operating climate calls for a new wave of creative leadership for unique and bold ideas.

As client budgets shrink, the onus is on agencies to demonstrate flexibility and an affinity for new methods that bring about the same, if not more, value to clients. It’s equally important to ensure this is done in a commercially sustainable manner.

Brave Group has made a number of operational adjustments over the past 18 months to ensure its model offers simple-to-understand value drivers for clients; is individualised to each client’s scope of work; and is transparent with data-driven reporting. It pooled resources and partners, using best-in-class specialist teams across all its divisions to ensure first-time-right outputs for existing and new clients. “The shift was tough, but necessary,” says group CEO Karabo Songo.

The consumer has irrevocably changed. He says: “Consumers have become accustomed to digital platforms in an unprecedented manner. So, what would normally be a sizeable budget for an outdoor execution, now becomes a digital-first priority. This has a significant impact on agencies – particularly those less integrated than we are, as they will be forced to overhaul their operating strategy and value proposition.”

In this instance, there is one ultimate truth: those who fail to adapt will die. This new landscape requires brave leadership, with leaders prepared to inspire their organisations to create work that truly engages, inspires and is well crafted. “A shift in thinking must be applied throughout the creative process to deliver truly effective work, thus delivering on clients’ business objectives,” he says.

Agencies need to be learning organisations because the only way to survive in uncertain times is through constant education, adopting new skills, and doing away with what no longer serves the cause. “Get it right and these behaviours will allow agencies to do good business in this market,” says Songo.

He believes Brave Group’s full-service integrated agency will serve it well. “Clients no longer have the time or the budget to use several agencies to perform different functions. An agency now has to be a one-stop shop where all of clients’ marketing and advertising needs can be executed.”

To ensure its future sustainability, the group is growing its specialist divisions and has started to adopt new ways of working with millennials. The shifts the agency has made in the past year have paid off. It produced and launched one of its biggest campaigns ever in the middle of a global pandemic. The Forces of Momentum campaign has gone on to win Craft Certificates at this year’s Loeries Awards in the Cinematography and Production Design categories. The agency also secured two finalists at the 2021 NewYorkFestivals Awards for its Sowetan #KnowYourPlace campaign and three finalists across two categories at the 2021 Assegai Awards for its Glenfiddich, Sowetan and Jungleclients.

Describing Brave Group’s underlying philosophy. Songo says: “Being Brave isn’t just about bold action, it’s about making a considered first step. Whether it’s to launch a brand narrative or amplify a retail message, the ®Brave mindset is to always look out for ‘the next brave action’.”