by Herman Manson (@marklives) OFyt and Bletchley Park, two agencies of roughly equal size, have merged in a bid to catapult the combined business into a more substantial agency play.
- Two agencies merge; will trade under OFyt name
- New Johannesburg MD appointment to be announced shortly
- Combined agency employs 70, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg
The combined agency will trade under the OFyt name and employ 70 people in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Clients include Kia Motors, adidas Originals, ADT, Pam Golding Properties, RGBC (Jack Daniel’s, Hennessy, Moët & Chandon, etc), and Rhodes Food Group (Bull Brand, etc), among others.
Ofyt (Old Friends Young Talent) was launched in 2012 by Jono Shubitz, a former ECD of Ogilvy Cape Town and chairman of OgilvyOne and Ogilvy Interactive SA; Gary Leih, a former group MD of Ogilvy South Africa and chairman and CEO of Ogilvy Group UK; and Paul Newman, a former marketing director at Nationwide. In 2014, it won Breakthrough Agency of The Year at Tony Koenderman’s AdReview ceremony.
Bletchley Park relaunched four years ago under MD Jonty Fisher, after trading as Traffic for over a decade.
Newman is now group MD and Leih the CEO. Fisher takes on the role of group strategy Director. Greg Burke is retaining his role as ECD of the OFyt office in Johannesburg, while Kelly Putter becomes ECD of the OFyt Cape Town. Shubitz serces as chairman and Head of People Development. Four staff members have been retrenched due to duplication of roles. The Bletchley Park team has already moved into OFyt’s offices in Muizenberg, Cape Town. A new MD appointment for Johannesburg will be announced within the next two weeks.
Equity has been divided among the partners of both businesses.
According to Ficher the two agencies had experienced a similar growth trajectory recently. Both had built a decent client roster and done well in pitches but often fell to the wayside because larger clients believed they lacked scale. The new 70-person agency hopes to address this perception and win over larger clients.
For Leih and the OFyt team, the merger with Bletchley Park offers not only scale but also a succession plan, plus a much-needed middle-management layer in an agency known for its wealth of experience in senior management, combined with a youthful, intern-driven employee base.
The two agencies had also held similar views on collaborating with clients beyond communication strategy to look at broader strategic marketing solutions, says Fisher. “Beautiful Problems, Indelible Truths” — the mantra of Bletchley Park — will become embedded as the ethos of OFyt as well.
OFyt is known for its efforts in addressing the slow transformation in advertising agencies’ creative departments. Hence, 26% of the equity of OFyt is held by the OFyt Trust and proceeds from the trust are used to educate and support young, historically disadvantaged talent on an ongoing basis.
The new agency retains its level 1 BEE rating and is looking to launch* a satellite office in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, later this year. A partnership with Learn to Earn, a non-profit skills-development and job-creation organisation, is meant to further stimulate new talent growth, as well as make a difference in the community. It will focus on finding marketing solutions for local businesses.
According to Leih, the agency will remain independent — having spent years at multinationals, he has no intention of returning there. There are plans to launch a number of new divisions in joint ventures with a series of high-profile specialists; details will be revealed over the course of the next few months.
Building a 70-person agency in three years certainly speaks to both an appetite in the market for independents — even more so if they can achieve scale — and the business success of an agency emerging out of Muizenberg, and focused upon doing good and doing well.
* Updated 2015/04/15: This story originally stated that OFyt ‘will be’ launching a new agency in Khayelitsha. Learn to Earn and OFyt has since requested a factual correction to our article saying the launch of an agency in Khayelitsha was merely a point of discussion at the time of writing.
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