#AgencyFocus: TBWA\Hunts — “always in beta mode”
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) TBWA\Hunt Lascaris is emerging from a two-year-long reinvention process, the results of which are becoming tangible. CEO Karabo Denalane says that the ad agency has evolved into what could casually be called Hunt Lascaris 2.0.
In 2016, he and his team asked the same question that the agency founders first did when opening their doors in 1983: what do the next 20-30 years look like? The answer, he says, lay partly in merging with TBWA’s Digital Arts Network (DAN) and retail offering, The Integer Group, and partly in reworking internal structures and processes to create a new version of Hunts that is increasingly agile and rooted in disruption.
The focus on ongoing improvement is part of the culture, explains Denalane. “We have a saying that we’re always in beta, We’re always adopting an agile methodology within our team.” As part of this, a new unit, D/Live, has been set up that “scrubs the ’net for insights”, producing work based on social listening, that might be sent to clients for speedy sign-off via non-traditional channels like WhatsApp.
It has also invested heavily in data science to better inform its creativity, he says, drawing on the expertise of David Uribe, recently appointed as TBWA’s regional data director for Africa and the Middle East, for insights into data collection, use of client data and data visualisation.
Strong client base
The emphasis, in all of this, is building the agency’s capability and being a “real partner” to clients, says Denalane, of which it already has a very strong base — one that has grown over the past year. “In mid-2017, we landed the MTN South Africa account, and a couple of months later we landed Liberty,” he says. “On top of that, we’ve had some great organic growth in our existing clients, being Nissan, Datsun and Standard Bank, and we also did quite a lot of project work for new, smaller clients.”
This added up to a solid performance in 2017, something he expects will be repeated this year. He anticipates financial growth of approximately 35–40%, up from the 30% growth the agency saw from 2016 to 2017. He adds that the remaining months of 2018 could see some of the pitches in its new business pipe come to fruition, potentially boosting the figures.
Hunt Lascaris has also strengthened its brand in the past year, recently walking away with the title of South African Agency of the Year at the One Show Awards, and taking second in the individual agencies South Africa category at the Creative Circle Annual Awards. Its Breaking Ballet campaign for Joburg Ballet also garnered the agency Gold and Silver Lions at Cannes this year, as well coming joint #6 in the MarkLives #AdoftheYear2017 countdown.
If Hunt Lascaris has its way, it’ll be adding many more international awards to the trophy cabinet in the coming years. “We don’t just see ourselves as competing locally; we want to be a world-class agency coming out of Africa,” says Denalane. This, he explains, would happen through the deployment of teams into other markets to work on international assignments, partnering with other agencies in the TBWA network where possible. Participating on the international stage necessitates investment in employees in order for them to be able to operate at a global level and be truly disruptive — the agency’s modus operandi, he adds. “Our most-valuable assets walk in and out of the business every day.”
Training, internal and as part of the TBWA group, is a core part of staff development, he says, and aims to grow skills both within and outside of an employee’s area of specialisation. “Talent is one of the things we are really investing in,” he says. “We also have to ensure that our people feel fulfilled, like this is their home, this is where they can grow and be amazing individuals; it’s not my company — it’s all of our business.” Some of the initiatives include workshops, exchanges with other agencies in the TBWA group and self-training modules. There are also financial incentives for finding new business leads and talent.
Earlier this year saw former ECD Jenny Glover move to Juniper Park\TBWA in Toronto; Denalane says he’s just glad she’s “still in the family”. As the business scales up, it will be looking at adding more ECDs to the team but, for the moment, it has “great talent”, he says, mentioning creative director Nikki Garrett, as well as recent hires Spike Kunene and Carl Willoughby as ECDs, and Marc Ashwell as head of strategy, who, according to Denalane, brings key digital skills to the team.
Together, they will be working to disrupt and deliver value by “changing the game, fast-tracking the rules and challenging everything we know,” he says. “Our competition is everything in culture; people get distracted, and anything that moves people away from our brand — that’s what we are competing against.”
|tbwa.co.za • Ramify Premium Profile
Last updated at 4.46pm on 9 July 2018.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her new column “#AgencyFocus” is an ongoing weekly series updating the market on agency performance, including business performance, innovation, initiatives, the work, awards and people.
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