#AgencyFocus: Big changes ahead for Clockwork Media
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) The awards list for Johannesburg-based agency, Clockwork Media, is long, and rapidly growing. The same could be said of its to-do list, with the content and communications business gearing up for some significant changes in the coming months. “The last year or two have been incredible for us and have fundamentally changed the perception of the agency within the market,” says Tom Manners, managing director.
Manners started the business with co-founder and executive director, Nic Simmonds, in 2011; it was initially a small content and social operation, with the two formally adding a PR division in 2013 and expanding from there. “We wanted to build a strong, sustainable business that focused on doing good work first, and then try to move into the awards,” he says.
The strategy seems to have paid off; Clockwork Media’s recent wins include Large Agency of the Year at the Prism Awards and Africa Consultancy of the Year at the EMEA SABRE Awards (both for two years running), as well as PR Agency of the Year at the 2017 AdFocus Awards. The agency also recently took the Scopen Agency Scope accolade of agency with the highest level of client satisfaction in South Africa, being pegged as one to watch.
While these awards reflect the PR services for which the agency has become well known, the focus of the business is broadening — all the way to a full-service offering. If he were to be asked where he sees the agency in 2021, says Manners, he’d answer that it wants to be doing work that spans the line of available channels, and that makes SA and the world sit up and take notice. As part of this, the agency launched an activations division in February 2018, and will be undergoing a comprehensive rebrand later in the year, though the date for this hasn’t been confirmed.
“One of the big things we’re trying to focus on is to not only continue doing great communications work but also to start moving towards a TLL offering,” he says. “We’ve had that opportunity with a couple of clients and we’ve seen that the model works very well.” He emphasises that the agency is not about to forget its roots, though, and will retain a robust PR and communications portfolio.
“I think agencies are starting to converge into a single space,” he says. “And I think that, in 5–10 years, agencies are going to be less specific about service offerings in terms of niche channels, and start to focus more on strategic and creative work.” It’s this approach, he explains, that’s catalysed change at Clockwork Media over the last 12 months.
Among the drivers of the evolution are fresh senior faces Lisa Cohn, strategy director, and Daniela White, senior strategist. “The two of them are racing ahead with data insights and research work that we’ve taken on,” says Manners, something that he believes has allowed the agency to increasingly speak with clients at an exco level. Creative director Lize du Plessis was also brought onboard just over a year ago to bolster the agency’s creative team, which, he says, has allowed it to start pitching more on work outside the typical PR remit, and to respond to ATL briefs.
Other key new talent includes Lynne Krawchuk, who signed up as commercial director a year ago but has since taken up the reins of digital head; office director Emilia Brooks, who’s freed up Manners and Simmonds to focus more intensively on strategy; and Ciaran Burnand, who started the agency’s interactive team when it scooped the global digital account for Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group in July last year.
The team members working on Microsoft now number 22, servicing Xbox.com, Surface.com and Windows.com in 46 markets, including the US and Britain. Manners describes the Microsoft win as a serendipitous one and a defining moment for the agency. In response to the economic destabilisation that shook SA in late 2015, Clockwork Media cast its net in the UK, sending Manners to London to drum up interest in the business. When the Microsoft account went out, Clockwork pitched alongside two global agencies — and won. Success in the agency’s initial focus on web development work, including design and UX, has secured it broader global briefs from the client since, including the launch of game Sea of Thieves earlier this year, as well as social and CRM support.
Other major clients include LG, whose digital and social work the agency has been handling for two years, and Exxaro, whose initial communications brief developed into a TTL account. “It’s not just about the big clients though; we’ve also had an opportunity to push the envelope with some of our smaller clients,” says Manners, citing the agency’s 2017 Guinness World Record effort for Dotsure, which saw a gathering of 866 dogs in bandanas, as a fun example.
There have been a couple of losses amid the gains: he explains that the agency’s four-year relationship with NBCUniversal came to an end earlier this year, and that it’s also said goodbye to Tile Africa. However, growth has been strong, and he estimates a year-on-year revenue increase of 40–50%, with a jump in headcount from 50–60 in 2017 to close to 90 now. He’s careful to clarify that there are no wild growth plans in place, though, noting that the agency is “looking to grow responsibly, with the right clients and relationships”.
|clockworkmedia.co.za • Ramify
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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