#AgencyFocus: Jellyfish diving deep in South Africa
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Durban may not be the first place that comes to mind when discussing digital marketing hubs in Mzansi, but Jellyfish is hoping to change that. Operating out of KwaZulu-Natal since 2005, the digital marketing agency has experienced significant growth in recent years; it has expanded to Joburg (where it snapped up ClickMaven last year) and is looking to build a presence in Cape Town, too, while increasingly targeting blue-chip brands.
Managing director Tim Lombard, who has been with the agency since 2014, says that Jellyfish’s South African arm has evolved into a full-service digital affair from its basic beginnings as a paid-media operation centre. The agency forms part of a global network of offices, with counterparts — and shared capabilities crews — in the UK and US.
“In Durban, it started off as an operation centre for Jellyfish globally,” Lombard explains. In a nutshell, he says, a paid-search employee in the UK was looking to return to South Africa, Durban specifically, and proposed that the company resource out of the country for certain operational tasks, particularly on the PPC side of things. A positive response led to locals being trained in paid media and providing support to global teams, with the exchange rate helping to make it feasible.
“It just evolved from there,” says Lombard, to become “the engine room” for Jellyfish South Africa, with the majority of the agency’s 60-odd employees calling it home base (among them newly appointed creative director, Ross Makepeace). “And now we’re starting to see blue-chip clients talking to us,” he adds.
As of June 2018, Investec has tasked the agency with handling its paid-media and analytics work, joining a client stable that includes Pietermaritzburg-based FMCG company, Willowton Group; RE/MAX; Mr Price; and, as of last month, Truworths. The services delivered to each brand vary, with the two apparel retailers being what Lombard terms “technology clients” that see Jellyfish providing the Google marketing stack and working with them to implement the solutions throughout their businesses.
The addition of these large companies over the past year has helped the agency shift gears. “Before, we were dealing with much-smaller types of clients,” says Lombard. “But we cut our teeth and got to understand the market a little better.” Some of the new business has come through pitch processes, with other parts referred by Google; Jellyfish has a close relationship with the search giant as a DoubleClick Certified Marketing Partner and Analytics 360 Suite (together now known as Google Marketing Platform) reseller. Lombard says that the partnership allows the agency to provide both technology and strategic consulting solutions, as well as training.
Despite year-on-year growth of 100% since 2014, Jellyfish still faces a few challenges — one of which is, as an independent agency in a landscape dominated by a handful of names, not always being the first to roll off the tongue when it comes to complex digital work, says Lombard. “We’ve got to work quite hard,” he says. “We’re like the dark horse in the room; the one nobody really knows about, but are intrigued about nonetheless.”
Another difficulty, Lombard says, has been bridging the gap between the kind and level of digital services required as standard in the UK and US markets and what was, until recently, expected (or not) here. “That’s been a challenge for us, because, without wanting to seem arrogant, we have provided a process of working which was, I think, more advanced than what local guys were doing,” he explains. “But some of those guys have caught up; they speak a different, evolved language which has been good to see, because [as a country] we’ve trailed behind our European and American [industry] counterparts in terms of digital expertise, both on a client and agency side. Over the last two years, I think there’s been a radical uplift in knowledge from the clients.”
With global best practice central to the agency’s work, one of its goals for the coming months is attracting more blue-chip clients and providing them with a full digital suite of services. “We’ve got the ability to create the elements for campaigns and to create the strategy, messaging and creative,” says Lombard. “We’ve got the technology backbone to be able to get insight from data points, and we’ve got the ability, based on our heritage, to make those campaigns actually perform. So, we’re looking for clients that want to work with an agency that can provide the holistic, full-digital journey solution — not just social media or just PPC.” He says that the agency will also be focusing on enhancing its technology solutions.
Another key area, based on what the agency has seen in the UK and US, may be “in-housing”, says Lombard. “I think a trend we’re going to start seeing is big companies in-housing their marketing solutions. We’ve got a consultancy division of Jellyfish that works with big brands to help them implement their own in-house marketing teams. We provide the training, the resourcing, the entire structure for them, and we plug in our own areas of expertise where necessary, slowly but surely empowering those companies to perform some of the tasks themselves. We see that as a big opportunity.”
Also on the agenda is bolstering the Joburg office, with a focus on the client-facing side of operations. At the end of the year, the Gauteng team will be moving to new premises on the top floor of the Rosebank Link building, in line with what Lombard says is a network-wide emphasis on strategic locations (Jellyfish’s London office is housed in The Shard). Lombard says that the tiny Cape Town office, which is currently staffed by just a handful of employees, will be next on the to-do list.
Awards, too, could be more of a focal point in the future, with Jellyfish named as a finalist in the Drum Awards earlier this year.
|jellyfish.net • 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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