#AgencyFocus: Chasing big brands with big ideas & the art of narrative
by Sabrina Forbes. Apricot jam-filled sugar-coated doughnuts, a super-silent dishwasher that uses only 6.5l per cycle, the country’s most-trusted children’s school shoe, and denim inspired by a century-long story — these are just some of the products that Johannesburg-based ad agency, Decimal, gets to work with every day.
Made up of a team of 27 creative souls, and led by founder and managing director, Raffaele McCreadie, this full-service, agile agency is chasing big brands with big ideas while using the art of narrative to do so. Recent client wins such as Ster-Kinekor, Bata South Africa, and The Ellies Group show that this strategy is indeed working.
Dedication to great service
According to McCreadie, what sets the agency up to not only attain but retain clients is its unequivocal dedication to great service. For his team and him, it’s more than an obligation and part of their culture. He explains that they won the entire Bata South Africa account, not because they beat out other agencies through a big pitch process but because of the commitment to service they showed when they just had Tomy Takkies as a client. Bata HQ is in Durban and the account management team flies down every single week for a status meeting.
All Decimal clients get a well-prepared-for weekly status meeting, in person, at their offices. The agency currently has six account managers with the backing and support of the account director, whose job it is to make sure they have everything they need to give their clients the service that Decimal wants to be best known for.
All 27 team members believe that the journey from supplier to partner to friend is the holy grail for any successful agency. It’s the team’s role to get clients to the point of friends and McCreadie’s main focus to ensure they stay there.
Anyone who’s started their own agency soon learns that business won’t simply land up on your doorstep; you have to go out and grab it for yourself before anyone else does. This is especially true when you’re smaller and less immediately recognised than the competition. Decimal won the Ster-Kinekor social media content creation and management account in September 2018; remaining hungry and continuously spotting opportunities is a powerful way to get noticed. When McCreadie cold-called the Ster-Kinekor marketing team to discuss a potential cross-brand campaign with Toughees, he never expected to be the wild card in a three-way agency pitch between Net#work BBDO and Ogilvy.
The agency is dead set against recreating presentations and passing them off as original work, and takes this mindset into all work it does.
“Make sure you have a good job and a good mattress, because you spend most of your life in them,” says McCreadie.
He believes that keeping staff happy is going to have knock-on effects, eg with their ever-important job of keeping clients happy. Everyone in this industry has been in a team or job that has slowly eaten away at their happiness and it’s because of this that he’s created an agency culture focused on mind, body, and soul. Apart from a pool table, bar and shower facilities in the offices, the agency offers yoga and guitar to those interested in the mind-and-soul part. Those who prefer to work on their bodies can leave at 4pm on a Monday if they’re going to exercise. But “Decimal is not a passenger machine; you cannot hide here,” he says. Good work is appreciated and noticed, and bad work the opposite — almost immediately.
Getting hired at Decimal is done through a three-step process that ensures all staff members are involved, the third interview being ‘the boiler room’ where everyone tries to ‘out-question’ their colleagues. You get through this and you’re in. This avoids a bad-egg hire from being blamed on McCreadie and his managerial staff, and seems to work.
Decimal is the second agency McCreadie has started. His first, Straight Twisted, he opened almost 11 years ago but dissolved his shares to launch Decimal. Back then, it was pitching mobisites and now Decimal is creating IGTV reels for its clients. As tech continues to progress, he urges everyone to ask if their job is going to be relevant in 10/20 years’ time. Innovation snowballs and, while less than two decades ago, he remembers getting annoyed when someone didn’t rewind the VHS before returning it to the DVD store, he now has the world at his fingertips with his smart-TV. Today, you can learn anything you want with just a click and, according to him, ‘we’re certainly more weaponised with technology today’.
With an HQ in Johannesburg, a virtual office in Australia armed to expand its opportunity reach while still doing the work here in South Africa, and opportunities coming in from London and Dubai, McCreadie is incredibly proud of his team. His ultimate goal is to evolve Decimal into a global ad agency.
Sabrina Forbes (IG) is an experienced and published writer covering the food, health, lifestyle, beverage, marketing and media industries. She runs her own full-stack web/app development and digital-first content creation company. For more, go to moonwrench.com. She is a contributing writer to MarkLives.com.
“#AgencyFocus” is an ongoing weekly series updating the market on ad agency performance, including business performance, innovation, initiatives, the work, awards and people.
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