#AgencyFocus: Red Cherry Interactive goes full service
by Sabrina Forbes. Red Cherry Interactive — which has just refreshed its brand and positioning, going full service — aims to create brand experiences that engage and entertain and has, over the past 25 years, worked with some of the biggest brands in the industry.
“All the insurers have at some point have used Red Cherry in order to better their leads, so African Bank, FNB, Nedbank, Old Mutual, Momentum, and iWyze, to name a few. Then we’ve got very strong, daily relationships with some of the big FMCG brands… Beyersdorf, which is the Nivea brand, and Tiger Brands, who obviously own a number of FMCG brands,” says Jenna Murray-Smith, Red Cherry Interactive group sales director. “Also, we’re very strong in the sweet and treats categories, having won awards for our animations. We’ve… done work with Nestle Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Coca-Cola, [too].”
As a Level 1 BBBEE agency that positions itself as being passionate about creating content that connects with consumers through storytelling, across multiple platforms, Murray-Smith explains that much of the work done is in the branded content space. For the team, it’s a way of breaking brands out of the clutter. Content has become increasingly important because organisations need to find a way for consumers to want to engage with their brands, she says: “We create something that people are interested in and what the brand wants but not [by] interrupting what the people want. Consumers worldwide are sharing close to 27m pieces of content a day.”
Past work for FMCG brand, Tru-Cape, shows the consumer the process each apple goes through from farm to table. The client’s main request was to educate consumers on the care that goes into getting their apples to stores. Murray-Smith recalls that, while the agency could have gone the usual route of creating a TVC, it decided not to. Knowing that fruit has an important youth target market, a mobile gaming application was built where users were educated on the farming process, from picking apples to washing and sorting and, finally, to refrigerated distribution. In order to move up the ranks in the app (available for both Android and Apple), you had to buy Tru-Cape apples in-store and use the tokens in the pack to advance. For Murray-Smith, this was an important campaign merging education and entertainment, something that her team constantly strive to do.
When it comes to main market messaging, especially in a country like South Africa with so many languages, she says that sticking to the normal, albeit tried and tested, route won’t always work. She details how a large insurance company approached it to generate content that would educate its target market on the importance of insurance but in ways that would resonate. The team created five-minute soapie-style dramas in different languages that flighted for six weeks on all vernacular radio stations around the country. The dramas portrayed real-life examples of how insurance can benefit your life when unexpected things happen. Murray-Smith mentions how many of the listeners of these specific radio channels have radio as their only form of entertainment and media, and were a lot more receptive to the brand message when it was in their language, as opposed to generic English scripted ads.
A third example of the type of work Red Cherry does is in the long-form, branded content space. For Murray-Smith, creating 24–48min long pieces may be more effective than generic TVCs. “Those shows are very beneficial in the way that, on TV, all consumers want to watch interesting programming. People don’t want to watch interesting ads,” she says, adding that you’ve got to create content that the consumer asks for instead of giving them content you want them to consume.
She is steadfast when it comes to working with brands that care about giving back; as a business, Red Cherry is very involved in the corporate social responsibility space. “If we can find a way to increase sales while doing good, we will do it. We follow a Robin Hood strategy: we’ll target those with money to bring a project or better improvements to impoverished communities. I don’t think there is any other production company that has focused more on corporate social responsibility than Red Cherry has,” she says.
Although many agencies talk about their family culture, it’s something that’s truly at the heart of the way the agency operates, says Murray-Smith, who has been with Red Cherry for 18 years. Every staff member is also on the same incentive structure that is actioned once they reach certain targets. For her, this is important in showing that, although you might not be a director of the business, your role is just as important as everyone else and your actions have an impact. Certain financial information, such as gross turnover minus cost of sales etc, is made available to every member.
New CEO, Pheladi Mphahlele, who joined the team a year ago, says that one of the things that interested her in becoming a shareholder was how family-oriented the culture is while still being very serious about business. When it comes to the five female shareholders (Murray-Smith, production director Robbyn Burger, media director Faye Dawood, and finance manager and majority-stakeholder Aliki Frantzeskos), Mphahlele says that having a women-strong team of leaders is actually an advantage. They understand each other’s needs as businesswomen, mothers, wives, and individuals, and when one member requires assistance, they all step in to cover for her. Mphahlele has also introduced a share trust at 4%, which was recently opened for all employees who have been there for more than a year. “For us to have dividends, we have to all do well,” she says.
With the agency turning 25 this year, the team has looked at ways to expand its offering and, as of 31 August 2019, has repositioned itself as a full-service agency — a move that, for Mphahlele, is a natural evolution. “Over the years, we have successfully offered these services to our clients but have still largely been seen as a media and production house. We are so much more than that, and want the industry to see us for what we really are and the unique skills we bring to the table…
“It was time to look for opportunities and tell people all about us. If we’re waiting for other agencies to give us little briefs, who says we can’t go out there and go the extra mile because they end up coming to us, anyway, for everything that they are looking for. So, why not us? We have been doing it, though; we’ve just been shy or too nice. In the past we didn’t really go to clients because we had agencies giving us work. What we’re doing now is going out to clients and reintroducing ourselves. We’ve noticed a lot of clients knew who we are but saw us just as a production house,” she explains, adding that, while the agency’s done full-service work for existing clients and will begin there when upselling its new service offering, it’s also on the lookout for a client with whom it can start the journey anew, from strategy to execution, in order to prove its full-service mettle.
While current staff members have been upskilled to avoid last-minute scrambling and impulsive hiring, key staff members from other agencies have been brought in to assist, including creative talent such as Dana Cullinan and Tom Cullinan [both of whom were at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Johannesburg) on the creative management side for many years — ed-at-large], as well as strategy, PR and digital/social media expertise.
“They always saw us as implementers, as opposed to the people who came up with the ideas and strategy anyway. You know us as producing and executing your agency’s ideas; now you must view us as THE agency,” says Murray-Smith.
“#Agency/BrandFocus” is an ongoing weekly series updating the market on ad agency performance, including business performance, innovation, initiatives, the work, awards and people.
Sabrina Forbes (IG) is an experienced 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.