Pete Case – finding heart in digital


Pete Case needs little introduction to the larger creative or digital community. His name is intricately linked to that of the multi-award winning digital agency Gloo, AdReview’s Digital Design Agency of the Year for the past four years running, where he serves as founding partner and Executive Creative Director.

Case acknowledges that his agency catches a lot of flak for winning creative awards (and lots of them), but he says, he has never believed that it would benefit the digital industry to be perceived as dry and mechanical, obsessively focussed on measurability, when in fact it has a lot of heart and potential in telling brand stories.

“We actually believe that relevant great ideas, strategy and creativity in turn create higher engagement,” says Case. “This has been proven when over the past 2 years our work has topped not only Loeries but also the Assegai awards (with its focus on measurement).

Case believes the digital industry will be better served by achieving a balance between creativity and measurability – creating ’emotional work’ and linking it to great technology. Failure to do so might result in digital teams getting side-lined as well as the industry not attracting the right mix of new talent.

If students perceive digital as all techie, companies like Gloo would miss out on a lot of creative talent, says Case, who highlights the failure of students from creative colleges to enter the industry as a challenge that needs to be addressed. To this end he regularly speaks at colleges to convince students that digital is much more than coding websites.

Case sees the key challenge for brands as translating the work they do on digital networks into “real life social networks.” The messages created online is spread by people networks, in offices, at parties and between friends, as the hugely successful Lonely Finger campaign for 5FM proved a couple of years ago. The online/offline discussion is not one the industry has sufficiently engaged with, says Case. Marketers (and their digital agencies) need to look into worlds that already exist if they want to find value to their messages.

It’s focus on balancing creative storytelling with technology has seen 2.4 million unique users engage with SA Tourism, prior to and during the World Cup, while Fifa attracted over 145,000 unique visitors in the first 2 months of a viral campaign created by Gloo.

Cases’ award tally includes founding partner and 2 Cannes awards, South Africa’s first gold at Echo, 2 Emmy’s, 44 Loeries, including 2 grand prix and recognition at D&AD, Promax, CLIOs, The New York Advertising Festival, The Design Indaba Awards, Assegai, Caples and The Bookmarks. He is also on the committee of The Loerie Awards, The DMMA and The Creative Circle.

Originally from London, where he completed a Graphic design honours degree and launched his first agency, Hard Drive in 1990, Case landed in South Africa by following his heart. The South African girl that convinced him to move to Cape Town is today his wife.

Case initially teamed up with Marc Caplan to start a digital agency called bandwidth. The partnership worked with various international clients until Caplan’s sudden death in a car crash five years later. Bandwidth would then merge with 33 degrees, Network#BBDO’s small digital arm in Cape Town, to give birth to Gloo Digital Design.

The new stand-alone worked across the industry and with various agencies, prompting the decision to exchange partners with someone more independent than BBDO. Case picked empowerment firm Kagiso Media in 2009, though Gloo (Digital Design was dropped after Case decided SA’s online audience had reached a level where the agency could show its “strength in integrated ideas as a strategic and ideas based agency”) is still based on the BBDO premises at 30 Chiappini Street in Cape Town.

Gloo’s drive to balance creative storytelling with technology is proving effective with clients and the agency started 2011 on a high note after winning the hotly contested Brite Blue Project account (a company and vision created by the ex-founder of 2020 bank). Other recent account wins include BMW, Mini, AVIS, SA Tourism and SES Astra.

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