by Herman Manson (@marklives) You’ve just doubled your revenue over a nine month period and grown your staff by 60%. For any ad agency managing such rapid growth is a tall order. Now you have to ensure the market doesn’t perceive you as having grown too fast, you need to convince existing clients that the attention they are receiving won’t diminish in the least and that the core of senior agency personnel won’t be over-stretched, all while joe publicplanning new business units and international expansion.

The team at Joe Public are juggling all of the above, with some success it would seem, while remaining true to their people centric growth philosophy. It’s a philosophy that have taken the business to new heights, as their growth figures show, in a tough market, and made them stand out in an industry where most of the recent buzz has centred on Cape Town agencies.

Joe Public MD Gareth Leck says it has been a break-through year for the agency after it won the Jet ATL business earlier in the year. The agency name also keeps popping up on shortlists for important pitches.

Joe Public is managing the rapid growth through owner managed subsidiaries, like its brand and design studio, Shift, launched in January. It already employs a staff of 10. The agency has a stake in the business, but the culture remains entrepreneurial, and the team manageable in size. Similarly its BTL specialist agency, Ignite (which employs 8), has signed up clients such as such as Anglo American, SAB, Colgate Palmolive, Foodcorp, Jet and Unilever.

Both Shift and Ignite sees strategy born with assistance from the main agency with work then fed through to them. Leck says the model offers clients seamless integration between the specialist division and the main agency. It also allows for personal, owner-managed relationships, and the smaller teams allows staff to function in units rather than be set adrift in a large pool of talent.

According to Leck Joe Public has a history as primarily an above-the-line agency, but for him that translates into much greater scope for growth – he believes Ignite could grow to a 100 person agency in the next couple of years – becoming a driver for most of Joe Public’s future growth.

Ignites’ philosophy is summed up nicely in its ‘Igniting growth’ positioning. “Igniting growth means leaving behind the expected below-the-line structures to create growth platforms that change the category’s playing fields,” reads an email Leck later forwards on the thinking behind Ignite.

“This takes quality thinking. Something we passionately believe in. In fact we believe that the quality of our clients’ ROI depends on how much our thinking can elevate their brand’s influence in its category, through quality interactions and marketing innovations. We call this Return On Ignition.

“Ignition thinking is the understanding that below-the-line doesn’t have to be a slave to short-term imperatives. It’s our belief that below-the-line is a space where long-term growth platforms are created. Because we know a quick fix is unlikely to create sustainable growth.”

Shift has been working on clients ranging from Assupol and Clover to Cobra, DialDirect, Ebucks,, Foodcorp and Jet. Shift used to run as a unit within Joe Public but was in January spun out as a new business under Maciek Michalski. “Our design solutions (at Shift) are based on sound strategic insights and ideas explored in collaboration with our strategic department,” says Leck.

Meanwhile the Amsterdam agency, part of Joe Public United, has also quickly grown to ten, and has been appointed as a roster agency for Unilever.

Leck says that Joe Public as an agency took five years to gain traction with larger client brands, so seeing the Joe Public affiliated start-ups working with the brands they do, has been affirming from a both a personal and strategy perspective.

Next year will see Joe Public launch a specialist PR business as well as a digital offering on the same principle as Shift and Ignite.

Joe Public has set itself on a growth course, by growing its clients and its people, which in turn, it believes, will grow the business. It’s an approach that is resonating with clients, and the approachable good naturedness of the founding partners helps, for sure.

Leck says the business is not chasing growth at all costs. Rather growth is the end result of the strategies, philosophy and people it has put in place inside its own business. “We have always been a business by and for people,” says Leck.

In the age where brands, including agency brands, need to be more than skin deep, the Joe Public brand shows no sign of failing on its bargain to grow people and clients or in its belief that what goes round come round.

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Published by Herman Manson is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter -

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