The agency Gen Y built
by Herman Manson (@marklives) It’s the tale of many a start-up. A strat guys meets a creative and they see synergies in the services they offer, so they launch a business together. Usually it’s people that have done their time in the corporate world, spent some time in an agency, and have a pretty good relationship with somebody on client side. A bit of wink-wink and nudge-nudge later they are in business with, presto, a launch client (ever notice how often that clients sits on a booze brand?).
The story of Engage Brandcraft has a couple of extra twists and turns. A creative, just out of Vega, meets a strat guy, who got his degree and had interned at a couple of agencies before going freelance, and they launch a business together with no real experience in advertising or client relationships and with no booze brands to back them up. Then they reinvent the wheel (their words) in building their own agency in the middle of one of the greatest worldwide recessions in a generation. “We’ve been paddling really hard over the past few years,” says Chris Human (the strat guy) on building Engage Brandcraft. “We’ve had to discover all the golden rules for building a business all on our own.”
Now, six years in and with a decent portfolio and a bunch of clients under the arm, and armed with a credible reputation and a snazzy office in The Boulevard (also home to Quirk and Y&R) in Cape Town, Human and his business partner Ian Nel (the creative), finally feel the agency has come of age, and they are ready to emerge from under the ad worlds’ radar. The founding duo has also brought on board a third partner – Dijon Jones.
This is really a Gen Y agency – it’s young, agile, digital savvy and keen to jump right in and make things happen. The agency focuses on new brand development for start-ups and new brand launches. So far, they have been hired as much for their attitude as for the work they have done in the past, notes Human.
Engage Brandcraft is made up of a team of seven, including the owners, and is structured around projects teams rather than around an accounts department. It’s positioned as a professional services firm that focuses on broader brand thinking rather than advertising. “We’ve adopted an open ended approach to brand building that goes beyond the logo,” says Nel.
The agency has fourteen active clients at the moment and have worked with Kagiso Vantage, PayGate, payD, Homebrew Films and Africa Travel to name a few.
Tim Wyatt-Gunning, the CEO at Web Africa, had this to say about the agency: “Web Africa initially mandated Engage to revitalise our brand, to be more in tune with our market. It had become a bit stale and disengaged. They hit the nail on the head and produced a brand Web Africans are proud to stand behind – it’s young, fresh, contemporary and reflects our core values. Their strong design skills are only the face of a multi-talented company. Through their insightful strategic thinking they are now an important member of our marketing team and we bounce almost all initiatives off them.”
Ultimately, Human and Nel wants to build a cluster of smaller but related agencies that shares resources and an ethos, and covers all facets of brand building. The clustered agencies are being set up as business pods around the main agency with a shareholding of at least 30% for their leadership teams. It recently launched the first of these, Connect Brandcraft, to focus on digital brand-building solutions, and more will be launched as they find the right partners.
– Industry news you’ll make time for. Sign up for our free newsletter!