by Herman Manson (@marklives) Stretch, an experiential marketing agency launched in 2009 by Mike Silver, is one of a number of smaller agencies hoping to raise its profile and growth curve by stepping into the space opened up for independent agencies through the effective vacuuming job by global networks.

WPP and Publicis Groupe especially have been on a buying spree over the 12 months or so, snapping up a number of independent agencies, particularly those with core activation and digital capabilities.

Stretch Experiential Marketing logoApproached by possible buyers

This “has definitely put a strain on the system” says Silver, who acknowledges that his agency, which currently employs a core team of 25 (it expands and contracts depending upon the season — in summer it can grow up to 35), has been approached by a number of possible buyers. But, as with many of his peers, Silver sees gold in moving up into the space vacated by former independents joining global networks.

He believes there is a need for independent specialists in the market, and that his agency is well-positioned to raise its profile and client base. Stretch already works on brands such as adidas, Chevron, Standard Bank, Pernod Ricard and Pepsi.

In 2013, Stretch was runner-up at the Global Pepsico CMO Awards (most-effective global marketing campaign) for its floating vending machine campaign. In the same year, the agency took first spot in the Western Cape Government Entrepreneurship Awards.

Stretch Experimential Marketing Mike Cath Pete
The three Stretch shareholders: Mike Silver, Catherine Mavrocoleas and Pete Hutchings.

Worked at RPM

Silver had worked at UK experiential agency RPM, where he also met Stretch strategy director and fellow shareholder, Pete Hutchings. Catherine Mavrocoleas, who heads up accounts, is the third shareholder.

RPM offered Silver a thorough overview of experiential marketing. Upon his return to South Africa, he judged that the local industry was still catching up to what was happening globally, and — with the insights gained at RPM on international experiential trends — he decided to launch his own company.

Stretch has just launched a new division — Stretch PR (its new communications and social media arm), adding to Stretch experiential (consumer arm) and Stretch employee engagement (B2B, internal and graduate attraction). The agency has four departments: creative technology, strategy, client service and production.

Importance of HR, finance and production

According to Silver, as an entrepreneur, he initially misjudged the importance of strong HR, finance and production systems.

The agency tends to hire younger staffers and then link them to mentors, be that family members, friends, people in his expanded business network and, where necessary, consultants. It’s a model that works well for the agency, he says.

He often finds mentors through mentors, as he puts it, and admires the altruistic nature of mentoring. Silver mentions Andy Sutcliffe (34) and Adrian Hewlett (Publicis Machine) as agency people who helped with advice and guidance when he set up his own shop. It has underscored for Silver the importance of ‘giving back’.


To this end, as well as to display its expertise in experience marketing, the agency has recently launched #OutofOffice, an event that aims to draw industry experts out on their take on the role experience plays in their businesses or organisations.

Venues are slightly left of field — ranging from artisan bakeries to rooftops and museums — and venue owners introduce each event, talking about the experiences they have created through their spaces.

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