by Herman Manson (@marklives) Founded by Dallas Glover in 2010, The Strategy Department serves as a white-label outsource strategy department for ad agencies and brands. The business consists of nine strategists focused upon contributing to the development of marketing plans, brand strategy, communication strategy, research or training.
Being a white-label solution means few people know the company or in which projects it is involved. For instance, it won’t reveal to what agencies it offers it services, although the amount would be between 15-20 agency clients.
The Strategy Department has worked on over 500 projects for 118 brands, including Land Rover, Econet Wireless, MTN, MAQ, Jaguar, Kyknet, Heineken, Absa, DCtv and Mastercard, over the past five years.
Strategists operate as part of brand teams during campaigns for which The Strategy Department is brought.
The business started as a one-man strategy shop under Glover after he left Grey South Africa as managing director in 2009. Glover had seen a rise in the use of freelance strategists by agencies wanting to keep their own costs down, and realised an opportunity existed to create a strategy department that integrates into agencies on a project basis.
Realise the value proposition
The team has since grown into a significant strategy department, says Lara Cassel, managing partner in the business; her experience includes stints at Neotel as marketing manager, BASF, Interbrand Sampson and The Brand Union. While business started off slow, it’s picked up as agencies and brands realise the value proposition at play. It includes no overheads for agencies while accessing an expanded team of strategists when it needs to.
For direct clients, The Strategy Department serves as a marketing department — strategists are often introduced as marketing managers to prospective agencies. They will write and implement strategies for businesses transitioning from non-advertisers into advertisers, and pull in the right agency to create the required creative work.
It works with direct clients on a retainer basis, helping them find the right marketer to step in when they step back out. It also works with clients on projects in several African markets, including Nigeria and Kenya.
150 years of collective experience
According to Cassel, the team of strategists has 150 years of collective experience in what they do. Team members are focused upon growing both their agency book and direct clients, and expanding the understanding of their core offering to the market.
What with large agencies taking strain and many medium-sized agencies stepping up, she believes the market is ideal for what the business is offering. It goes into tenders and pitches with client agencies, offering strategic strength early on.
The business, apart from being white-label, signs strict non-disclosure agreements to protect clients, and no strategist will work on competing projects. Integrity is key to the survival of its offering — the industry is small, she says, and any cut-and-paste jobs from its side would quickly become public knowledge.
Strategy is much more than data analysis, requiring a creative spark that will inspire its partners at agency and client levels. Strategists surrounded by strategists means they regularly challenge each other’s thinking (barring, of course, competitive work) and takes strategy out of the isolated bubble it often finds itself trapped in.
The business is a thinking hub, says Cassel, and the group isn’t scared of interrogating questions. The focus is squarely upon adding value to bottom lines and building solid business foundations for clients.
Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com.
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