by Herman Manson (@marklives) Singapore-headquartered hot-shop Arcade launched into the South African market last year, following the successful expansion of the agency into Shanghai, Tokyo and Jakarta. The move was driven from client-side, says Publicis Africa Group CEO, Kevin Tromp, with Unilever being the agency’s founding client in South Africa. Publicis owns a minority stake in the agency.

Local operation

The local operation, Arcade Africa, opened in July 2015. Dan Berkowitz serves as co-founder and ECD. Previously, Berkowitz was creative director/head of integration at King James Group and, before that, an associate creative director at Wieden + Kennedy Delhi for close on four years.

Arcade was launched in Singapore by four partners, Mark Taylor, Nick Marrett, Gary Tranter and Matt Cullen, in 2010. Client brands include a host of Unilever brands (Clear, Magnum, Pond’s, Cornetto, Vaseline), Heineken, McDonalds, Google, Citibank and Coca-Cola. Publicis Worldwide acquired a minority stake in the agency in August 2014.

Arcade created the first Search Story film for Google outside of North America, and was the first Asia-based agency to launch a major Unilever brand in North America.

Known for entrepreneurial culture

According to Berkowitz, Arcade is known for its entrepreneurial culture (its tagline is “Creative Entrepreneurs”), allowing local management-independence and taking a collaborative, network-model approach. Each office, according to Berkowitz, is built around a core team of senior communications specialists, who ‘insource’ the best independent creative and production talent to build bespoke specialist teams for the duration of each individual project.

It’s a business model the agency has been successfully exporting to several developing markets — this is its first venture into Africa — and it’s a disruptive one for adland at a time when legacy businesses are struggling to adapt successfully, according to Berkowitz.

The core team works directly with the client, removing some of the traditional agency processes which may hinder communication between agencies and clients; the focus is upon quick turnaround times and being channel-agnostic. Communication is managed by senior personnel, both agency- and client-side. Revenue is not reliant upon one core competency (eg TV work), says Berkowitz.

Arcade works in African markets with local partners, often other Publicis Africa Group agencies, but not exclusively so.

Talk about the brand

Dan Berkowitz
Dan Berkowitz

Berkowitz believes that agencies need to relook at how they measure success; the current award obsession is not the model he would choose. Instead of trying to talk to consumers or, more recently, with consumers, advertising should encourage consumers to talk about the brand — it’s no longer about having a ‘conversation’ with consumers.

“People don’t want to be friends with their favourite brands,” says Berkowitz. “The only time they want to have a dialogue with them is when it comes to customer service. Brands need to make themselves a relevant, inspiring, useful part of people’s lives and find a place of their own in local popular culture. Helping our clients get there, is our ultimate measure of success.”

What with a focus upon the African continent, rather than just one country, Berkowitz says he is excited about how well the model has performed in emerging markets so far. “The beauty of working with a senior core team is that we have more time to focus on what we do best — solving problems creatively — which means we also have more time to work collaboratively with our specialist production partners, ensuring they do what they do best: bring those ideas to fruition with excellence,” he explains.

Expected to replicate success

“Not focusing [upon] channel-driven briefs or solutions makes us nimble enough to take cross-disciplinary briefs and be more efficient in solving them. It also means we can handle large-scale campaigns for global blue-chip clients and smaller-scale work for entrepreneurial startups at the same time. [This benefits] clients on both sides greatly through our gained experience on opposite ends of the business spectrum.”

Arcade Africa has already tackled projects in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and SA. According to Tromp, it is expected to replicate the success its sister agencies have achieved in Asia, and its collaborative operating model, combined with access to Publicis Africa Group agencies, will be what makes it stand out to clients.


Herman Manson 2105Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of He was the inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has, over his 20-year-plus career, contributed to numerous journals and websites in South Africa and abroad, including AdVantage magazine, Men’s Health, Computer World and African Communications.

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