by Herman Manson (@marklives) Two experiential and activation agencies, Stretch and Point Blank, have merged to form a new agency named Elevator. The combined agency employs roughly 60 people, has R50m in revenue and is 51% black-owned through an employee trust. The combined portfolio of clients includes Standard Bank, Chevron, Lipton Ice Tea, Pernod Ricard, Cell C, Hisense and MMI.
Stretch’s former MD, Mike Silver, will operate as co-CEO alongside Point Blank founder, Trevor Bernberg; Bongani Chinkanda takes up the position of business and strategy director. Silver’s mandate is to grow Elavator’s internal communications and B2B client base, while Bernberg, alongside Chinkanda, will focus on growing existing telco, financial services and FMCG clients. Stretch’s Peter Hutchings and Catherine Mavrocoleas will assume new roles as ECD and operations director, respectively.
According to Silver, the merger will leverage off Stretch’s BTL and experiential strenghts while tapping into Point Blank’s national in-store and brand-activation footprint. Elevator will continue to focus on activations, employee engagement and digital.
Apart from the physical merger of their respective Johannesburg and Cape Town agencies, a new business development director has also been appointed for Durban, giving the agency a national footprint.
According to Silver, both Stretch and Point Blank had, in the past, been approached by multinationals but both were keen to remain independent. What they did realise through these initial approaches was the need to have a national footprint and an expanded list of services on offer, plus satisfy black economic empowerment (BEE) requirements. Both Silver and Bernberg believed that combining their businesses would tick these requirements, as well as help them achieve greater scale. Negotiations started in mid-2016.
Point Blank was launched in 2009 (the same year as Stretch was launched by Silver) by Bernberg, then fresh out of varsity and from his mom’s home, as a promotional staffing agency; it evolved into a BTL agency focused on production, basic creative and staffing. Bernberg and Silver discussed merging their businesses around that time but didn’t conclude a deal, becoming fierce competitors instead. By Bernberg’s own admission and frustration, Stretch always seemed to be a step ahead and he came to admire Silver and his agency.
Dinner and deal
By mid-2016, Bernberg had started looking around for a buyer for Point Blank. Following a catch-up dinner with Silver at Turn & Tender, a steakhouse in Illovo, Johannesburg, the two decided to look at merging their businesses instead. The deal was finalised in Cape Town.
Bernberg explains that the new partners set the purpose of the new agency as ‘upliftment through action and ideas’. This has lead to Elevator; the agency wants to elevate its own game, its people and its clients. He expects the agency to leverage off the existing clients lists of Point Blank and Stretch, now that it offers an expended offering which includes PR, creative, digital and activations.
The new agency will manage broader BTL client campaigns under the Elevator lead brand, with subsidiary divisions Elevator Engage, offering employee engagement campaigns; Elevator People, offering activations and event staffing; and Elevator Digital, offering social media and digital campaigns.
Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com.