by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) As major player in the youth marketing sector, HDI Youth Marketeers, enters its 22nd year, the agency is changing tack. CEO Bongani Chinkanda says that its new positioning marks a focal shift from activations and research to becoming “the most-connected and -connecting company in the youth market.”


Announced at the Sunday Times Generation Next Conference last month, the new brand position is dubbed “We are for the next” and sees the agency embedding itself more deeply into the growing youth population in Africa. After six months of reflection on who exactly youth are and where they are found, as well as what HDI Youth stands for and how it wants to represent itself, Chinkanda says, the way forward became clear.

Though well-known for its schools programmes and campus activations, the agency no longer wants to be restricted to these areas in a mobile-first, digital-first world, he says: “We want to move away from the marketing agency model we had in the past, to being a futures consultancy. We believe that the youth are the biggest influencers of our future, and we exist to make that future more meaningful. What the ‘next’ means is that we’re here for the next generation of leaders; we’re here for the next parents, next entrepreneurs, next athletes. We want to be the most connected [agency], and that means entrenched in youth culture, fingers on the pulse, thought leaders, moving at the speed of culture.

Youth authority

According to Chinkanda, when the agency says it wants to be the “most connecting”, it means integrating brands with the youth. HDI Youth aims to position itself as the authority in youth across the board, he says, with youth defined as those up to the age of 24.

It’s not about just bringing the latest deodorant or sneakers to the youngsters, though, he says— it’s also about solving youth problems. As an example, he mentions his agency’s work taking Riverbed’s idea on responsible drinking and harm reduction for below the line to students.

Chinkanda says that HDI Youth’s new direction was dictated in part by a drop in activation offerings over the past 12 months, as brands look to lower costs while increasing experiences. Upping the game with “bespoke insights-driven” offerings has helped the agency sustain growth in the region of five%, and it is actively pitching and seeking new business. With the maturation of its brand identity, he expects that, within the next three-to-four years, the agency will have exited the activation space altogether: “Activations [only] solve a problem for now and for today, but everything that we do needs to have future impact.”

Possible challenges

Over the next 12–24 months, he’s anticipating a couple of possible challenges: one being the reassuring of clients that the agency will still be delivering as usual, and another involving the management of market perceptions. While consultants are rapidly moving into the creative space, HDI Youth sees its fleet of creatives moving into the consultancy space, he says, but if clients need them to execute on the ground, they will — as usual, but with a little extra. The solutions offered will be more future-facing, geared towards building long-lasting relationships between young consumers and brands.

Both appealing to current youth culture and predicting future iterations requires data-driven insights, says Chinkanda; this is handled by an internal “insights hub” that combines research with social listening, making use of available tools including TBWA’s D/Live (TBWA owns 94% of HDI Youth Marketeers). Having a young team overall also helps; according to him, the average age of staff at HDI Youth is just 31.

HDI Youth Marketeers’ new positioning is being rolled out across Africa, where the agency has offices in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, among other countries.

HDI Youth Marketeers logo

  • Office locations: Joburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Harare, Nairobi, Lagos, Accra, Addis Ababa, Kampala and Dar es Salaam
  • Revenue band: R40–R70m
  • Staff count: 40 (South Africa)
  • Key clients: Pick n Pay,, SAB, Sanlam, Rand Water, Jet
  • Services: Influencer marketing, experiences (activations), social media, insights & strategy, content creation & seeding

Updated at 3.38pm on 23 July 2018.


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to, her new column “#AgencyFocus” is an ongoing weekly series updating the market on agency performance, including business performance, innovation, initiatives, the work, awards and people.

— One subscription form, three newsletters: sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including Ramify headlines; The Interlocker, our new monthly comms-focused mailer; and Brands & Branding, launching soon!

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist