by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) Agencies need practice in order to optimise their sales pitch to potential clients and this opportunity was offered to eight black-owned agencies last month. Agencies were deliberately selected for their BEE structures (preferably 100 % black-owned), along with their variety of services.


On the day, the following agencies were in attendance:

  • BWD Advertising: full-service advertising
  • Purple Room: PR
  • The Plum Factory: social and digital
  • eNitiate: social and digital
  • Glasshouse Communication Management: PR and corporate governance [note: Glasshouse is a subsidiary of Mazole Holdings]
  • Avatar PR: PR and publicity
  • Harambee: activations South Africa and Africa
  • DAVID: full-service advertising

From marketers and procurement, we had representatives from: JSE, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Sorbet Shark, Nedbank and Ocean Basket.


Clients were taken in turn to each agency ‘station’ for a 10-minute introduction/mini chemistry session with the agency. Immediately after each session, they were required to complete an evaluation form which consisted of the following questions:

  • What was the main thing you learned about this agency?
  • What is this agency’s greatest strength?
  • What is this agency’s greatest weakness?
  • What suggestions do you have for this agency to improve?
  • Do you see a role for this agency in your business?

Positive feedback

In general, the feedback from the marketers and procurement heads was very positive and they reminded the agencies to ensure that they:

  • Come across with a single-minded approach — and not try to be ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none’
  • Allow each team member of the agency to speak and have a role to play
  • Compile and present solid case studies that demonstrate return on investment
  • Structure their message to “land” within 10 minutes — this is the realistic time frame that most agencies have to present in
  • Be prepared to tell the story about why the agency was formed and how the founders arrived at the name of the agency — a very important factor and so often forgotten

We learned from agencyScope in both the 2016 and 2017 studies that agencies in South Africa are not proactive in making contact with marketers and procurement, especially in comparison to agencies in the other 11 countries where SCOPEN is active. Procurement in particular needs contact from agencies in order to build up its list of potential suppliers for marketers. This is more and more important as the need for black-owned agencies increases.

[Full disclosure: Scopen Global and Mazole Holdings (the company that owns IAS 100%) have formed a company in South Africa called Scopen Africa. Scopen Global holds the majority of the shares; Mazole is a minority shareholder. Johanna McDowell is a director of Scopen Africa, as is Cesar Vacchiano, global CEO of Scopen.]

Very keen

Overall, the results for the agencies in terms of feedback were very good and there were definitely a few interested parties who might want to take things further. From the marketers’ perspective, they were very keen to give their time to this initiative as they recognise the importance of helping agencies to grow and develop their skills and offerings.


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Johanna is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. Currently she is running the IAS Marketers Masterclass, a programme consisting of masterclasses held in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits.

— 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!


3 replies on “Masterclass Notes: Black-owned agencies & marketers”

  1. As an independent strategy consultancy firm, how does one start becoming part of these conversations. There needs to be a broader reach, the net needs to cast wider so that those who are or may be interested also get involved.

    I would have loved to have been part of this process, especially seeing that there aren’t any specialist strategy firms. There’s a gap of which I’d like to fill.

    How does one book a sit for the next one?

    1. Hi Bogosi

      Thank you for your interest in the Black-Owned Agencies and Marketers Masterclass. We would love for you to be involved in the next one. For us to send you invites for initiatives such as these we will need to know a bit more about your agency. Please send your credentials to Hlamazi at who will add your agency to the IAS database.

  2. Hi Angelika

    Thank you for your interest in the Black-Owned Agencies and Marketers Masterclass. The IAS works on an annual subscription model which covers the cost to attend such initiatives among many others. Please contact Hlamazi at to learn more about the IAS and our service offerings.

Comments are closed.

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