Davenport launched Ireland/Davenport with Philip Ireland in 2006. At its peak, the agency worked accross a range of blue-chip brands, including BMW, Investec, Vodacom and South African Tourism. Ireland left the business in 2016 after the agency suffered a string of account losses in 2015 and 2016; he joined local creative technology company, BNRY, in mid-2017.
Since rebranding as Collective ID in October 2017, the agency has staged a remarkable comeback. It upped its black ownership from 21.5% to 52.6% in April 2017 to become both majority-black-owned and -managed. Clients includes Standard Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Avis Budget Group; Isuzu; and MAQ.
According to Davenport, he feels that now is appropriate to leave the business; it’s on the up, the vibe is happy, it’s getting onto pitch lists, it’s producing good work and it’s climbed back from a low of 10 people to more than 30. Now, he says, is a good time to take a break and to seek out his next challenge. He intends to stay in advertising, and on the creative side of the business; for the moment, though, he will focus on some art projects, writing and fishing.
Asked what advice he would give new agency entrepreneurs, he says he would tell them to absolutely go for it: “It will be tougher than you think, but it will also be more exciting and rewarding. Don’t listen to people who says it can’t be done. You can do great things.”
Davenport says Ireland/Davenport launched with three people, one laptop and a pot plant stolen from Net#work. The agency would eventually catapult into the top echelons of the South African ad industry.
On the decline of Ireland/Davenport and its rebirth as Collective ID, he says this was the most-exciting part of his advertising journey, following some “freakishly hard times”. In today’s market, agencies need to be both excellent and relevant, he says, pointing to Collective ID as having achieved that.
“My time at Ireland/Davenport has has been an amazing, crazy, brilliant, stupid journey. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of it. The people we have worked with and the people we have worked for. Agencies are all about people. They don’t own factories or fields. Thanks to all the people who have been a part of it,” says Davenport.
“I’d like ro say a huge thank you to all the clients who have trusted me with their brands and business. And especially the client who cried when I told her I’m leaving. She knows who she is! Nothing is possible without great clients. They pay our salaries and they’re the ones who turn ideas and scribbles into something exciting the world sees. Without them ideas just remain ideas. And their job is much more difficult than it often looks,” he concludes.*
- Statement: Collective ID bids John Davenport farewell
* Updated: 2018/09/10
Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com.
— 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!