by Sabrina Forbes. “Think it. Craft it. Elevate it. An idea is only worthwhile if it elicits an action.” You’ll find this emblazoned across your screen on the “what we do” section of Rogerwilco’s website. It’s as good a summary as you’ll find for this 10-year-old Cape Town-based, full-service performance marketing agency.
Co-founded by Jakes Redelinghuys (managing director) and Charlie Stewart (CEO), Rogerwilco works in the B2B, B2C and NPO sectors and specialises in strategy, creative, development, performance marketing, automation, and measurement services. Its take on creativity, however, is its USP.
Gap in the market
In 2008 (after meeting in a creche, of all places), when the duo thought of launching a digital marketing agency, neither had any experience in the field. However, with the barriers to entry for digital at that stage being next to nothing, they agreed they needed to find something that was unique to them and then “dominate”, as Stewart puts it. They saw a gap in the South African market and plugged into Drupal, an open-source content management system (CMS).
Drupal was one of the first steps to concretising the Rogerwilco’s standpoint that everything it does is “underpinned by data”. What the team believes is that creative needs purpose. A pretty picture remains just that, without much worth, if it doesn’t reach the right people and, more so, if it doesn’t get them to take action. Rogerwilco pairs creative with a data-first mindset to all its work because “creativity without purpose serves no one”.
IBM Watson partner
To further enhance its focus on being a truly data-driven performance marketing agency, Rogerwilco recently became the first SA agency to become an IBM Watson partner. IBM Watson is IBM’s suite of “enterprise-ready AI services, applications, and tooling”. Its solutions for the ad industry include powering new possibilities of decision-making, informed by billions of data sources, and enabled by the world’s best artificial intelligence technology. In short, IBM Watson aims to help marketers make better decisions using insight-driven media, data, and technology solutions that may be deployed across a brand’s entire marketing strategy to help drive success.
“AI is the future and there’s no company on the planet that has invested as much in AI as IBM,” says Stewart. He believes that, although IBM Watson can tell you exactly when to send someone an email based on their previous open rate history, partnering with such a big platform is about a lot more than just sending emails. “The potential for this platform is incredibly vast,” he adds.
The IBM Watson computer has already proven its strength, beating Israeli debating champion XNAMEX and playing a game of Jeopardy. It’s powerful because it continues to learn and, as it learns more, it seems to start to understand more. It’ll be interesting to see how Rogerwilco’s newest client wins — JSE, Satrix, and HiSense — benefit from the data-led ad solutions offered through the IBM Watson partnership.
As an agency, for some time now Rogerwilco has been asking where data is going and what the opportunities are. There are many martech products on the market, some good and some very bad; the problem is that IT departments, not marketers themselves, often decide on the platform or solution a brand needs in order to track, collect and report on data, according to Stewart.
In terms of BBEEE compliance, Stewart and Redelinghuys originally thought aligning with external business partners would be the right thing to do but, each time they went down that road, things never lined up or felt right. A little over a month ago, they decided to put 51% of the company’s equity into a staff empowerment trust.
For Stewart and Redelinghuys, true transformation should come from within and they want to change the lives of the people who’ve worked so hard to make their agency what it is today. Many large corporates also require potential and existing suppliers to be majority black-owned, and this is how Rogerwilco has made it happen without having to change the way it works or invite new partners with differing ideas into the mix. Also, within the 51% equity share, 31% of the company now belongs to black women.
No easy feat
Finding employees who, as mentioned above, will work tooth and nail is no easy feat. By involving the entire team in the recruiting and hiring process, Stewart says they’ve been able to drastically reduce staff turnover in an industry notorious for churn. He’s also noticed how the entire industry is hunting for people who didn’t go to private schools or grow up in tree-lined leafy suburbs.
“There is no hierarchy in my business. It’s important for me that my people don’t feel like a hierarchy is blocking them,” he says. He adds that, as a very-processed driven organisation, it’s imperative to have teamwork and a strong culture of responsibility: “We try to make things as transparent as possible, so everyone understands why they are doing what they’re doing.”
A breakfast club where interesting topics are brought up and discussed, wellness days, and a book called “THANKS BITCH”, where employees have the freedom to write complimentary messages to each other, are a few of the things that Stewart is so proud of.
With growth, though, comes the threat of cultural loss and, up until recently, the agency has remained Cape Town-based. It was only when Stewart realised that Clockwork Media is similar in several ways to Rogerwilco that he decided to open a satellite team in a Johannesburg office. A team of two now services clients in Jozi, with the Mother City team continuing to do all production.
Another phrase you’ll find on the Rogerwilco ite is “addicted to you”. How Stewart explains this is that the team truly wants to understand everything there is to know about clients. Sometimes, the solution to a problem is found way outside of a brief and it’s only when you really understand your clients’ businesses and the industries they work in day-to-day that you can properly offer. “If we don’t understand our clients, how the heck can we offer them any advice?” he asks. Client on-boarding is an in-depth process with a book or tome, rather, being created for each one — individuals’ birthdays and favourite wine included.
With IBM as a partner now, Stewart says that the agency is finally playing in a different league and that he’s excited to see what the future holds. It has already started to refocus its positioning and has begun a process of off-boarding some clients to other respected agencies. Having to say goodbye to smaller clients is a good problem to have, he believes, while also understanding that they were there in the beginning and that saying goodbye needs to be done with the utmost integrity and respect. A lot of due diligence is being done to ensure the right clients are handed over to the right agencies. It’s a process both co-founders are deeply involved in.
If you’ve ever wondered how the agency got its name, it’s from radio telecommunications. Next time someone asks you to do something and you need to acknowledge that, simply reply: “Roger that, will comply.”
|Rogerwilco.co.za • Ramify Premium
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Sabrina Forbes (IG) is an experienced writer covering the food, health, lifestyle, beverage, marketing and media industries. She runs her own full-stack web/app development and digital-first content creation company. For more, go to moonwrench.com. She is a contributing writer to MarkLives.com.
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