2010 was a challenging time to start a new advertising agency in South Africa, with the local economy still coming to grips with the previous year’s financial crisis. Some critics even said there were enough agencies in the market, and certainly no space for a bold new player.
Many of the years that followed were challenging from a national economic perspective. However, naysayers, critics and tough business conditions notwithstanding, a decade later M&C Saatchi Abel is celebrating its 10th birthday as one of the top ranked, and one of the most rapidly growing, creative companies in South Africa.
“It is an incredible milestone to have reached ten years. We are all very proud and happy to celebrate this achievement. However, it is important to highlight that 10 years doesn’t represent an arrival, but rather a solid foundation from which to continue our growth and upward trajectory,” says founding partner and CEO Mike Abel.
M&C Saatchi Abel opened its Cape Town office with 13 people and no clients. Audacious? Perhaps. But so are all bold moves, says Abel.
He knew, even before there was furniture in the office, that the goal was to create a diverse, respected, effective agency that would provide real value for its clients, while striving to become the most desired creative company on the continent.
“Our ambitions were bold – and they still are. But we knew we wouldn’t fail because we believe implicitly in our vision,” Abel says. From humble beginnings, M&C Saatchi Abel grew into one of South Africa’s largest agencies, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and a presence throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with a Level 1 BBBEE Accreditation.
Thirteen employees expanded to more than 300 of the most talented creatives in the country. And from zero clients, M&C Saatchi Abel can now count some of the most important blue-chip clients in South Africa, with a long list of awards bearing testament to its successes, the most recent being its sterling night at the 2019 FM Adfocus Awards, including Large Agency of the Year, Partnership of the Year for its work with Nando’s, and the Industry Leader award for its chief creative officer Neo Mashigo.
How the agency managed to achieve this is no secret. Abel has said the meteoric growth has been, and continues to be, dependent on an uncompromising commitment to their clients. “Have we grown their top line? Have we grown their market share? Have we grown their brand equity? Our job is to provide measurable value,” he says.
Razzle dazzle, gimmicks and applause, says Abel, are transient. Results driven by an unflinching commitment to creativity and underpinned by Brutal Simplicity of Thought is a golden thread that has underpinned the agency’s journey.
Another vital aspect of M&C Saatchi Abel’s success has been a commitment to its staff’s growth and diversity – both in people and thought. Abel says the agency set out to have a partner structure where entrepreneurial creatives would thrive. Today, he says, the agency has a talent pool of industry heavyweights and maverick thinkers, strategists, creatives of all disciplines and business people.
“Another key aspect of our success with the incredible clients we have, is that we strategically marry our talent with clients. We understand that true magic happens when there is a long-term relationship built on trust,” says Abel.
“I would like to thank every single partner and employee that has been involved in our journey, all our clients who currently include, Takealot Group, Nando’s, Standard Bank, Lexus, and MWEB, as well as the myriad of people we interact with in the industry. Here’s to the next ten years, where we will strive to continue finding simple solutions in an increasingly complex world, and to tell stories that resonate with audiences,” he says.