Another new advertising agency in Cape Town? Enough already! Or not? Those were Gary Leih’s thoughts when he and his two co-founders decided to launch OFyt. He tells Fienie Grobler about their new agency’s secret weapon: eight inexperienced youngsters, half of them from poor backgrounds.
What gives them the edge? Lots of creative potential, and invaluable insights into an often misunderstood market – their own.
Between Leih, a former group MD of Ogilvy South Africa, Jono Shubitz, a former executive creative director at Ogilvy Cape Town, and Paul Newman, former Nationwide marketing director, the three boast 100 years of advertising experience. Combine that with eight interns, sourced from among other places a training institution in Khayelitsha, with no marketing expierience whatsoever, and you have a dream team.
So says Leih, talking about the Muizenburg-based agency that launched this month.
“I don’t think South Africa needs another agency… and Cape Town in particular,” says Leih. “But we looked at what was lacking and what was pretty obvious, is that grassroots transformation was lacking.”
In the 1990s, many advertising agency acquired Black Economic Empowerment partners, but it was mainly because it made business sense. The agencies needed people with the right contacts.
“That’s what everyone did, but at grassroots level, very little was happening in terms of transforming,” Leih says.
The result today is that advertising agencies have few creatives with a good understanding of the previously disadvantaged market. “And advertising schools are private, with high fees. It is almost impossible for these young people to get in. It is very difficult to get in.
“We thought we would try and turn this on its head. We thought we would focus on grassroots because then you are getting fresh, young talent. There are brands directed at these young people and they have insight into this market.”
Since the launch of OFyt – which stands for Old Friends, young talent (or as Leih puts it: Old Farts, young talent) – the agency has already won two out of three pitches, and is confident that it also has the third one in the bag.
Leih says although he can’t yet divulge the client, the account would be for a consumer good and the client “was blown away” by the interns’ insight in how to market it.
“This is how they [the youngsters] see this product, and it is really fresh thinking.”
The other account it landed was for a new reality series on SABC 3 with cook Justin Bonello, called The Ultimate Braaimaster.
Where did they source their eight (soon to be 10 interns? Leih says Shubitz went through scores of applications, after sourcing candidates from design schools, advertising schools, technikons and universities. Many were studying with bursaries. Some were sourced from a training institution in the Western Cape township of Khayelitsha.
The interns get paid a salary and travel allowance for the year internship at OFyt. After that, Ofyt would help them find other jobs in the industry, and if possible, keep some on. But Leih says the idea is to appoint new interns every year, and give as many youngsters with creative talent this opportunity to gain experience.
Ruth Golembo, spokeswoman for Ofyt, says the agency has spotted a gap in the market.“What’s missing is indigenised advertising. They’ve got the expertise of the three founders and the juniors add such a different way of thinking. The old-style advertisers are producing stuff that are not getting the results, because they are not targeting the right people.”
Leih’s advertising experience not only includes Ogilvy, but he also co-founded The White House, which was eventually aquired by DDB, and Public Image in Australia in the 19902, which was acquired by TBWA.
According to its website, OFty’s other clients include security company ADT, Murray and Roberts, Computer Kids, Learn to Earn and the Fetola graduate recruitment internship programme.
Leih says 26 percent of the company has been put into a trust, which aim is skills transfers and social upliftment.
This equity will be used to educate, uplift, skill and support young, historically disadvantaged talent for the industry, according to its website. The company intends to operate at a Level 1 BEE rating at all times.
Leih says their colleagues in the advertising agency world have welcomed the new competition. “It’s kind of the right thing to do. You can’t really badmouth this.”
Check them out on Facebook.
Fienie Grobler is a news editor at the South African Press Association (Sapa).