Initiative Media South Africa had its most successful financial year to date with 27% growth in billings year on year (YOY) and total billings of over R1.6 billion in the last 12 months. The company has seen incremental growth in billings, profit, turnover, and client acquisition in the last year.
The company won 10 important new clients in 2015 under the leadership of Marc Taback, CEO, who attributes this growth to an entrenched family/work culture and respect for his employees. New business garnered by Initiative Media over the past eight months includes Clientèle Life, H&M, Budget Car and Truck Rental, Aon, King Price Insurance, Dominos Pizza, Willowton Group, Bosch, GWK, and Pearson.
According to billings over the last 12 months, Initiative Media’s top 10 clients are SAB, Clientèle Life, Wonga.com, Boxer, Investec, Adcock Ingram, SA Home Loans, Pearson, Avis/Budget Rent a Car South Africa, and Taste Holdings. Taste Holdings includes Dominos Pizza, NWJ, Arthur Kaplan, St Elmo’s, Maxi’s, Scooters Pizza, Zebro’s, The Fish & Chip Company, and new to this portfolio, to be launched in South Africa in June 2016, is Starbucks.
Initiative Media is part of the IPG Mediabrands global network, with annual billings of $11.2 billion. “It is really beneficial to be linked to this global network which supports dynamic talent – people with a positive attitude, full of ideas, who are energetic and passionate,” Taback says. “We are ahead on revenue and profit and we feel really confident that we are going to be able to exceed the budgets that have been set by the business for 2015. Key areas of expansion include technology, data, and analytics capabilities, and we plan to invest in more talent.”
At the last global Initiative Media CEO summit Taback won the Bravery Award for the person and country showing bravery in business, the ability to be decisive, take risks, and even say no to clients when required. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, and being one of the youngest CEO’s in the business, Taback believes that his greatest strengths are his passion, drive, loyalty and leadership. He believes that everything is possible, no matter what.
“I care deeply for all my staff as they are our greatest asset and we are a strong team. Our three branches based in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban each has a highly skilled managing partner and team dedicated to its bouquet of clients. Each branch functions independently, yet we work together to ensure success on a national level. We run a solid business with a high calibre of clients and have not lost any significant full-service business in over 7 years. Client’s want to work with people they like,” he says.
Michelle Wheeler, Managing Partner of Initiative Media Johannesburg says that since she joined the company over six years ago the branch’s media team has more than doubled to include seven strategists, eight planners, eight buyers, three OOH experts, and a team of five digital experts who do strategy, campaign management and reporting on several key accounts.
“Having an in-house digital offering in the Joburg office has enabled this branch to grow brand activity in the market for key clients, in particular SAB (South African Breweries),” says Wheeler.
Overall, SAB’s media spend has grown about three-fold in six years and Initiative Media’s SAB media team won two awards for Excellence in Media Agency Partnerships at the recent SAB Gold Circle Awards.
Wheeler says, “Most companies banter around phrases like ‘work-life balance’ and ‘family-environment’, but at Initiative Media these qualities are at the core of our DNA. We have a tangible long-service award, rewarding staff members financially for every five years spent as part of our team. We reward people at the end of the year when the company does well, which drives a culture of collaboration when it comes to saving costs and driving profitability of the agency.”
Initiative Media’s Cape Town branch opened in 2006 as a buying office. Elsa Carpenter-Frank, managing partner, started working there in 2010 when Taback decided to re-launch the Cape Town branch as an independent full-service media office.
Carpenter-Frank says, “In the last year, the Cape Town branch won the prestigious H&M business which is significant, not only because it is a large addition to the portfolio, but also because it allows this team to partner with a blue chip international brand from the time of its launch in South Africa.’
“Initiative Media is about the people. We hire quality people who are looked after and thus happy to work here. We foster a very flat structure and give our employees the means and space to grow. Our clients are the beneficiary of the excellent work done by these individuals.”
Initiative Media Durban was established by Hilary Lindsay, managing partner, and Taback 10 years ago, with two founding clients and the planning and buying done in Johannesburg. The now full-service branch has grown to a team of 10 and is a highly competitive force in the Durban media industry.
Lindsay says, “Our biggest client is Boxer Superstores, followed by SA Home Loans and Varsity College. We have long standing associations with Huletts Sugar, NWJ and Grindrod Bank as well as partnerships with a number of creative agencies in town – The Hardy Boys, Y&R, Synergy, Truth and Pivot Marcoms. Last year we established a relationship with Y&R to manage buying for their client Willowton. This relationship has grown quite substantially, we now do all the planning and buying for Willowton and Joekels as well as a number of other projects.”
Initiative Media elected a Junior Board of five young women who are being trained by the current board as a succession plan. Melissa Tavira, Kareema Jamie, Gomolemo Ramela, Khethiwe Kaka and Lynette Naidoo are responsible for CSI, teambuilding, the website, social media, entertainment, and run the IPG Mediabrands Happiness Programme.
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