Sisulu buys into McCann
Global agency sets new SA targets
ZWELAKHE SISULU, former CE of the SABC, has bought a 49% stake in McCann Worldgroup SA, formerly known as HerdBuoys McCann-Erickson. International McCann executives see it and other changes as heralding a new beginning for the ad agency group, which is currently ranked 15th in SA (based on staff numbers).
“Our aim is to move into the top three in SA within three years,” says McCann regional president Rupert Howell. Challenged concerning the feasibility of that, he says: “We’ve done it elsewhere and can do it here too.”
McCann Worldgroup includes McCann-Erickson (the world’s biggest ad agency), Universal McCann (media buying and planning) and other specialist units. McCann-Erickson is ranked in the top three in 55 countries in its European, Middle Eastern and African region.
Sisulu’s acquisition has restored the group’s black equity ownership level, which had been languishing at zero since McCann bought out the HerdBuoys equity nearly two years ago.
Even though he’ll be non-executive chairman, Sisulu promises to play an active role. “My intention is to provide inspirational leadership. This deal isn’t about securing Government contracts. I find it absolutely demeaning to do that.
“I’m taking 49% immediately but only as a custodian, because my desire is to bring in young people, women’s groups and staff. I’ve to set up funding mechanisms for them. Empowerment deals have tended to exclude young people, but I’m serious about investing in young talent.”
Sisulu has business interests in TV production, publishing, outdoor advertising and digital print and is developing them in SA and the rest of Africa.
“This deal is unique, as it wasn’t an agency looking for an empowerment partner but an entrepreneur deciding to fill a gap in his portfolio,” he says. “I found them. They didn’t find me.”
Howell sees the deal as crucial to the agency’s future success. “We can’t flourish here unless we can attract the best young talent. Zwelakhe Sisulu is a talent magnet. The empowerment programme is being treated with great urgency. Partners have been identified.”
McCann has seconded London-based Martin Hummel to act as CEO until a South African appointment can be made. Former Johannesburg MD Ann Muthuma asked to return to client services.
Hummel expects to be here for several months. “My job is to provide leadership and expand the business, to deliver service and to find talent,” he says. “We’re in a war to attract and retain superior talent. If you get the talent you end up winning.”
There’s been a healthy flow of new business to the agency in recent months, including Hewlett- Packard, General Motors (a worldwide assignment) and the UIP media account won by Universal McCann.
Will be an active chairman. Zwelakhe Sisulu