Changing of the guard
IN THREE YEARS Nicci Stathacopoulos has built Proximityttp into a significant force in the agency world, occupying a hard-to-define niche that most South Africans would call through-the-line. But it differs from many other multi-channel agencies in where it started: direct marketing and CRM.
Stathacopoulos has now left both Johannesburg and the ad agency world, “semigrating” to a job with Woolworths in Cape Town as acting head of customer marketing. In moving to the Mother City, she follows in the footsteps of previous female semigrés such as Nandi Scorer and Gillian Rightford.
“Johannesburg is really harsh,” she says. “It’s time to do something else, somewhere else. This is the third agency I’ve started.”
For new MD Brendan Wade, the agency is comfortably positioned to ease itself into a new characterisation as a “creative studio”. That’s a term relatively unknown in SA: but its concepts aren’t foreign to ad agencies.
A growing trend overseas, the creative studio offers a multi-disciplinary, multichannel approach to creativity.
“Creativity is an approach to thinking that goes beyond the search for a pretty picture,” says Wade. “Clients have two routes: the methodical approach of consultancy firms or to come to an agency like us and solve their problems creatively.
“If the problem is in marketing, communication or product development, creativity is the key, used across all platforms, levels and media. Organisations led by marketers tend to be more creative. They have positions, such as ‘idea directors’.”
For the Rosebank Hotel, Proximityttp helped devise a programme based on the guest experience; for Hummer, it developed an online promotional game.
“Consultants develop ideas but don’t know how to execute them. We can do both. Creative studios are very niched as ‘specialists in generalisation’.”
Wade was previously head of strategy at Leo Burnett and before that worked in brand activation and tobacco marketing.